Veronica, also called speedwell, is a carefree and easy-to-grow perennial with vertical or ground cover forms and blooms of purple, blue, pink, or white. Learn how to plant, grow, and care for lovely Veronicas.
There are many types of speedwells, ranging from groundcovers only a few inches tall to upright plants with tall, spikey blooms. They all belong to the genus Veronica, which has hundreds of species. There are spring and summer blooming varieties, with some flowering until autumn frost.
With so many species of Veronica, there is one suitable for almost any growing zone in the US. As a genus, they are hardy from USDA zones 3-11, although individual species have a more narrow range. Check the tag or the seed packet to be sure a particular speedwell is hardy in your climate. Just because it is at the garden center doesn’t mean it will survive the winter.
So many cultivars of Speedwell are available that some common names have been used to refer to hybrids from several different species. Check the tag to be sure you are getting the one you want.
Is Speedwell an Upright or Groundcover?
As a quick guide, upright, spiky veronicas for cut flowers or use as taller bedding plants are often cultivars of V. longifolia, V. spicata, and V. austriaca. They may be called spiked speedwell, Hungarian speedwell, or long-leaved speedwell.
Groundcover veronicas are frequently cultivars of V. alpina, V. repens, V. prostrata, V. pectinata, and V. gentianoides. They go by common names like creeping speedwell, gentian speedwell, or creeping veronica.
Veronicas love full sun and, once established, are drought-tolerant. All varieties like well-drained soil. Upright speedwells will grow and bloom better in fertile soil with some compost worked in.
Many groundcover types are happy with rocky, lower-fertility soils. They are an excellent choice for rock gardens and will fill in between pavers or cascade of small rocks.
The ground cover varieties are slower spreaders, so purchase accordingly or divide plants the next year to help them cover the area more quickly.
When to Plant Veronicas
Transplants can be planted in the spring. (Veronica can be sowed by seed in containers in a cold frame in autumn, but most people start this perennial as a transplant from the nursery.) Plant them out after your last frost date has passed.
Plants purchased from a nursery or garden center greenhouse should be hardened off before planting.
How to Plant Veronicas
Plant veronicas the same way as other perennials, taking into account their sunlight and soil needs.
Loosen the soil and mix in compost. Dig a hole twice the diameter of the plant’s container.
When placing the plant in the hole, ensure the top of the root ball is level with the soil surface.
Water thoroughly after planting and weekly until well rooted.
Apply mulch to keep weeds down and keep the soil cool and moist.
If the plants are not yet branched, pinch to promote lateral growth and a bushier habit.
Like many perennials, speedwells don’t need much help once they are established.
During the first year, water in the summer if rainfall is less than 1 inch per week. Afterward, water only if needed during prolonged dry spells.
Tall varieties can benefit from some staking, especially in windy locations.
Topdress with compost every spring (a great idea for all your perennial plants) and apply new mulch as necessary.
Deadheading may extend bloom time. Some varieties will rebloom if their spent flowers are removed.
Like other perennials, you should divide them every few years to reinvigorate the clump. You’ll also get more veronica! Low-growing groundcover veronicas are especially suited to dividing to keep the patch fresh and speed up their coverage.
While many veronicas are cold hardy to USDA zone 4 and some are tolerant to zone 3, you can give them a hand in colder climates by cutting back the stems to an inch or two above the soil line after the frost. Cover the crowns with a thick layer of straw or other mulch.
A couple of stakes and some old netting or chicken wire will help hold the mulch against the wind until the snow arrives to anchor it.
‘Crater Lake Blue’ (V. austriaca) is a mat-forming perennial that grows 12 to 18 inches tall with beautiful, deep, gentian blue flowers in early summer. Hardy in USDA zones 4-8. Great for mass plantings.
‘Sunny Border Blue’ (V. spicata) is a clump-forming perennial with erect spikes of tubular, dark violet-blue flowers that reach 18-24 inches. This hybrid blooms from early summer to frost and makes excellent cut flowers.
‘Red Fox’ (V. spicata) has deep pink flowers on a narrow spike similar to ‘Sunny Border Blue’ but is a bit shorter, at about 12-16 inches. Hardy to USDA zones 3-8 for the northern gardener!
‘Dick’s Wine’ (V. prostrata) is a ground cover that grows to about 4-8 inches tall and produces an abundance of rose-wine–colored blooms—so many that they actually hide the dark-green foliage. Easily divided as they grow for quicker coverage. Drought tolerant once established and deer resistant.
Some varieties of Veronica make excellent cut flowers. For the longest vase life, bring a vase or jar with you and cut in the morning, placing them immediately in water–don’t wait until you get them up to the house.
Remove any foliage that would be submerged in the vase.
Add flower food, keep the bouquet out of direct sunlight, and change the water daily (a good practice for all your fresh-cut flowers from the garden).