HARDINESS: Zones 4 to 8
PREFERRED SOIL pH: Near neutral
PREFERRED SOIL TYPE: Moist, fertile, well-drained
PREFERRED LIGHT: Sun to partial shade
ATTRIBUTES: Spikes or mats of blue, pink, or while flowers; for beds, pots, edging
SEASON OF INTEREST: Late spring through late summer
FAVORITES: Upright 'Sunny Border Blue', 'Red Fox', 'Icicle'; creeping 'Waterperry'
QUIRKS: Remove faded flowers to prolong flowering
GOOD NEIGHBORS: Artemisia, coreopsis, daylily, gypsophila, purple coneflower, rose
WHERE IT GROWS BEST: Moist, well-drained, fertile soil in sun to partial shade
POTENTIAL PROBLEMS: Powdery mildew in hie summer; occasionally aphids or caterpillars
RENEWING PLANTS: Plants live many years; divide to increase plantings as needed
CRITTER RESISTANCE: Excellent
SOURCE: Bedding plants, division
DIMENSIONS: 5-24 in (12.7-61 cm) tall; 12-18 in (30-45.7 cm) wide
Veronica in the Landscape
Also known as speedwell, veronica is a beloved old perennial that may have an upright form, with spiky flowers, or be a low-growing, mounding creeper. Both types bloom in blue, as well as pink, white, lavender, and rose, in late spring and summer.
Give upright-growing veronicas one of the best spots your garden has to offer. The plants produce dozens of 18 in (45.7 cm) long flower spikes, which can be cut regularly to prolong flowering. Any flower with flat blossoms, such as coreopsis or purple coneflower, looks great with upright veronica. Creeping veronicas are dainty little plants to grow near the bases of shrubs or small trees or as edging in beds and containers. They bloom in spring and occasionally produce more flowers during the summer. After blooming, the plants persist as compact green groundcovers.
The Showiest Speedwells
There are many well-known veronica cultivars with superb qualities. 'Sunny Border Blue' and 'Crater Lake Blue' are both outstanding upright veronicas that provide a constant parade of blue flower spikes from early to late summer. Try 'Red Fox' for pink flowers and 'Icicle' for white ones.
Among creeping types, 'Water-perry' grows only 5 in (12.7 cm) tall, and each plant spreads to 12 in (30.5 cm) wide. It blooms heavily in spring, covering itself with purple-blue blossoms, followed by a few flowers later in summer. The foliage turns bronze in the fall. 'Trehane' has golden foliage that contrasts beautifully with its purplish blue flowers.
Veronicas need moist, fertile soil, and at least 4 hours of sun per day. Amend planting holes with compost and after planting add a 3 in (7.6 cm) layer of mulch to help keep the soil moist. If planted in reasonably fertile soil there is no need to fertilize; too much fertilizer can cause stems to flop. The key to keeping the upright veronicas in bloom is regular deadheading. Remove spikes as they fade, and new flowers will keep coming.
In late summer when days are hot and nights are cool and damp, the disfiguring fungal disease powdery mildew can make white, powdery patches appear on leaves. Pick off and dispose of infected leaves and avoid splashing water on the plants when irrigating. If the disease continues to spread, cut plants to within a few inches of the soil to encourage healthy new growth.
Pests are rare, but if small, pear-shaped sap-sucking insect aphids appear on stem rips, knock them off with a strong stream of water from a hose. Hand pick and dispose of any caterpillars you find nibbling on leaves or treat plants with BT, a commercial biological insecticide, as directed on the label.
Increasing the Bounty
Divide upright veronicas by cutting off rooted shoots from the outer edges of the clump in spring or fall. Propagate spreading veronicas by slicing some rooted stems from the edge of an existing planting with a spade. Replant, setting the plantlets in prepared holes at the same depth at which the parent plants grew.