September – Sweet, Sweet Alyssum
What would spring be without the sweet honey scent of Alyssum’s picture-pretty flowers? The unassuming Alyssum does not only have the ability to add lacy blankets of white, pink, violet or purple to your spring garden beds, but this annual is also a great colourful addition to containers and hanging baskets.
Growing Alyssum from seed is generally a relatively cheap option. However, poor quality seed will lead to weak plants that may eventually set a lot of seed, giving rise to Alyssum’s perceived weed-like persistence. Rather opt for healthy seedlings bought from a reputable garden centre. Healthy seedlings will produce quality plants that boast a strong show of big flowers and that won’t over-run your garden in due course.
When transplanting your seedlings, ensure that the soil in the seedling tray is damp enough so that the earth clings to the seedlings when removed. The seedlings should be planted 15cm apart to ensure that their roots have ample space to grow and flourish. Always plant seedlings in well-composted soil to the depth that they are in the seedling tray. And remember to water them frequently until they are established.
Don’t let Alyssum’s dainty appearance fool you. Alyssum plants prefer full to partial sun and can tolerate dry soil conditions. However, for best results, they require moderate watering and well-drained and composted soil that is not too rich in nitrogen. The latter may result in soft leaves and less flowers than you would expect from these faithful bloomers.
Growing Alyssum is indeed rewarding as far as flowering goes. Expect flowers in two months or less after you have planted the seedlings. To extend your Alyssum plants’ flowering period, ensure that you deadhead spent flowers to prevent seed protection. Alyssum will flower for two deadheadings, ensuring colourful splashes in your garden throughout spring.
In the garden
Alyssum plants can grow 15cm tall and 20cm wide. They are proven partners to accents plants and often provide coverage in rose beds. (Because their roots are not invasive, these plants do not damage roses’ roots when planted.) Alyssum also provides attractive edge borders, framing flower beds and adding vibrancy and texture to window boxes, containers and hanging baskets. In addition, Alyssum can liven up rock gardens’ nooks and crannies.
Alyssum, which belongs to the fragrant mustard family, is now also available in copper, apricot and pastel shades.