By Josie Borlongan, Garden Guides Contributor
Veronica is also known by its common name, Speedwell. There are about 500 species of Veronica making it the largest genus in the flowering plant Plantaginaceae. The species are herbaceous annuals or perennials that are easy to grow. Veronicas begin flowering in early summer and continue for a long time through autumn. They come in different sizes and types, ranging from small ground huggers to taller clump forming ones with impressive flower spikes that come in white, pink, purple and blue shades.
Veronicas are hardy in zones 3 to 9 and grow best in sun to partial shade. It can tolerate cool to temperate climates.
Veronica is reliable, easy to grow and long lived. To ensure that your Veronica will grow well, use loamy, rich and well drained soil that has the capacity to retain moisture in summer.
Veronicas have flower spikes that are composed of dozens of densely arranged, small florets, that open progressively from the base upwards to form a long lasting spike.
Choosing a Variety
There are plenty of varieties to choose from. Choose varieties based on the purpose or location of your plants. Low growing Veronicas such as Veronica chamaedrys can be used as borders and ground covers and taller ones like Veronica "Sunny Border Blue" can be used as a backdrop and are also excellent cutflowers due to its long stem. The variety selection for Veronicas includes white, pink, rose and blue shades.
Use the smaller low growing Veronicas as ground covers, borders or in rock gardens. Place them in front of your plant groupings. The taller Veronicas can make fine anchor plants in perennial borders are often placed in groups towards the middle and can also make perfect backdrops with their spikes pointing upwards. Veronicas should be planted with the crown at the surface, spacing them 40 to 60 cm apart. Add compost or other humus media at planting time and mulching afterwards to keep the moisture in the soil.
Sow seeds giving them up to 18 to 24 inches of space in between.
Veronicas must be watered regularly for best results. Fertilize annually in the late winter to early spring. After flowering, trim off the dead heads to encourage new growth and renewed flowering. To keep the plant vigorous for many years, divide and replant every two to three years. The best time to divide a Veronica is in spring when the young growth is emerging above the surface.
The most common diseases afflicting Veronicas are fungal diseases characterized by powdery mildew appearing initially on the leaves. Diseases can be minimized by avoiding overcrowded spacing of plants and by carefully picking off affected leaves as soon as symptoms are evident. You can also apply fungicides as soon as symptoms are visible. Samples of fungicides to use are horticultural oil, sulfur, potassium bicarbonate and thiophanate-methyl. Check the labels for correct dosage.
Another possible problem to look out for is caused by deer. Although deer do not find Veronicas as palatable as other flowering plants, they are not completely deer-resistant, so care must be taken to prevent them from being devoured.