Alyssum, also known as Lobularia, is generally known as an annual plant (in the SC Upstate) from the Brassicaceae family, although there are perennial varieties. Lobularia is native to the Mediterranean region and typically grows up to 30 cm tall. These plants have small, fragrant flowers that bloom in clusters and come in shades of white, pink, lavender, and purple. They form a compact and mound-like shape, with branches branching out in a graceful and low-growing manner. This growth habit creates a dense and lush flower carpet, adding elegance to any landscape.
Caring For Alyssum
Alyssum is a relatively easy plant to grow and requires minimal care. The plant does best in well-drained soil and full sun to partial shade. Alyssum plants have few pest or disease problems, which makes them an excellent choice for gardeners who want a low-maintenance plant.
Alyssum does not tolerate drought. When their soil dries out, the leaves will yellow and the plants will drop blooms. Because of the intense summer heat in the Upstate, it is often best to plant these plants in afternoon shade or to ensure that they are watered regularly. Alternately, use them only as an early spring or fall pop of color and fragrance, and be aware that alyssum may fade in the intense summer heat.
Leaves and Flowers
The leaves of Alyssum are small and lance-shaped, arranged in an alternating pattern along the stems. They are typically gray-green or light green, offering a subtle backdrop for the vibrant blossoms. The flowers are tiny and clustered together in dense clusters or spikes at the tips of the stems. They bloom in shades of white, pink, lavender, and shades of purple. Despite their small size, the flowers of Alyssum pack a punch of fragrance, emitting a sweet and honey-like scent that is particularly enticing in the evenings. These dainty blooms add beauty to the garden and attract pollinators.
Companion Planting with Alyssum
Companion planting is a time-honored gardening practice that involves strategically placing plants near each other to enhance growth, repel pests, and improve overall garden health. Alyssum emerges as a standout companion that adds aesthetic appeal and contributes significantly to the well-being of neighboring plants. Its role in attracting beneficial insects, enhancing pollination, and repelling pests makes it a valuable ally for gardeners seeking a thriving and balanced garden ecosystem.
Benefit #1: Attracting Beneficial Insects:
One of the primary benefits of companion planting with Alyssum is its ability to attract beneficial insects. The tiny, honey-scented flowers are a magnet for pollinators like bees and butterflies. These industrious insects play a crucial role in pollination, fostering the reproduction of many garden plants. By providing a nectar-rich source, Alyssum encourages the presence of these pollinators, promoting biodiversity and contributing to the overall health of the garden ecosystem.
Benefit #2: Attracting Pollinators:
Alyssum’s petite blossoms serve as a veritable buffet for pollinators, ensuring a steady supply of pollen for bees and butterflies. Planting Alyssum alongside fruits and vegetables can improve pollination rates, resulting in better fruit sets and higher yields. The collaborative relationship between Alyssum and other plants creates a harmonious environment where each species benefits from the presence of the other. Gardeners cultivating tomatoes, peppers, and squash, among other crops, may find that interspersing Alyssum throughout their garden fosters more abundant and healthy harvests.
Benefit #3: Repelling Pests
Alyssum is not just an attractive addition to the garden; it also plays a role in pest management. While delightful to humans, its fragrance acts as a natural deterrent for certain pests. The scent emitted by Alyssum has been found to repel aphids, spider mites, and other common garden nuisances. Intercropping Alyssum with susceptible plants can create a protective barrier, reducing the likelihood of pest infestations and minimizing the need for chemical interventions.
Choosing The Right Companion:
Choosing the right companions for Alyssum is key to maximizing its benefits. Some plants thrive particularly well when planted near Alyssum:
- Tomatoes: Alyssum’s ability to attract pollinators benefits tomato plants, leading to better fruit development. Additionally, its pest-repelling properties can help protect tomatoes from aphids and whiteflies.
- Broccoli and Cabbage: Planting Alyssum near these brassicas can attract beneficial insects that prey on common cabbage pests, such as cabbage worms.
- Strawberries: Alyssum enhances pollination for strawberries, contributing to larger and more flavorful berries. It also helps deter pests like aphids that can plague strawberry plants.
- Carrots: Alyssum’s fragrance can help keep carrot flies at bay, protecting the delicate roots of carrot plants.
- Chrysanthemums: Combining Alyssum with chrysanthemums creates a powerful duo for pest control. Chrysanthemums contain compounds that repel nematodes, complementing Alyssum’s ability to deter surface pests.
One of the most popular varieties of Alyssum is Lobularia Maritima, commonly known as Sweet Alyssum. This plant is grown for its fragrant, honey-scented flowers that attract bees, butterflies, and other pollinators. Sweet Alyssum is a low-growing plant often used as a ground cover or border plant in gardens. It is also commonly grown in hanging baskets and containers.
Our Selection of Alyssum
At Martin Garden Center, we carry available 4″ Alyssum such as the Yolo series and the Stream series which tend to handle our intense heat much better than other varieties. These 4″ annuals are usually available beginning in Mid-March. We will continue to stock alyssum through the summer but as already stated, these plants do NOT like the hot sun.
We also carry the Easter Bonnet series in flats, but these are only available from one vendor and they come in at the beginning of April and may last through early May before they are sold out.
Finally, in the early spring and sometimes in the fall, we often have 10″ hanging baskets of annual Alyssum but since we rely on our vendors to grow these, we cannot anticipate exactly when they will be available.
As for perennial Alyssum, we’re going to give it a try again. In 2024, we are growing a limited quantity of Alyssum wulfenianum, Golden Spring, a Proven Winners “Proven Selection.” This particular perennial is hardy in Zones 4-9, and will bloom in spring. It should be available in late March so get it while you can.