Here's an in-depth look at the candytuft plants where you can learn about their characteristics, reproduction, growing conditions, and uses. We've also added some tips on how to grow and propagate these ground-hugging evergreens.
Iberis is a genus of flowering plants that is part of the brassica botanical family (brassicaceae). This genus is comprised of 30 different plant types, including evergreens, annuals, perennials, and subshrubs.
The name candytuft does that actually derive from the word candy (though their beautiful flowers do kind of look like lovely candies), but from the word candia. This is a greek word that was once the former name of Ikraklion, which is the largest city on the Island of Crete. This plant is native to Mediterranean locations.
This beautiful, flowering evergreen perennial is more than worth the effort of its care. When taken care of properly, it has the ability to bloom in the early spring, persist throughout the summer, and sometimes bloom again come fall.
This plant is native to Europe, though has become naturalized all over the world and used as a border plant, for pathway edging, or simply as a lovely ornamental plant. In the language of flowers, the candytuft represents indifference! (Whatever that means).
Though the candytuft isn’t particularly the easiest plant species to care for, it will provide elegance to any outdoor or indoor space. If iberis sempervirens isn’t exactly what you’re looking for, head on over to our list of Amazing Flowering Plants where you’re sure to find the perfect addition to your garden, balcony, or front window.
What do Candytuft Plants Look Like?
Candytuft plants produce flowers in masses of striking white flowers, though they can sometimes come in pink or lilac as well. These clusters of flowers are relatively late bloomers and emerge in full force in April or May.
The petals of a candytuft flower are small and create lovely patterns that are very effective in attracting bees, butterflies, wasps, and hummingbirds. Though lovely for pollinators, these snowy white flowers actually have a rather unpleasant smell to humans!
Candytuft plants behave like ground cover plants or as a sub shrub. Their rich green foliage covers the ground completely. The plants stay quite close to the ground and only grow to be between 12 and 18 inches tall.
Candytuft leaves are alternately arranged along a stem and simple in shape. These narrow leaves are linear to oblong and slightly resemble the appearance of a rosemary spring! A leaf is a dark green color and is semi evergreen in warmer climates.
Where do Candytuft Flowers Grow?
The candytuft is a native plant to the southern countries of Europe, and along the coast of the Mediterranean. They prefer to live in sunny locations that don’t receive too much annual precipitation, as they are a very drought tolerant plant.
They have become naturalized in many other places in the world, and grow very successfully in USDA zones 4 through 8.
How do you Grow Candytufts?
Growing candytufts can be done in one of two ways, if you would like to try your hand at propagation or sowing seeds instead of purchasing a plant from a nursery.
You needn’t be an expert gardener to achieve this, and if you follow some simple steps, you will soon enough be enjoying the explosive white flower clusters of the candytuft plant.
One was to grow a candytuft plant is by planting your own seeds. First off, choose a place in your garden that receives full sun exposure, and ensure that it is not at the base of a hill (as water runoff can waterlog the soil).
Then wait until all threat of frost has passed. They perform best when the soil has warmed up to be at least 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
Punch little holes in the soil about 6 inches apart, place the seed in the hole, and cover lightly. This distancing will ensure that the plant grows as a groundcover plant.
When plants are first being established, they should receive healthy amounts of watering so that the soil doesn’t go too dry. Once seedlings start to emerge, lay off the watering slightly.
Another way to plant your own candytuft is by taking cuttings from another plant. It is best to take softwood cuttings of an existing plant, and propagate in midsummer.
Select a stem that is long, green, and appears as being very healthy. Place the cutting in a pot of loose, nitrogen rich soil. Though taking root may take a while, the subsequent plant will be very healthy.
Otherwise, propagation can also be done through root division by taking one large plant and diving it into 2 or 3 individual plants.
Ensure that a sturdy amount of branches and roots and taken for each clump, and plant them in the ground in the fall right before their winter dormancy phase. Come late spring time, they will be entirely ready for a prosperous growing season.
What are the Growing Conditions of the Candytuft plant?
Candytuft plants can grow in almost any soil type, though they prefer to grow in soil that is very well drained. They perform best in soil that is more alkaline than it is acidic, and acidic soil should be amended with as much lime as possible.
They do very well in gravelly soil that is loose, indicating how important it is that they have soil that is well drained and never waterlogged. They are far more drought tolerant than they are flood tolerant.
The candytuft is a very sun loving plant, and they don’t seem to perform too well in partial shade conditions.
Candytufts don’t require too much precipitation to be happy. They are a wonderfully drought tolerant plant, but it is important to ensure that young plants that aren’t fully established receive water during dry periods. Otherwise, mature plants seem to be happy with natural rainfall.
It is also important to know that the native growing regions of these plants have a much drier air quality, and they don’t do very well in areas that receive a lot of humidity, as the flowers tend to wilt.
Candytufts aren’t too particular about temperature when they are mature, but a young plant has some more specific requirements. Young plants should be introduced to their outdoors only once temperatures have warmed to about 70 degrees Fahrenheit, usually in the early summer.
In colder regions, they behave like a perennial candytuft, whereas in warmer regions they behave as an evergreen candytuft. Their evergreen foliage is part of the reasons why they are a popular ornamental plant.
When it comes to fertilizer, it is not entirely necessary for a candytuft. Though it has been observed that using fertilizer can sometimes help ensure abundant blooms and a longer growing season. A slow release, low nitrogen-high phosphorous mix seems to do the trick when applied in the early spring.
Properly pruning your candytuft plant is a very important part of its care. Pruning should be done every so often to prevent short blooming seasons, and to make sure that they don’t become too tall and spindly.
This woody plant is most attractive when treated as a herbaceous perennial, so prune away the top third of the plants’ foliage after it blooms. This will guarantee fresh new growth and keeps the shape of the plant nice and neat.
All in all, the candytuft isn’t too picky of a grower. As long as its water level remains moderate and it is in full sun conditions, it should be happy.
How are Candytuft Plants Used?
Candytufts make for a wonderful ornamental plant. They act as a great, dense ground cover plant, and are often used for pathway edging or as a border plant. They make for an excellent addition to a rock garden as a low growing shrub.
They aren’t too tall to take away from the beauty of your showstopper garden plants, but they still provide a lovely background. They can be used for mass planting in public spaces as they grow relatively well without too much care.
This bedding plant also provides a wonderful habitat for beneficial insects that can be protected by its tidy evergreen foliage and its ground hugging habit.