By Molly Day
All the Dirt on Gardening
There are 250 Veronica varieties including annuals, perennials, shrubs and sub-shrubs. Some grow in water and others grow on rocky hills, but most grow in gardens with a minimum of care.
The rock garden Veronicas do well in poor, well-drained soil in full sun and border Veronicas grow best in moderately fertile sunny locations.
The primary problem gardeners have with Veronicas is that soggy soil makes them vulnerable to root rot, leaf scale and mildew. Take care that they receive plenty of sun and are not over or under watered.
Veronica peduncularis is a mat-forming, low-growing, group of ground covers, ideal for stepping stones and growing over the edge of rock or brick planters. A 4-inch nursery pot will spread by rhizomes into a 1-foot square area in the first year. It is one of the plants recently called “step-able” because it can take some foot traffic.
Two water-wise walkable ground covers are 2-inch tall Veronica liwanensis, Turkish speedwell, that makes a purple-flowering lawn and 2-inch Veronica oltensis, or thyme-leaf speedwell, which has tiny green leaves and hundreds of blue flowers
Some of the popular Veronica pedunclaris include: Georgia blue, also called oxford blue and waterperry blue. They have glossy, purple-tinged leaves about 1/2-inch long and periwinkle blue flowers. Waterperry is considered to be a more stable plant with better flowers. They are cold hardy in USDA zones 6 to 8 and do best in heat zones 8 to 6.
Georgia blue grows 9 inches tall with flowers that are used for bouquets. Both varieties will naturalize into clumps.
Veronica spicata is sometimes called spike speedwell. These also form a mat of plants but grow 1- to 2-feet tall with white, blue, pink, violet or purple flower spikes.
Veronica spicata Sunny Border Blue forms clumps of 18-inch tall plants with toothed, dark-green leaves. The spikes of mid-blue flowers last for several weeks. They are cold hardy in zones 3 to 8 and do best in heat zones 8 to 1.
V. spicata icicle has spikes of white flowers on a one-foot tall plant, Noah Williams has variegated leaves and white flowers, and red fox (Rotfuchs) is a compact plant with dark pink flowers in mid to late summer. Red fox is grown as a cutting flower.
Royal candles is another recommended V. spicata (spiked Veronica) variety that has 12-inch spikes of blue flowers on 10-inch tall plants. This one is sometimes called Glory Royal Candles.
Veronica austriaca teucrium is a mat-forming variety with silver-gray-green leaves and stems on plants that can grow to 3-feet tall. The 4- to 6-inch spikes of blue flowers last for weeks over the summer. Crater lake blue has early summer gentian-blue flowers on a 1-foot tall plant, Kapitan grows 16 inches wide and Shirley blue has 4-inch tall pikes of blue flowers from late spring to early summer.
Veronica prostrata, or prostrate speedwell, is another mat-forming variety, but this one has branched stems with 1/2-inch leaves on 6- to 10-inch tall plants that form 16-inch wide clumps. The flower spikes are only 1 to 2 inches tall.
Prostrate speedwell dick’s wine is a ground cover that grows to about 10 inches tall with wine-rose flowers that cover the leaves. Heavenly Blue matures at 3 inches tall with blue flowers. Lodden Blue is 8 inches tall with blue flowers. Trehane has yellow-green leaves and blue flowers.
Veronica seeds can be started indoors in the winter or plants can be purchased in the perennials section of a garden center for spring planting. Their flowers attract butterflies and hummingbirds.
Space the plants 1 or 2 feet apart in soil that has been loosened. Top with 2 inches of mulch to prevent weeds and retain moisture. Divide every few years.
On the web
For more on gardening, go to www.muskogeephoenix.com and click on Molly Day’s gardening blog.