Sweet alyssum looks and smells as sweet as its name implies! This plant will hardly go unnoticed as its dainty, clustered flowers fill the air with the sweet smell of honey. And the yummy scent aside, its colors and pretty foliage are hard to overlook too, in spite of its petite flower size. If the double pleasure of sweet alyssum’s appearance and fragrance isn’t impressive enough, it is also one of the easiest annuals to grow and care for.
This mainstay of the garden, also known as carpet flower, joined us here in the U.S. from the Mediterranean region where it was once used to treat bite wounds from rabid animals. Today, sweet alyssum is a delightful go-to fill in plant for flowerbeds and pathways. A very versatile plant, it can also be used in containers and in rock gardens. There is hardly a garden out there that isn’t suited for a touch of sweet alyssum.
How to Grow and Care for Sweet Alyssum
Sweet alyssum is a typical annual that prefers a decent amount of sunshine and cooler temperatures. So, plant your sweet alyssum in an area that receives some full sun exposure every day. If you live where the afternoon temperatures are intense, make sure your alyssum can enjoy some shade too- especially during the heat of the day.
Sweet alyssum is easy to grow from seed. After you have chosen a good, sunny location, sow your seeds directly in mid to late spring. Spread them over the ground, but don’t cover the seeds with dirt. Sweet alyssum seeds need direct light to germinate. Seeds can be started indoors too. Start them in a tray a month or two before the last frost of the season. Allow your seedlings a space of about six inches to fill into as they mature.
Keep your seeds, seedlings, and your mature sweet alyssum well watered. Although this plant loves water, it also needs well draining soil conditions to help prevent soggy feet. Don’t let your alyssum dry out either. Keep an extra eye on the sweet alyssum that you may have planted in pots or hangers. Containers tend to dry more quickly than the ground.
Trim your sweet alyssum to encourage more flowers once your plant is mature. And, if the sweet alyssum you planted for the cool weather of spring fades away in the heat of summer, you can plant another round of midsummer seeds that will bloom well into the cooler fall season.
Many varieties of sweet alyssum will re-seed. You might find yourself fortunate enough to enjoy the surprise of a blanket of sweet alyssum next year! Among the other joys of sweet alyssum, you can expect it to attract bees, butterflies and other helpful bugs to your garden. Sweet alyssum is a deer resistant plant too, which just adds to that list of positives.
Sweet Alyssum Pests and Problems
Sweet alyssum is usually a healthy annual when cared for properly. You will run into problems with it if it gets too much or too little water. If it becomes too dry, the plant will weaken and become more susceptible to pests. Too much water, on the other hand will cause root rot and stem rot. Remove rotted plants to prevent the disease from spreading to other neighboring plants.
A couple of pests to watch out for are whiteflies and leafhoppers. Some gardeners tackle these pests with blue or yellow sticky tape traps. Insecticidal soap is another deterrent. Insecticidal soap requires persistence. Spray your plants every 5 to 7 days for two weeks.
Sweet Alyssum Varieties to Consider
Most sweet alyssum blooms in shades of white, purple and pink. A few unique varieties provide blossoms in yellows and even red. A few notable varieties are:
- ‘Snow Princess’ This cultivar bursts with larger than typical clusters of white flowers. What is really special about this variety is its incredible fragrance.
- ‘Clear Crystal Lavender’ is a large variety. It grows to be about 10 inches tall and spreads up to about 14 inches. Its lovely flowers range in shades of lavender.
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Creative Commons Flickr photo courtesy of christina