One event that I look forward to every June here in the Mid-Atlantic is the first hint of honey fragrance from the Sweet Alyssum that is planted by my front door. Spring, Summer and Fall, every morning when I leave my home, I’m greeted by this delicate scent and on the weekend when I’m working in my garden I see that the butterflies enjoy Sweet Alyssum as much as I do. Sweet Alyssum is so easy to grow that it’s easy to take it for granted but everyone has some room in their garden for this flower.
One of its greatest assets is that it is one of the most flexible flowers I know. It can be used in window boxes, containers, hanging baskets and the fact that it only grows 6” to 9” inches tall and can spread up to 12 inches makes it a great edge for any flower bed. It’s an excellent choice to plant among spring blooming bulbs such as crocuses and daffodils. While Sweet Alyssum grows and spreads it helps to hide the foliage of these bulbs after they finish flowering. It is normally not bothered by insects or troubled by diseases and it is easily started from seed planted early in the spring but you can find plants if you can’t wait for the blooms to appear.
When planted in the Northern part of the country it can be planted in areas that get at least 6 hours of sun each day but in the South it does best with a little shade during the hottest part of the day. It prefers soil that stays moist but that soil should drain well and not have problems with standing water. All of this being said I have found that Sweet Alyssum does well in a variety of soil types and if after the first wave of flowering it starts to look ragged you simply cut it back, give it a little fertilizer and it will bloom for you all over again. In the warm climates of the Deep South you can even plant the seed in late summer and it will bloom for the entire Fall season.
Although Sweet Alyssum is considered an annual flower many varieties are such prolific self seeders that they come back every year just like a perennial flower. There is actually one variety of Alyssum that is a true perennial and it provides a striking display of yellow flowers in April in most areas of the country. However, unlike its annual cousins, it prefers very dry soil conditions and won’t tolerate the moist soil that the annual varieties thrive in. Perhaps the only disappointing feature of Sweet Alyssum is that it comes in a very limited number of colors the most popular being white. However, that appears to be a pretty small price to pay to enjoy a flower that has so many uses and smells so nice.