Candytuft (Iberis) is a genus of annual, perennial and shrubby plants in the brassica (cabbage) family. The name ‘candytuft’ is from Candia, the former name of Iraklion on the Island of Crete. Most varieties are easy to grow, drought-tolerant and bear masses of pollinator-friendly flowers. This makes them excellent for garden cultivation, and a particularly easy flower for children to grow.
The most popular candytuft to grow in gardens is Iberis sempervirens, or perennial candytuft, although Iberis umbellata (annual candytuft) and Iberis gibraltarica (Gibraltar candytuft) are also available, along with many cultivated varieties and hybrids, which come in a range of colours including white, pink and purple.
Candytufts are typically low-growing and spreading plants, making them perfect for rock gardens and container displays, as well as bedding.
How to grow candytuft
Grow candytuft in moist but well-drained soil in full sun to dappled shade. Water once a week during dry spells. Mulch around perennial varieties in autumn to protect them from cold and then, in spring, prune the stems back to about 10cm, to promote lush new growth.
Where to grow candytuft
Grow candytuft in rockeries, pots or at the edge of a border, where their pretty flowers can spill over the edge.
How to plant candytuft
Annual candytuft can be sown direct where it is to flower, in autumn or spring. Prepare the soil and sow in shallow drills, covering with a light layer of soil. Water the seedlings in dry periods, but allow autumn-sown plants to enter dormancy in winter.
Plant perennial candytufts, which are available as potted plants, as and where you want them to grow. Ensure the top of the rootball sits just beneath the soil surface, firm the soil around the plant and water in well.
How to care for candytuft
Candytuft need very little care: water in dry spells and protect young plants from slugs and snails. Mulch around perennials in autumn to protect them from cold conditions, and then cut stems back to around 10cm in spring, so they develop bushy new growth.
Dig up and compost annual candytufts after they have finished flowering, and sow seeds for new plants to bloom the following summer.
Grow candytuft: pests and diseases
Candytuft varieties to grow
Iberis ‘Dwarf Fairyland Mixed’
Easy to grow annual, which bears flowers in a range of different colours, very quickly from seed. The seedbeds can be used in flower arrangements. Height x Spread: 23cm x 23cm.
Hardy perennial bearing large sprays of white, fragrant blooms over evergreen foliage. Perfect for rockeries. H x S: 30cm x 50cm.
Perfect for poor soils and exposed coastal positions, Gibraltar candytuft bears masses of lilac flowers from May to June. H x S: 15cm x 30cm.