New Zealand Hebe (Hebe speciosa) in Blooming
New Zealand Hebe (Hebe speciosa) in Blooming

New Zealand Hebe (Hebe speciosa) - Description and Uses

The article New Zealand Hebe (Hebe speciosa) – Description and Uses introduces us to the wonderful world of plants of the genus Hebe, which has an uninterrupted and multiple contribution to the beautification of gardens and landscapes, at least since 1926, when it was first recognized as separate taxa from the genus Veronica.

The New Zealand Hebe on the other hand, directly with a considerable number of varieties, but also indirectly through its hybrids, gave plants of exceptional beauty for the same purpose.

Now, of course, the fact that Hebe speciosa is in imminent danger of extinction from its birthplace is not something that should surprise us: here the human race disappears daily and little by little from the gaggle of the arrogant bastards who dominate it, with the New Zealand Hebe will we deal?


Priority is given to the colonization of space through the fertile cosmic dust of the remaining and shortly available for evaporation Homo (un)sapiens.

The abundant flowering of Showy Hebe and the vivid color of its flowers attract insects – and of course butterflies.

Violet-Purple Inflorescence of Showy Hebe
Violet-Purple Inflorescence of Showy Hebe
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New Zealand Hebe Origin

Hebe speciosa (New Zealand Hebe) - Map of Origin
Hebe speciosa (New Zealand Hebe) - Map of Origin

New Zealand Hebe (Hebe speciosa) – Description and Uses

New Zealand Hebe (Hebe speciosa) - Brief Description

Family: Plantaginaceae


Scientific Name: Hebe speciosa (A.Cunn) J.C.Andersen (syn. Veronica speciosa)

Common Name: New Zealand Hebe, Purple Hebe, Showy Hebe, Showy-Speedwel | Napuka, Titirangi (in Maori)

General Characteristics

Leaf Persistence



Round Shape Shrub



Growth Rate


Flowering Period

Spring to Autumn (Year Round/N. Zealand)

Fruiting Period

Year Round


1.5-2 m (5-6.5 ft)


2.5-3 m (8-9.8 ft)

Shapes and Colours

Leaves Shape

Elliptic to Obovate-Oblong

Foliage Colour

Dark Green

Autumn Foliage Colour

Dark Green

Flowers Shape


Flowers Colour



Brown Capsule


Soil Type: Well-drained, sandy, loamy

Exposure: Sun

Soil pH: 7-8.5

Watering: Moderate

Hardiness: −3.9 °C (25 °F – USDA Hardiness Zone 9b)


Specimen, hedges, mass planting, parks, pots and containers

New Zealand Hebe (Hebe speciosa) – Description and Uses

New Zealand Hebe (Hebe speciosa) - Etymology

Etymology of the Genus Name

The genus seems to have strong divine protection since the name Hebe (Ἥβη) refers to the homonymous goddess of the Ancient Greeks – goddess of Youth, paradoxically lawful daughter of the swinger Zeus and the most modest Hera, and wife of the hero Heracles (Hercules-Ηρακλής). As for the etymology of the name, we will move a little theoretically, spiritually and geographically, to find its Proto-Indo-European source, which is none other than the word *yēgʷeh₂, which – as is well known – means power and youthful vigor.

Etymology of the Species Name

Coincidentally or not, the interpretation of the name of the species speciosa, ie beautiful, but also showy, comes to complete the meaning of Youth – since youth is both beautiful and showy.

However, because unfortunately our subject is not Youth but the etymology of the species name, the first stop for this purpose is the Latin adjective specioso – nominative singular masculine, where speciosa is the nominative singular of the feminine.

The word comes from the speciēs (appearance) and the suffix -osus (-ose, -ous, for the formation of adjectives). Its reductive order first reaches the Latin specio which comes from the Proto-Italian *spekjō (I observe, watch, look at), then the Proto-Indo-European word *spéḱyeti (I observe, watch, look at), and finally the Proto-Indo-European root *speḱ-, which means to see, to look, to observe.

New Zealand Hebe (Hebe speciosa) – Description and Uses

New Zealand Hebe (Hebe speciosa) - Origin & Life Span


The cradle of New Zealand Hebe is located, as it might be obvious, in New Zealand – the most widely known by Maori name Aotearoa (Long White Cloud) -, in both the North and South Island.

