1183 Veronica spicataCommon Names: spike speedwell, spiked speedwell, cat’s tail speedwell Family: Scrophulariaceae (figwort Family)
Spike speedwell is a mat forming herbaceous perennial with creeping overground rhizomes that take root as they sprawl across the ground. In early to mid-summer speedwell sends up erect flowering stems with opposite lance shaped to linear leaves with toothed margins and hairy surfaces. The leaves are around 3 in (7.5 cm) long. The 12-24 in (30-60 cm) flowering stem is topped with a dense cone shaped cluster of tiny star shaped bright blue flowers. The flowers are around a quarter inch (7 mm) across and have conspicuous long purple stamens. Although the flowers are small, they are numerous and the bountiful blue clusters make quite an impact.
There are several named cultivars of spike speedwell and a couple recognized subspecies. Veronica spicata cv. 'Icicle' has white flowers and gets two feet (60 cm) tall; 'Alba', also with white flowers, is shorter and blooms later in the summer; 'Rotfuchs' (also called 'Red Fox') has wine-red flowers; 'Barcarolle', 'Pink Goblin', 'Erica' and 'Minuet' all have pink flowers; 'Royal Candles' has bright blue flowers and stays a little more compact than the species; 'Noah Williams' has white edged leaves and white flowers; 'Blue Charm' is taller, to 3 ft (1 m) with lavender flowers; 'Corymbosa' has more flowers, including clusters in axillary spiklets.
Veronica spicata subsp. incana (woolly or silver speedwell) is sometimes listed as a distinct species, V. incana. It and its cultivars have densely hairy leaves that are velvety silver, white or gray, and are often grown for their foliage as much as their flowers. 'Wendy' has silver-gray leaves and clear blue flowers; 'Silver Slippers' forms a dense mat of gray leaves less than an inch (2.5 cm) in height, and does not bear flowers at all.
Veronica spicata occurs in northern Europe and Asia. It has become established in Ontario, Quebec and northern New York. Subspecies incana and nana are from eastern Europe and Russia.
Light:Grow speedwell in full sun (best) to partial shade (tolerated). Moisture: Speedwell likes a moisture retentive, but well drained soil. It does not tolerate soils that stay wet in winter and this is often the cause of death. Hardiness: USDA Zones 3 - 8. Spiked speedwell does not do well in areas with hot and humid summers or rainy winters. Propagation: Propagate spike speedwell by dividing the rooted stems or rooting terminal stem cuttings. The tiny seeds may be sown in autumn and should not be planted very deep.
Spike speedwell, which has a long flowering period, blooming bright blue for 4-8 weeks in mid-summer, is one of the most popular speedwells in American gardens. It is most commonly used in the front of mixed herbaceous borders and flower beds. The mat forming habit makes them ideal for flowering ground covers and use in rock gardens. Remove spent flowering spikes to encourage a second bloom later in the season. Speedwell does not make a good cut flower because the corollas drop soon after the raceme is picked, hence the name “speedwell” which means “good-bye.” The low growing silvery gray 'Silver Slippers' cultivar of subsp. incana is especially well suited for a rock garden, edging a gravel path or positioned among paving stones.
Speedwell is resistant to deer and rabbits and attractive to butterflies.
The Scrophulariaceae (there's a mouthful!) or figwort and foxglove family contains nearly 4000 species in some 220 genera distributed worldwide. Floridata has profiles on nearly a dozen popular garden scrophs, including snapdragon, foxglove, angelonia, firecracker plant, and Culver's root. The genus Veronica has about 250 species, including a couple dozen used as ornamentals.