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Photo of Royal Candles speedwell. As photo of the Veronica shows, Royal Candles speedwell is blue.

Photo of 'Royal Candles' speedwell.

David Beaulieu

Plant Taxonomy of Veronica Flowers:

Plant taxonomy classifies the Veronica flowers with which I deal here (primarily) as Veronica spicata 'Royal Candles.' The common name is "speedwell"; I use the common and botanical names interchangeably, below. 'Royal Candles' is a cultivar name.

Plant Type:

Veronica flowers are herbaceous perennials.

Characteristics of Veronica Plants:

'Royal Candles' speedwell is an upright, clump-forming, compact perennial, reaching just ca. 15 inches in height, with a similar spread. These Veronica flowers bloom in late spring to early summer. But you can enjoy the purplish blue flower spikes throughout the summer with proper care (see below).

Planting Zones for Veronica Flowers:

'Royal Candles' Veronica flowers are best grown in planting zones 3-8.

Sun and Soil Requirements for Veronica Plants:

Grow these perennials in a sunny area with a loamy, well-drained soil. Although drought-resistant plants once established, a moderate amount of water must be supplied to them while young.

Care for Veronica Flowers:

Deadhead the flowers to extend the blooming season. The easiest way to accomplish this, if you have several speedwell plants growing together, is by shearing, so that you can remove multiple blossoms at once. While I don't go out of my way to remove an excessive amount of foliage during the shearing, one needn't be overly careful, either. A bonus in shearing is that you can remove ratty-looking leaves in the process.

Uses in Landscaping:

Relatively drought-tolerant once established, 'Royal Candles' speedwell is a reasonably good candidate for use in rock gardens. But it will perform best when supplied with sufficient water. Many gardeners use 'Royal Candles' speedwell as a low plant in a perennial border.

Wildlife Attracted to Veronica Flowers:

Veronica flowers are plants that attract butterflies and bees. Fortunately, speedwell is reputedly a deer-resistant perennial and not susceptible to rabbit damage.

Outstanding Feature of Veronica Plants:

'Royal Candles' speedwell plants boast a multitude of attractive flowers -- over an extended period of time, with proper care (see above). Compact and hardy, they offer a colorful display while asking for little in return in the way of maintenance. Personally, I don't even fertilize my speedwell much (some years, not at all); yet they bloom well for me year in and year out.

Other Types of Veronica Flowers, Meaning of the Name:

There are many types of speedwell plants. For our purposes (gardening), we can divide them into two groups:

  1. Upright growers
  2. Creepers

In addition to 'Royal Candles' speedwell, another popular upright type is Veronica longifolia 'Sunny Border Blue' (planting zones 4-8). Not only does it have longer leaves than 'Royal Candles' (as its Latin specific epithet suggests), but it is also a taller plant, capable of reaching 3 feet in height.

For another tall, spiky plant to grow at the back of a perennial border, consider Culver's root (for a photo, click More Images under the picture above to access the mini-photo gallery). Variously classified as Veronica virginica or as a member of the closely related genus, Veronicastrum (Veronicastrum virginicum), Culver's root (planting zones 3-8) can reach 6 feet in height and has whorled leaves. But perhaps Culver's root is best known for its spikiness: Not only does it bear flower spikes, but those spikes occur in clusters. The effect is often described as "candelabra-like."

But the genus of Veronica plants is nothing if not diverse and includes low-growing plants, as well. For example, Veronica umbrosa 'Georgia Blue' (planting zones 4-8) stays less than 6 inches tall, making it useful as a flowering ground cover. See my pictures of flowering ground covers for more examples.

The name, "Veronica" is a contracted version of two Latin words joined together, vera ("true") and iconica ("image"). According to legend, a kind woman wiped the blood and sweat from Christ's face with her veil as he was passing her on the way to Calvary. Miraculously, the "true image" of his face was transferred onto this linen. The woman also came to be known as "Saint Veronica."

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