Lobularia maritima: Sweet alyssum

Family: Brassicaceae
Common name: Sweet alyssum, Sweet alison, Alyssum

Sweet alyssum is a delicate and charming annual plant that has captured the hearts of gardeners worldwide with their dainty, sweet-smelling flowers and a low-growing habit.

Belonging to the Brassicaceae family, which includes cabbage, broccoli, and mustard plants, Sweet alyssums are small, spreading plants that can reach a height of 10-15 cm. Each plants spreads about 15 to 23 cm allowing for many plants to be grown together as border plants, flower beds or even in hanging containers.

The leaves of Sweet Alyssum plants are simple, alternate, and lance-shaped, with a length of approximately 2-3 cm. They are usually dull in color, which adds a subtle contrast to the colorful flowers. The foliage remains semi-evergreen in mild climates, providing year-round interest.

Sweet Alyssum plants are characterized by its profusion of tiny, fragrant flowers that come in a range of colors, including white, pink, lavender, and purple, with white being the most common. Each flower has four petals arranged in a cross shape, which is typical of plants in the Brassicaceae family.

The individual flowers are small, measuring about .5-1cm in diameter. While each bloom may be diminutive, they are produced in large clusters, creating a stunning carpet of flowers. These flowers are not only visually appealing but also emit a sweet, honey-like fragrance that attracts pollinators like bees and butterflies, making it a valuable addition to any pollinator-friendly garden.

Sweet Alyssum plants produce slender seed pods that develop after the flowers have been pollinated. These pods are around 2-3cm long and contain small seeds. While not a prominent feature of the plant, they are an essential part of its life cycle, as they hold the potential for future generations of Sweet Alyssum.

The term ‘Lobularia’ comes from the shape of the seed pod, and the term ‘maritima’ shows the plant’s preference to coastal areas. Some of the prominent cultivars are Snow princess, Frosty night, Blushing princess, Tiny tim, Navy blue, Carpet of snow, Wonderland series and so on.

Sweet Alyssum plants thrives in full sun to partial shade. They prefer at least 6 hours of sunlight per day to produce abundant blooms. Though they are reasonably drought-tolerant, regular watering is required to promote a healthy plant.

Light fertilization with a balanced, slow-release fertilizer can help promote continuous blooming throughout the growing season. Removing spent flowers, also known as deadheading, encourages Sweet Alyssum plants to produce more blooms, while maintaining a tidy appearance.

In addition to being garden favorites, Sweet Alyssum plants have been used in the treatment of respiratory illnesses, as well as skin diseases.

Propagating is through seeds or cuttings.