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Home & garden.

Updated: 3 May 2022

How to grow hebes and best varieties

Hebes are beautiful summer-flowering shrubs in a range of sizes. Discover our best hebe varieties and tips for how to grow them.
Ceri Thomas
Hebe

Hebes are good for containers and coastal gardens, bees like them and they can have a very long flowering season. All of this combines with a huge range of flower colours, foliage effects, and plant shapes and sizes, so there’s something to suit many different tastes. 

Hailing from New Zealand, hebes are thought of as being drought tolerant and easy to grow. However, they also have a reputation for being ender, which we wanted to investigate,

Which? Gardening magazine grew a range of popular varieties to see which would give us the best display.


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Key facts

PLANT TYPE Evergreen shrub

POSITION Sun or light shade

SOil Any, as long as it’s well drained

How to grow hebes: month by month

JanuaryFebruaryMarchAprilMayJune


PLANTPLANTPLANTFLOWERING
JulyAugustSeptemberOctoberNovemberDecember
FLOWERINGFLOWERINGPRUNE


Best hebe varieties

Which? members can log in now to see the full results and which are our Best Buy varieties. If you’re not a member, join Which? to get instant access.

Full testing results for hebes

Variety nameOverall ratingHeight x spread (cm)Flowering durationFlower impactSummer foliagePlant shapeWinter colourPests & diseaseInsect attraction
75 x 100

50 x 65

75 x 80

60 x 70

60 x 85

35 x 90

40 x 80

USING THE TABLE: Overall rating ignores price and is based on: flower impact 20%, flower duration 15%,summer foliage 15%, plant shape 15%, pest and disease resistance 15%, winter colour 10%, insect attraction 10%

How we test hebes

The Which? Gardening magazine researchers grew 23 varieties of hebe at our Capel Manor trial site in north London and at The Alnwick Garden in Northumberland. We planted them in spring  and grew them until September the year after, assessing them for: flowering duration and impact; how well-shaped the plants were and what their leaves looked like in summer; how well-shaped the plants were and what their leaves looked like in summer; and whether the plants were affected by common problems. 

Winter foliage colour was assessed from November to March. In the first year, the plants were watered during dry spells to help them establish; in the second year they were watered much less, only during longer spells of dry weather. We didn’t feed them.

Caring for your plants

Planting

Plant hebes in spring, if possible. Some varieties are sold in autumn, but these will need to be protected from winter wet and winds. Plant in well-drained soil that doesn’t dry out completely, in sun or light shade, and is sheltered from cold winds.

Growing in a pot

Plant in spring in a pot filled with a Best Buy compost for containers with some Best Buy controlled-release feed mixed in. 

Pruning

Remove any frost-damaged shoot tips in spring, cutting back to a growing bud, but not into bare wood. Cut out any stems that are completely bare or dead.

After flowering, lightly prune the plant, removing the spent flower heads, along with the top few centimetres of growth on compact varieties, or around 15-20cm of growth on larger varieties. 

Pruning hebe

Overgrown plants can be cut back over a few months, or even in two separate springs. Always cut back to a growing bud. 

Watering

Keep plants watered during hot, dry weather.

Common growing problems

Downy mildew

Downy mildew starts as large yellow or brown patches which spread. Leaves, usually on lower parts of the branches, curl, shrivel and drop off. Overcrowded plants are more susceptible. Making sure you don’t wet the leaves when you water the plants will also help prevent it.

Leaf spot

Leaf spot disease begins as small dark patches with white centres in autumn and winter; the leaves drop off the following spring. And root rot diseases can lead to discoloured and dying sections on plants. Improving soil drainage, but also not letting plants dry out, can help.