Members of the foxglove (Scrophulariaceae) family, most of the 100 species of evergreen shrubs in this genus are native to New Zealand, with a few representatives from southern South America and New Guinea. Hebes grow in a wide range of habitats, from coastal areas to alpine regions, and may be shrubby, tree-like, compact, or sprawling. While hebes feature attractive foliage, they are chiefly grown for their abundant flowers, and there are a large number of cultivars and hybrids available. The genus is named for Hebe, the Greek goddess of youth, possibly for their ease of propagation.
Hebe species have attractive light to dark green foliage, and there are two distinct foliage groups: those with oval to lance-shaped leaves, and the whipcord hebes, with smaller compressed leaves. Most hebes are grown for their abundant small tubular-shaped flowers in shades of white, pink, deep purple, and crimson, which are borne in short spikes that develop in the leaf axils. In mild areas, flowers may occur year-round, reaching a peak in late spring.
Of the two foliage groups, the whipcords are the hardier species. Most hebes prefer a sunny position and will tolerate a wide range of soil conditionshebes are not fussy about the soil type, provided it is well-drained. Several of the species perform well in coastal situations. Prune after flowering to maintain a tidy compact shape. Leaf spot and downy mildew can be a problem in humid areas. Propagate from half-hardened cuttings or seed.