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Candytuft Flowers

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Picture of candytuft flowers. A perennial, candytuft displays bright white flowers.

Picture of candytuft flowers.

David Beaulieu

Plant Taxonomy of Candytuft Flowers:

Plant taxonomy classifies the candytuft plants with which I deal in this article as Iberis sempervirens 'Purity'. Other cultivars exist, but the one that I grow is 'Purity.' For research purposes, be aware that the name for these flowers is sometimes misspelled as "candy tuft."

Plant Type:

'Purity' candytuft flowers are perennials and, technically, considered evergreen sub-shrubs. There are also candytufts that are annual: Iberis amara and Iberis umbellata. In addition to white, the annual candytuft flowers may also be pink, red or lilac in color.

Characteristics of Candytuft Flowers:

Candytuft plants are late-spring bloomers, but they're worth the wait! Prolific as well as showy, they produce masses of blinding white flowers along their stems. This white is softened towards the end of the blooming period, as the central petals turn lavender. The color of the blossoms stands out nicely against the backdrop of the dark green foliage and also makes these perennials good candidates for moon gardens. Plants can reach 1 foot in height.

Planting Zones for Candytuft Flowers:

Grow in planting zones 4-8. The candytufts are indigenous to southern Europe.

Sun and Soil Requirements for Candytuft Flowers:

'Purity' candytufts will tolerate some shade but bloom best when planted in the sun. More importantly, it is critically important to provide candytuft plants with excellent drainage. Once established, candytuft plants are drought-tolerant shrubs.

Care -- How to Prune Candytuft Plants:

For aesthetic reasons, you can prune candytuft plants back (removing the top 1/3) after blooming; this will keep them from getting leggy. But if you are planting candytuft flowers behind a retaining wall, legginess may actually be a desirable quality: perhaps you'd like your candytuft flowers to cascade a bit over the wall. In that case, refrain from pruning them.

Wildlife Attracted to Candytuft Flowers:

Candytuft flowers are effective for drawing bees to your landscaping, thereby enhancing pollination. They are also plants that attract butterflies.

Uses in Your Landscaping:

Because candytuft flowers crave well-drained soils, they are perfect for rock gardens. Meanwhile, their high marks for drought resistance make them good candidates for xeriscaping. Above, I already mentioned the use of candytuft flowers as back-plantings for retaining walls.

Finally, their sub-shrub form (if maintained through pruning), evergreen foliage and showy blooms make candytuft plants effective where short edging plants or ground covers are required.

Origin of the Common Name, Latin Name:

These plants are terrific eye candy for the garden, so it's tempting to derive the common name from "candy" + "tuft." But the University of Arkansas Extension states that the name "actually originated from Candia, or Crete, from whence it came to England. The 'tufts' arise from the clusters of flowers–or some may say, the tufted growth."

The same resource accounts for the genus name, Iberis by noting that most of the species hail from Spain -– "originally known as Iberia." As for sempervirens, whenever you see that name (likewise Sempervivum, as in Sempervivum tectorum), it indicates evergreen foliage, being composed of the Latin words for "always" and "alive".

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