Pruning Hebes

How do you keep hebes in shape? There are a few basic rules for pruning them successfully.

With the smaller leaved varieties, it is best to give them a light trim with a pair of shears immediately after flowering. This prevents the flower heads forming seeds and encourages new growth.

The same applies to the mound forming types such as Hebe topiaria.

If you have a larger leaved variety, you can either trim after flowering again or remove up to a quarter of the growth all over the bush. This again keeps it in shape.

With old, neglected plants you have to be a bit brutal to encourage new shoots lover down. You have a choice of cutting most of the stems down by half or removing whole sections of the bush. With the first method, try to make cuts just above one of the horizontal lines on the stems. Each of these lines is a potential growth point waiting to be stimulated. I tend to prune down by half in April and then do it again in two or three years’ time.

If removing whole sections, cut them down to about 45 cm above the ground, but leave one stem untouched. This will feed the lower shoots and can be cut down the following year.

With a hedge, you can trim annually with a light trim or if you want to reduce the width of the hedge, cut one side back halfway so you keep the other side intact. Then in one or two years time, do the same to the good side.

Slower growing whipcord hebes, which resemble conifers, do not like being pruned hard. I have killed many over the years seeing how much they will tolerate. It is best to take cuttings and then cut the rest of the plant to match.

Whatever you do to your hebes, use the clippings for cuttings material as a way of replacing your plants should they not respond to your loving care. See Hebe cultivation page, cuttings paragraph for what to do.

Steve Harding, Chairman of Hebe Society

Registered Charity No 801398