In the North Island, its populations are located on its western side, from the Urenui area – north of Taranaki – to Scotts Point, Far North District, near the northernmost end of.

On the South Island, its populations are located in various locations of the Marlborough Sounds, which is at its northern tip, where it forms an extensive network of ria type coastlines.

However, it has recently been suggested that only the populations of the North Island – and in fact in the areas of Muriwai, Maunganui Bluff and South Head – are indeed natural, while for the rest they owe their spread to the cultivation of plants by the Maori.

Ecology - Habitat

The natural populations of Hebe speciosa grow naturally in coastal areas and at an altitude that starts from sea level and reaches up to 100 m (328 ft).

Areas where it occurs include coastal cliffs, hillsides and capes, low windswept scrub, and places that are flooded frequently or periodically.

As for the substrate, it grows in soils which come from of igneous rock, tephra and related alluvial deposits.

It is often found in plant communities with New Zealand endemic plants Apodasmia similis and Phormium cookianum, and is less commonly found under tall trees.

In relation to climatic factors it is indicatively reported (Northland Region) that:

  • The mean annual temperature is between 14 and 16.5 °C (57-62 °F)
  • The mean monthly maximum temperature of the warmer months is between 22 and 26 °C (71-79 °F)
  • The mean monthly minimum temperature of the coldest months is between 6 and 11 °C (43-52 °F)
  • Mean annual rainfall is between 988 (Cape Reinga) and 1775 mm (Kerikeri Airport)
  • The mean annual wind speed is between 7 and 31 km / hr

Conservation Status of Species

In the 20th century CE the native natural populations of the species in New Zealand declined markedly, with only 6 remaining out of the existing 12.

And of the remaining, recent research shows a further contraction in 5 of 6 of them, which reaches about 45% of their plants.

The explanation given for these losses is that the causes must be sought:

  • In competition with invasive plants-weeds
  • In the presence of mammals
  • In the shrinking population of native pollinators
  • In anthropogenic activities

Ultimately, it is a real irony that another of the most widespread ornamental plants on the planet, is in danger of extinction from its birthplace.


And since – as we wrote above – the plant is in danger of extinction from New Zealand, it resolutely shows its invasive teeth in distant and foreign places: escaping from the gardens has become a weed on the rocky coast of Ireland, in coastal areas of Australia – and in particular in the state of Victoria-, as well as in the USA, in the state of California.

Life Span

Without being a very long-lived species, the longevity of Hebe speciosa, reaches or even exceeds, under ideal conditions, 20 years – a performance not exactly discouraging for the plant (and its varieties) lovers.

New Zealand Hebe (Hebe speciosa) – Description and Uses

New Zealand Hebe (Hebe speciosa) - Landscape Attributes

The Hebe speciosa is a perennial, evergreen, medium-sized and fast-growing shrub. In its natural habitats it can reach a height of 2 m (6.5 ft), but in cultivation and utilized as an ornamental plant it will rarely exceed the height of 1 to 1.50 m (3.2-5 ft).

It has a round to flattened round shape, dense canopy, with regular outline and coarse texture, strong branches which are woody at the base, and dense root system.

The predominant decorative element of the plant is its violet-purple flowers, which appear during its long flowering, which can exceed 120 days.

New Zealand Hebe (Hebe speciosa) – Description and Uses

The Fruit (Capsule) of Showy Hebe
The Fruit (Capsule) of Showy Hebe

New Zealand Hebe (Hebe speciosa) - Botanical Description

Branches & Shoots

The branches of the plant have a grayish-brown color, are smooth, woody at the base, extremely strong, even at a young age, while the lower ones often touch the ground. The shoots are yellowish-green to green, they are smooth, with unequal internodes.


Numerous leaves have an elliptic to obovate-oblong or oblong shape, with dimensions ranging in length between 5 and 20 cm (2-7.8 in), and in width between 2.5 and 8 cm (1-3.1in).

They are coriaceous, shiny, fleshy to almost succulent, and have no hairs except of the widened margins of the lamina, which presents finely ones. They end in an obtuse or often rounded with a small central notch apex, while their base is obtuse too.

Their colour adaxially is dark green, green or yellow-green, while abaxially the shade is paler, and the margins colour is red.

