Free-blooming plants from southern and western Europe with clusters of white, lavender, lilac, pink, rose, purple, carmine, or crimson flowers. Perennial candytufts bloom in spring; can be used as winter annuals in Coastal and Tropical South. Annual species bloom in spring and summer; they are most floriferous when nights are cool. Use all types for borders, cutting; use perennials for edging, rock gardens, small-scale ground covers, containers. Deer resistant.
I. 'Absolutely Amethyst'. Perennial. Zones US, MS, LS, CS; USDA 6-9. This foot-high, spreading plant grows like evergreen candytuft but is pinkish purple.
I. amara. HYACINTH- FLOWERED CANDYTUFT, ROCKET CANDYTUFT. Annual. Zones US, MS, LS, CS, TS; USDA 6-11. To 1215 in. high and 6 in. wide. Fragrant white flowers in tight, round clusters that elongate into hyacinthlike spikes. Narrow, slightly fuzzy leaves.
I. gibraltarica. Perennial. Zones MS, LS, CS; USDA 7-9. Like I. sempervirens but is less hardy to cold and bears flatter clusters of light pinkish or purplish flowers, sometimes white near center.
I. 'Masterpiece'. Perennial. Zones LS, CS; USDA 8-9. Upright and spreading, to 1012 in. high and 24 in. wide. Produces 3-in., white flower clusters; light pink buds give a subtle bicolor effect.
I. sempervirens. EVERGREEN CANDYTUFT. Perennial. Zones US, MS, CS; USDA 6-9. Grows 8 in. to 1 ft. or even 112 ft. high, spreading about as wide. Narrow, shiny, dark green leaves look good all year. Pure white flower clusters carried on stems long enough to cut for bouquets.
Several lower-growing, more compact types are available. Look for 'Alexander's White', 6 in. tall, with fine-textured foliage; 'Little Gem', 46 in. tall; and 'Purity', a wide-spreading selection 612 in. high. 'Snowflake', 610 in. tall, spreading to 1123 ft., has broader, more leathery leaves than the species; it also has larger flowers in larger clusters on shorter stems. It is extremely showy in spring and continues sporadic bloom through summer and fall. 'Snowmantle' is similarly vigorous but slightly more compact. 'Snow White' grows into a 12- by 24-in. mound. Early-flowering 'Tahoe' is an upright grower to 1012 in. high and wide.
I. umbellata. GLOBE CANDYTUFT. Annual. Zones US, MS, LS, CS, TS; USDA 6-11. Bushy plant to 1215 in. high, 9 in. wide. Lance-shaped leaves to 312 in. long; flowers in pink, rose, carmine, crimson, salmon, lilac, and white. The Candy Cane series is vigorous and uniform. Dwarf strains Dwarf Fairy and Magic Carpet grow 6 in. tall.
All types need well-drained soil. In early spring (or in fall in mild climates), sow seed of annuals in place or in flats; set transplants 69 in. apart. Plant perennials in spring or fall. After they bloom, shear lightly to stimulate new growth.