Alyssum (sweet alyssum)
Height 7.5-15cm (3-6in)
Planting distance 23cm (9in)
Flowers early summer to early autumn
Sweet alyssum (Alyssum maritimum, or correctly Lobularia maritima) is the only annual species -all others are perennials. It forms low, dense cushions invaluable for edging beds, filling cracks betweenstones and bringing colour to rockeries and containers. From early summer till early autumn, sprays of tiny appear in great profusion, their colours ranging from white to pink, lilac, purple and red.
It is an easy annual to grow, tolerating any ordinary garden soil, including poor ones.
The species itself is rarely grown, but is represented by readily available varieties.
‘Carpet of Snow’ bears clusters of white flowers and reaches 7.5cm (3in) high.
‘Easter Bonnet’ is a mixture of colours in shades of pink, purple, mauve, lavender and white on 12cm (5in) plants.
‘Minimum’ has white flowers which form a low carpet just 7.5cm (3in) high.
‘Oriental Night’ has deep purple flowers on 10cm (4in) high plants.
‘Pastel Carpet’ grows 12cm (5in) high and comes in a mixture of pastel shades – white, cream, pink and pale violet.
‘Rosie O’Day’ has early-flowering rose-coloured blooms and reaches 7.5-10cm (3-4in) high.
‘Royal Carpet’ has scented, lilac-purple flowers and reaches 7.5-10cm (3-4in) high.
‘Snow Crystals’ grows to 10cm (4in) tall and bears large clusters of pure white flowers on compact plants.
‘Trailing Rosy Red’ bears pink flowers along its trailing stems. Suitable for hanging baskets.
‘Wonderland Red’ has deep red flowers which last well. It reaches 7.5-10cm (3-4in) high.
Sweet alyssum needs a sunny position and grows in any well-drained garden soil provided it isn’t too rich.
Sow the seeds thinly in the flowering site from early to. Thin the seedlings to 23cm (9in) apart, when they are strong enough to handle.
For early flowering, sow seeds in seed boxes in late winter or early spring, and maintain a temperature of 10-13°C (50-55°F). Prick out into boxes of potting compost and then harden off, before planting out in mid spring.
Dead-head regularly by trimming lightly with a pair of scissors to encourage a longer flowering season.
Pests and diseases
Slugs may eat young plants.