A stout and fleshy petiole, 5 to 20 mm (0,2-0.78 in) long, connects them to the shoot, on which they are arranged on four perpendicular rows of leaves in opposite decussate pairs.


The flowers of the plant are hermaphrodite, zygomorphic, and protandrous.

The corolla is funnel-shaped, and has 4 unequal, elongated petals that end in an obtuse apex and are covered with fine hairs. The upper petals are largest, while the lower petals are smallest. Their colour is violet-purple, and their length is 5 to 6 mm (0.2-0.23 in). The corolla tube exceeding calyx.

The stamens are 2 and characteristically exsert from the corolla. The pistil is 1, consists of 2 carpels and has an ovary superior, two-locular, ovoid and dorsiventrally flattened, with numerous ovulus per locule, at the base of which is a nectariferus disc. The slender style, has a dark reddish-purple or violet-purple colour and protrudes from the corolla, while bearing a stigma of capitate shape.

The calyx consists of 4 erect, ovate sepals, which end in obtuse or subacute apex. They are ciliolate, have a greenish-yellow to dark green colour, and their length varies between 2 and 3 mm (0.08-0.12 in).


The flowers produce abundant amounts of nectar, which together with their intense colour attract insects (entomophilous species) but also certain species of birds (ornithophilous species).

Pollination is of course carried out mainly by insects (mostly with bees and wild bees), but unfortunately the butterfly of the Cabbage White Butterfly (Pieris rapae) must be added to them.

This means that before the plant-lovers establish it, they must be sure that for any surrounding crops, White Butterfly is not a pest to harm them.

Fruit & Seeds

The fruit is a 2-locular capsule, coriaceous, ovoid and flattened, having acute or subacute apex.

The calyx remains at the base of the capsule, the colour of which is brown to dark brown, while in terms of dimensions its length is between 5 and 6 mm (0.2-0.23 in), and the diameter is between 3 and 4 mm (0.12-0.16 in).

Numerous seeds have a flattened ovoid shape, brown color, and are smooth. Their length varies between 1 and 1.5 mm (0.2-0.23 in), and their width between 0.8 and 1 mm (0.03-0.04 in).

They are not dormant, germinate easily in the light, and spread by the wind (anemochorous species).

New Zealand Hebe (Hebe speciosa) – Description and Uses

New Zealand Hebe (Hebe speciosa) - Climate & Soil

The plant can grow in a fairly wide range of climates and in a variety of soil environments. In relation to the climatic types the following are mentioned:

  • Cfb – Oceanic climate (Natural habitats of endemic populations)
  • Cs – Mediterranean climate

(Köppen-Geiger Climate Classification System)


The plant can withstand low temperature without damage up to −3.9 °C (25 °F), while under certain conditions (since there are conflicting bibliographic reports) it seems that it can tolerate up to −6.7 °C (20 °F).

At high temperatures, the reaction of Green Veronica is quite satisfactory, as it does not present particular problems up to 36 to 38 °C (97-100.4 °F).

Soil and pH

The Purple Hebe can be grown in a wide range of soil types – even calcareous – except the heavy clays and those that are not boggy or too dry.

However, its growth is favored in soils of light to medium composition and poor to medium fertility, which retain the necessary moisture but at the same time show excellent drainage.

As for the soil reaction, the soil pH, the plant can be adjusted to a remarkably wide range of values ranging between 7 and 8.5 – from neutral to moderately alkaline. However, the optimal value range for its development is between 7 and 7.5.


The Hebe speciosa like to establish in places with full sunshine, in order to show normal flowering and compact foliage. However, in areas where summer temperatures are often very high, it performs just as well in light shade.

Also, the plant tolerates places exposed to strong winds, as well as coastal, since the sea spray droplets do not damage it.

New Zealand Hebe (Hebe speciosa) - Pests & Diseases

The Purple Hebe does not face particular problems from pests and diseases – as long as plant strongly believes it.


Immediately below are recorded the most important pests of the plant.

  • Aphis gossypii (Cotton Aphid)
  • Aphis spiraecola (syn. Aphis citricola-Spirea Aphid)
  • Myzus ascalonicus (Shallot Aphid)
  • Icerya purchasi(Cottony Cushion Scale)

By using the appropriate insecticides their treatment is satisfactory.


After the pests, the recording of the diseases follows.

