Have you always dreamed of having a lovely ornamental in your collection that mesmerizes you with its bloom more than once per year? Well, Lobularia maritima a.k.a. Sweet alyssum might be the plant that you are looking for! Keep reading to find out more about this colourful, twice-blooming, and low-demanding beauty!
Lobularia maritima (syn. Alyssum maritimum) is a low-growing, but attractive species of flowering plants in the Brassicaceae family. In cultivation, this showy flower goes by several common names, such as Sweet alyssum, Carpet flower, Sweet alison, or simply Alyssum. It is native to the Macaronesia region of Europe (Cape Verde, Canary Islands, Madeira) and France.
The Sweet alyssum species comes with lots of abundant clusters of delicate, white blossoms. Additionally, this plant will give you plenty of other eye-catching options to choose from. The most popular cultivars include ‘Blushing Princess’, ‘Easter Bonnet’ group, ‘Little Dorrit’, ‘Navy Blue’, ‘Oriental Nights’, ‘Pastel Carpet’, ‘Royal Carpet’, ‘Snow Princess’, and ‘Wonderland’ series.
About Sweet Alyssum
- Sweet alyssum plants grow mostly in dunes and sandy beaches, but they can also appear in cultivated fields, slopes, waste ground, or walls. These flowers show up at low altitudes of up to 984 feet (300 m) above sea level.
- Their genus name “Lobularia” comes from a Greek word that means “small pod”. This name refers to the shape of the fruits which Sweet alyssum plants produce. The specific epithet “maritima” refers to their preferred native coastal habitat.
- Many gorgeous Sweet alyssum cultivars, such as the ‘Golf’ series, ‘Rosie O’Day’, ‘Snowdrift’, ‘Violet Queen’, and ‘Wonderland White’, have gained the prestigious Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit.
- Their sweet-scented flowers are highly attractive to different species of pollinators and beneficial insects, such as butterflies, hummingbirds, ladybirds, or hoverflies.
- Sweet alyssum plants play a big part in both traditional and modern medicine. They work as an excellent treatment for numerous problems including colds, rabies, scurvy, gum bleeding, abdominal pain, high blood pressure, fluid retention, or kidney diseases.
- Their leaves and blossoms are edible, adding a pungent aroma and a honey-like fragrance to dishes. Some people use them as ingredients in various culinary recipes like salads, omelettes, cold summer soups, snacks, and desserts.
- These plants are wonderful additions as edging plants or ground covers. The best landscape use for them is usually anywhere in rock gardens. They will also look fabulous as cascading specimens if you grow them in containers or hanging baskets.
- Sweet alyssum plants can make for nice-looking companions to other well-known species of ornamentals. Some of these are Agastache ‘Black Adder’, Agastache ‘Blue Fortune’, Dahlia ‘David Howard’, Feathertop Grass, and Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’.
Sweet Alyssum Features: An Overview
- Sweet Alyssum plants belong to the Lobularia genus that contains only five species of flowering plants. They share this small genus with L. canariensis, L. libyca, L. intermedia, and L. marginata, but they are a somewhat representative species.
- Sweet alyssum plants are usually annual ornamentals. However, they can also be short-lived perennial plants, but only in particular environmental conditions.
- They are low-growing and mound-forming plants that grow at a pretty fast pace. Depending on the cultivar, Sweet alyssum plants can reach from 3 to 12 inches (7.6-30 cm) in height and 6 to 18 inches (15-46 cm) in width.
- Their foliage consists of small, sessile, oval to lanceolate, and grey-green leaves that appear alternately arranged on slender, yellowish-green stems. The leaves are slightly hairy and come with entire edges.
- Sweet alyssum plants bloom twice a year, usually in spring and autumn. During their blooming seasons, they produce numerous dense clusters of tiny, cross-shaped blossoms on somewhat long, thin, and very branched stems.
- Their flowers measure about 0.2 inches (5 mm) in diameter and have four rounded petals with four tepals. They can exhibit various shades of white, yellow, red, apricot, pink, lavender, or purple. They have a pleasantly sweet, honey-like fragrance.
- After their flowering period, sweet alyssum plants bear many fruits where the blooms once were. The fruits are tiny, elongated, oval to rounded, and hairy seedpods that contain two seeds each.
