Veronica, commonly known as ‘Speedwell,’ is a stunning perennial that graces many gardens with its colorful spikes of flowers. Its varieties range in hue from purples and blues to pinks and whites. Besides its ornamental beauty, Veronica is relatively easy to grow, making it a favorite for both beginner and experienced gardeners.Read more: Growing Veronica
A few years ago, I planted two small pink Veronica plants in a sunny spot, just inside my wrought iron fence. I neglected them, but they were happy – and have spread nicely. While some of the neighbouring plants didn’t survive the lack of watering – or the unwanted attention from our goldendoodle – the Veronica are thriving!
This first bunch of Veronica has a lovely spiky mid-pink flower – a bit more demure than my fuschia coloured phlox and geraniums. The plants were marked as Zone 6 when I purchased them, so they were new to me – having always gardened in Zone 4. I was a little worried about the constant ice and deep snow we had that first winter, but they seem to have not noticed.
A few years later I added blue speedwell – which -guess what? – is Veronica as well – and it is happily surviving in another spot – with its’ vibrant blue spikes and narrow leaves.
Veronica has bloomed for me from early June until October! Who can beat that? When they fade I trim the spent flowers just below the bloom, as I don’t want to lose the potential lower blooming flowers. This helps encourage rebloom. Even when I am less meticulous in trimming each flower – I cut all the stems in a hurry with shears – I am still blessed with more blooms!
Veronica are available in pink, blues, purples and whites. Foliage can also come in more silvery varieties. Veronica is a member of the flowering plant family Plantaginaceae or Plantain, and is also commonly called Speedwell, and sometimes Bird’s Eye or Gypsyweed. I have a fair number of weeds in my garden that look like Veronica, but fail to bloom like Veronica, which are likely members of the Plantain family.
After initially worrying that Veronica were only suitable to Zone 6 gardens – I have transplanted divisions into our Zone 3 Cottage Garden – and I am happy to say the plants have survived two springs and summers and one full snowy Northern Ontario winter!
Types of Veronica
There are various species of Veronica, but some of the most popular include:
- Veronica spicata: This species produces tall spikes of blue, pink or purple flowers.
- Veronica peduncularis: Known for its ground-covering ability with blue flowers.
- Veronica prostrata: Another ground-cover type, with deep blue flowers.
Ideal Growing Conditions
- Soil: Veronica prefers well-draining soil. It can tolerate a range of pH levels but thrives in slightly acidic to neutral soil. While I grow my Veronica in rich – well composted and fertilized soil in Southern Ontario – I have the divisions of the same plants growing in my thin sawdust and pine needle soil in my Northern Ontario cottage garden. The plants have spread nicely in the rich soil – but seem at home in the scruffy sparse soil!
- Sunlight: These plants enjoy full sun but can also grow in partial shade. In particularly hot climates, a bit of afternoon shade can be beneficial. I have both full sun and part shade Veronica!
- Water: While Veronica is drought-tolerant once established, regular watering during its first growing season helps it take root. Water it deeply, but allow the soil to dry out between watering.
- Spacing: Depending on the variety, space plants about 12 to 18 inches apart. This ensures ample air circulation and reduces the risk of fungal diseases.
- Depth: Plant Veronica so that the top of the root ball is level with the ground.
- Mulching: Add a layer of mulch around the plants to retain moisture and suppress weeds if you like – but you don’t have to!
- Fertilizing: While Veronica isn’t particularly demanding, an annual application of a balanced fertilizer can promote vigorous growth and bloom as with most flowers. I apply a layer of compost – mulch every spring and may sprinkle slow release fertilizer every other year!
- Pruning: After the first flush of blooms, cut back the flower spikes. This encourages a second round of flowering. At the end of the growing season, trim the plants back to tidy up the garden. As I said above – I have had blooms from June to October with occasional and more radical trimming of the flowers!
- Disease and Pests: Veronica is relatively resistant to pests and diseases. However, in humid conditions, they can be susceptible to fungal diseases like powdery mildew. Ensure good air circulation.
- Tidying: My plants tend to spread out and look a little sloppy as they mature – so I may cut the outer stems – or tie them up and trim them. Alternatively I may decide to divide and dig a bit of the plant up and move it!
- Dividing: In the early spring or fall, consider dividing the plants to rejuvenate them and propagate new ones. The stems of my plants become a bit “woody” but with a sharp shovel and shears division is generally successful!
- Harvest Seeds: Veronica seeds can be harvested from the pods on flower stalks in the fall. Cut the flower stalk and allow them to dry – the seeds are actually the dust like content of the little pods.
- Seeds: While you can grow Veronica from seeds, it is much less common and more challenging than growing from divisions. Seed may be direct sown on the surface of the soil in the garden in fall or spring. Start seeds indoors about 8-10 weeks before the last expected frost. Spread seeds thinly on surface of peat pots. It may be beneficial to mix seeds with light sand to sprinkle over surface of peat – because they are so small. Veronica seeds require light to germinate!
In the Garden
I enjoy the tall thin spiky colours of Veronica. I’ve always been a pink and blue garden fan. The tall spiky flowers look wonderful in contrast to the round happy faced blanket flowers and they are not overpowered by my aggressive daylilies.
I can spoil them or neglect them – but either way they seem to endure – and in contrast to my other spiky flowers – they seem to recover quickly from being trampled by the dog – and people. Butterflies and bees love Veronica – and that can’t be bad!
As with all flowers for me – more flowers is better – so I have happily saved their seeds and will be planting them in seed trays this February. For now, it’s time to enjoy the last few October blooms and think about spring.
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