  • Phytophthora cryptogea (Tomato Foot Rot)
  • Septoria exotica (Hebe-Septoria Leaf Spot)
  • Pseudomonas viridiflava (Bacterial Leaf Blight of Tomato)
  • Rhodococcus fascians (Leafy Gall)
  • Xylella fastidiosa multiplex (Bacterial Leaf Scorch)

By the timely use of appropriate formulations the treatment of fungi is satisfactory, while the control of bacteria is extremely difficult.

New Zealand Hebe (Hebe speciosa) – Description and Uses

New Zealand Hebe (Hebe speciosa) - Toxicity & Allergenicity


The Purple Hebe is non-toxic to humans and pets (California Poison Control System-CPCS, University of California).


As it is main an entomophilous plant, it does not cause allergic reactions by its pollen.

New Zealand Hebe (Hebe speciosa) – Description and Uses

New Zealand Hebe (Hebe speciosa) - Varieties & Cultivars

The Hebe speciosa has given several interesting ornamental varieties, while with its crosses it has contributed to the creation of some of the most popular Hebe hybrids such as:

  • Hebe × andersonii (Hebe salicifolia × Hebe speciosa)
  • And Hebe × franciscana (Hebe elliptica × Hebe speciosa)

Immediately below are some varieties, which, however, belong to the typical species.

Varieties & Cultivars of the Species

Hebe speciosa ‘Blue’ (syn. Hebe speciosa ‘Azure’)

A variety of requirements similar to the typical species – in addition to its vigorous growth, which requires regular pruning. It offers in abundance, from the beginning of Summer until almost the end of Autumn, its wonderful blue flowers.

Hebe speciosa 'Blue' (syn. Hebe speciosa 'Azure') Variety
Hebe speciosa 'Blue' (syn. Hebe speciosa 'Azure') Variety

Hebe speciosa ‘La Séduisante’

It differs from the typical species in its greater resistance to low temperatures (-15 / -10 °C – 5/14 °F,  USDA 7b / 8a), as well as in the color of its flowers, which are red-purple and almost "cover" the whole plant. It takes 5 to 10 years to reach a height of 1 m.

Hebe speciosa 'La Séduisante' Variety
Hebe speciosa 'La Séduisante' Variety

Hebe speciosa ‘Variegata’

Extremely beautiful plants, with impressive foliage and exquisite flowers. The leaves are gray-green with cream-white irregular spots on the margins, while at low temperatures they acquire a pink-purple color. The flowers are violet-purple and cover almost the entire plant, in the phase of full flowering. The plants are smaller in growth than those of the standard species, reaching a height and diameter of 0.60 to 0.90 m (2-3 ft).

Hebe speciosa 'Variegata' Variety
Hebe speciosa 'Variegata' Variety

New Zealand Hebe (Hebe speciosa) – Description and Uses

New Zealand Hebe (Hebe speciosa) in Garden
New Zealand Hebe (Hebe speciosa) in Garden

New Zealand Hebe (Hebe speciosa) - Use in Garden and Landscape

The New Zealand Hebe has extremely attractive features – in addition to aesthetics – such as:

  • It is a plant that can withstand light frosts
  • Not only does it not have a problem with salt spray droplets but it is favored by its exposure in coastal areas, increasing its flowering but also its strength
  • Tolerates the aggravated atmosphere of cities – air pollution
  • Has particularly low flammability

Taking into account all these characteristics, it could be said that Hebe speciosa is utilized:

  • As a potted plant, in gardens, courtyards and balconies
  • In seaside gardens – due to its high resistance to salt spray
  • In groups or in mass plantings in gardens, parks, squares
  • For the creation of hedges – formal or informal
  • In gardens in forest areas – where there is always a risk of fire – due to its low flammability
  • Combined with other ornamental plants such as Lily of the Nile (Agapanthus praecox), Sea Thrift (Armeria maritima), Miss Willmott’s Ghost (Eryngium giganteum ‘Silver Ghost’) and New Zealand Flax (Phormium Tenax ‘Purpureum’)


The references of the article with the inimitable creativeness title New Zealand Hebe (Hebe speciosa) – Description and Uses are presented by the Red Army Choir with the Anthem of the European Union – from the 9th Symphony in D minor, Op. 125, "Choral": IV – Ode to Joy, of someone Mr. Ludwig van Beethoven.

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