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Alyssum an Inexpensive Garden Workhorse

April 28, 2001|U.C. MASTER GARDENERS

Question: I really like alyssum. Is it easy to grow and how do you go about it?

D.C., Placentia

Answer: A sure-fire sign of spring is the sight and smell of tiny sweet alyssum (Lobularia maritima). Inexpensive, colorful and dependable, alyssum is ideal as a border plant, for filling in empty areas, as a ground cover and even in rock gardens.

The low-branching plant trails, reaching 6 to 12inches. Flowers are tiny white, purple or lavender-pink and sweetly scented.

Native to the Mediterranean region, alyssum is technically an annual but blooms year-round in Orange County. Foliage consists of tiny green leaves that turn brown but do not fall off during winter. Blossoms retain their color throughout the year in our climate and are attractive to bees. There is a perennial type of alyssum, but it is not readily available.

Sweet alyssum generally comes in six-packs or you can grow it from seed. It is sometimes contained in wildflower mixes. In favorable conditions, it will self-sow and has run wild in parts of the West. When sowing, scatter seed and barely cover with soil.

Plant alyssum in full sun or partial shade. It will grow in just about any soil and requires low to moderate water.

To maximize blossoming, shear the plant halfway about four weeks after the first bloom. This prevents ranginess and ensures another round of blooms.

Written by University of California Master Gardener Pat Whatley of Laguna Hills.

Have a problem in your yard? University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE) Master Gardeners are here to help. These trained and certified horticultural volunteers are dedicated to extending research-based, scientifically accurate information to the public about home horticulture and pest management. They are involved with a variety of outreach programs, including the UCCE Master Garden hotline, which provides answers to specific questions. You can reach the hotline at (714) 708-1646 or send e-mail to ucmastergardeners

@yahoo.com. Calls and e-mail are picked up daily and are generally returned within two to three days. Please include your name and city of residence.

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