Growing Sweet Alyssum
When it comes to lighting, sweet alyssum plants thrive in full sunlight to partial shade. If you live in a region with hot and dry conditions, your buddies will benefit from some shade, especially during the harsh afternoons. However, prolonged periods of shade will prevent their soil from drying out and may cause their roots to rot. To avoid this unpleasant situation, you should plant your flowers where they can receive six to eight hours of full sunlight daily.
Temperate-wise, Sweet alyssum plants will grow at their best in a wide variety of conditions. In general, these flowers are cold and heat hardy in the USDA zones 5 to 11. Keep in mind that cultivars that come with darker blossoms are typically hardier than the other ones. If your region has cooler climates and you want to grow these beauties outdoors, you should go for those dark-coloured specimens for best results.
When you are growing your Sweet alyssum plants in proper environmental conditions, you will encounter little to no problems along the way. But! If your beloved plants are under stress, some intruders like aphids may find them very interesting. In the first stages of a possible infestation, you will see these pests on the leaves and stems of your plants. You can get rid of aphids by simply handpick them. For severe cases, however, you will also have to apply neem oil on your plants until they get back in shape.
Planting Sweet Alyssum
The perfect time to plant your new Sweet alyssum plants is typically in spring. Before getting to work, make sure that the last danger of frost has passed to maximize your chances of success. In regions with frost-free climates, you can also plant these flowers in either autumn or winter and have the same best results. Keep in mind that potted specimens will need containers that come along with one or more drainage holes at the bottom.
In terms of soil pH, sweet alyssum plants prefer those substrates that are more on the neutral to the acidic side. These companions love moisture, but they are also susceptible to root rot and do not appreciate boggy soils at all. The best way to avoid any future problems is to plant your flowers in soil that has very sharp drainage.
If you are growing your sweet alyssum plants outdoors directly in the ground, their fertilizer needs will be different from the ones of potted specimens. Unless your soil lacks nutrients, your outdoor-grown plants will not require fertilizing to grow healthy and happy. On the other hand, container-grown flowers will benefit from monthly feedings with a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer.
Likewise, you can keep your Sweet alyssum plants in bloom by deadheading them regularly. They usually set buds very quickly, so this process will reward you with an abundant carpet of flowers. Still, pruning your plants by one-third will surely be a much easier option if you are the lucky owner of many Sweet alyssum specimens.
Watering Sweet Alyssum
Like most moisture-loving species, Sweet alyssum plants will need more effort on your part when it comes to their watering routine. But do not worry, it is not as bad as it sounds! As a general rule, these stunning flowers will do well if you provide them with only an inch (2.5 cm) of water once every week.
In regions with hot and dry weather, you will have to water your Sweet alyssum plants more often than usual. Because over-watering is a common issue among these fellows, it is wise to check the soil in-between waterings. Once the top inch (2.5 cm) of soil seems dry to the touch, you can spoil your flowers with a nice drink.
Propagating Sweet Alyssum
Sweet alyssum plants tend to self-seed and spread so much that you will probably not have to propagate them very often. In fact, this particular self-seeding feature is what keeps these plants alive throughout the year. If you are not satisfied with the results, you can also start your own plants from scratch. Just make sure you also keep some specimens for your family or friends!
Starting sweet alyssum plants from seed is a fast and easy process. All you have to do is to collect the seeds from your flowers and sow them in the soil. You can start your plants from seed outdoors directly into the ground, but only once the soil feels warm to the touch. If you prefer to do this indoors, you must start them about eight weeks before the last frost date.
Make sure you plant the seeds so they make good contact with the substrate while still receiving bright, direct light. Provide your Sweet alyssum seeds with water regularly to maintain their growing medium constantly damp. Once germination occurs, usually in a month or so, you can transplant your potted seedlings in their permanent location. But do not transplant them until the last threat of frost has passed.
Being so alluring, easy-going, and having so many cultivars to choose from, it is almost impossible to resist Sweet alyssum plants. These flowers can fill any dull spot from your garden or home with minimal effort on your part. But you will see all this for yourself only if you give them a chance! Do you already have Sweet alyssum plants in your collection? Share your experience in the comments!