A hummingbird-friendly flower, spike speedwell (Veronica spicata) sends up stalks of lavender-blue flowers for their enjoyment-and yours-most of the summer.
Its dense, mat-forming foliage keeps weeds at bay, so it's a good choice near walkways or in borders where neat appearance is important. Spike speedwell does well in a variety of growing conditions, flourishing in both cottage and rock gardens. It's also deer-resistant and a good cut flower.
Common name: Spike speedwell, veronica
Botanical name: Veronica spicata
Plant type: Mat-forming, herbaceous perennial
Height: 12 to 24 inches
Zones: 3 to 8
Family: Scrophulariaceae (Foxglove)
- Sun: Full sun
- Soil: Sandy to average, well-drained soil
- Moisture: Moderate amounts
- Mulch: Put a layer of mulch around the base of the plant to deter weeds until plants mature.
- Fertilizer: None required in average soil.
- Pruning: During summer, deadhead spent flowers to encourage more blooms. Cut back plants in the fall after temperatures drop below freezing, or in spring before new foliage emerges.
- ‘Red Fox' (pictured) has deep pink flowers June through August. It's sometimes listed as V. spicata ‘Rotfuchs'. Grows 12 inches tall. Zones 4 to 8.
- ‘Alba' has white flowers in midsummer and grows 16 inches tall. Zones 3 to 8.
- ‘Blue Charm' has lavender-blue flowers and grows 18 to 36 inches tall. Zones 3 to 8.
- ‘Goodness Grows' has lavender-blue flowers and grows 12 to 16 inches tall. Zones 3 to 8.
- ‘White Icicle' has white flowers and grows 24 inches tall. Zones 3 to 8.
- ‘Sunny Border Blue' is a closely related cultivar with dark violet-blue flowers that grows 18 to 20 inches tall. Zones 3 to 8.
- Good companions include catmint (Nepeta x faassenii), purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea), and yarrow (Achillea spp.).
- Its vertical spikes contrast nicely with mounding perennials.
- It tolerates some shade but will not flower well there.
- Divide every two to three years.
Pests and diseases
- Root rot may occur in heavy, wet, cold soil.
- Scale, powdery mildew, and rust sometimes attack veronicas.
- Sow seeds in the fall in a cold frame.
- Divide in spring or fall.
All in the family
- Long-leaf speedwell (Veronica longifolia) is a taller plant that sends up attractive flower spikes from midspring to midsummer. Grows 12 to 30 inches tall. Zones 4 to 8.
- Prostrate speedwell (V. prostrata) is a mat-forming perennial with blue flowers. It grows just 6 inches tall. Zones 5 to 8.
- Annuals in this family include snapdragon (Antirrhinum spp.), monkey flower (Mimulus spp.), and wishbone flower (Torenia spp.).
- Perennials in this group include turtlehead (Chelone spp.), foxglove (Digitalis spp.), Penstemon spp., and mullein (Verbascum spp.).
Text by Mary Pestel, photo courtesy of Monrovia Growers