Candytuft, Skeefblom, Garden Candytuft, Globe Candytuft – Iberis umbellata

Rate this item
(0 votes)
Iberis Purity. Picture courtesy Ball Horticultural CompanyIberis Purity. Picture courtesy Ball Horticultural Company

Condensed Version:

This easy to grow and fast-flowering little annual will quickly cover any unsightly bare spots in the garden throughout summer. It grows about 25cm tall, with a spread of 40cm, and is loved by gardeners for its abundant clusters of sweetly scented, pure white, lavender or pink flowers in spring and summer, showing off beautifully against the attractive dark green leaves.

Candytuft grows well throughout South Africa but does best in the cooler regions of the country which receive good rainfall. It is fully frost hardy and although it thrives in full sun, will take light shade. It prefers a light well drained soil, but adapts to most garden soils, as long as they drain well. Candytuft can be sown directly into garden beds almost throughout the year in cool regions, but germinates best in autumn or spring when the soil temperatures are between 15 and 22°C, and flowering should begin about 12 weeks after sowing.

Full Version:

Description, History & Interesting Facts:

This Candytuft is native to the Mediterranean region, and can be found growing in most parts of Europe, but is especially abundant along the coasts, from Spain to Greece, where it favours growing on dry rocky hillsides, in bushy areas and in clearings, preferably on calcareous soils, at an altitude of 0 to 1,300 metres above sea level. Calcareous soils are mostly or partly composed of calcium carbonate - in other words, containing lime or being chalky.

The name Candytuft conjures up images of sweet confections, but it is actually named for the Mediterranean area of Candia, the former name of Iraklion on the Island of Crete. The genus name comes from the name "Iberia", the ancient name of Spain, while the Latin name for the species "umbellata", means "umbrella" and refers to the shape of the flower clusters.

During the 16th century, candytuft seed was brought from Crete to England, and it became known in colonial American gardens in the late 18th century, when well known horticulturist Bernard McMahon first offered the seed for sale in the 1804 edition of his Catalogue.

This low-growing, spreading little plant only grows about 25cm tall, with a spread of 40cm, and is loved by gardeners for its abundant clusters of sweetly scented, pure white, lavender or pink flowers in spring and summer, showing off beautifully against the attractive dark green leaves.

Uses:

A member of the mustard family, this Colonial favourite was used for centuries as a seasoning, and always included in the herb garden as a treatment for rheumatism.

In the Garden:

Candytuft is so versatile in the garden, and considered one of the best plants to grow for edging purposes, and particularly useful for providing a colourful ground cover. It is also wonderful in scented and cottage gardens, and even rock or gravel gardens. This easy to grow and fast-flowering annual will quickly cover any unsightly bare spots in the garden throughout summer. The flowers last well in a vase and are perfect for small, romantic posies.

Cultivation/Propagation:

This annual Candytuft grows well throughout South Africa but does best in the cooler regions of the country which receive good rainfall, and will struggle in very hot, dry regions. It is fully frost hardy and although it thrives in full sun, will take light shade.  Preferring a light well drained soil, but adapting to most garden soils, Candytuft can grow in chalk, loam or sandy soils which are mildly acid, neural, or alkaline to very alkaline, as long as they drain well.

Candytuft can be sown directly into garden beds almost throughout the year in cool regions, but germinates best in autumn or spring when the soil temperatures are between 15 and 22°C. Lightly rake the seeds into the soil and keep them moist until germination, which can take 2 to 3 weeks. Thin out the seedlings to space them about 20cm apart. Flowering should begin about 12 weeks after sowing. Water regularly, especially during hot, dry spells, and cut back after flowering. At the end of the season, leave a few plants to die down and self-seed, others can be pulled up and composted.

Problems, Pests & Diseases:

A healthy plant but prone to slugs, snails and caterpillars.

Warning:

Nothing was found documented for Iberis umbellate, but the sap of Iberis sempervirens is listed, and may cause a skin rash or irritation. Wash the affected area of skin with soap and water as soon as possible after contact. The rashes may be very serious and painful. Call the Poison Control Centre or your doctor if symptoms appear following contact with the plants.

Additional Info

  • Common Name: Candytuft, Skeefblom, Garden Candytuft, Globe Candytuft
  • Latin Name: Iberis umbellata