These easy-to-grow mounds of white, pink, or purple, honey- scented flowers work well in containers or casual landscaping situations. Useful for carpeting, edging, bulb cover; temporary filler in rock garden or perennial border; between flagstones; in window boxes. Plants are low and branching, trailing to 1 ft. high and wide, with narrow or lance-shaped leaves 2 in. long. Crowded clusters of tiny, four- petaled white flowers attract bees. Native to the Mediterranean. In most areas, blooms from spring to frost. In the Coastal and Tropical South, it may go dormant during hottest period, but flowering will resume when weather cools. Seeds are some- times included in wildflower mixes or erosion-control mixes for bare or disturbed earth.
Garden selections are better known than the species. These self-sow too, but seedlings tend to revert to taller, looser growth and bear smaller, paler blossoms than the parent. 'Carpet of Snow' (24 in. tall) is a good compact white. 'Rosie O'Day' (24 in.) has lavender-pink blooms. 'Snow Crystals' (10 in. high, trailing) and the Clear Crystal series (mounded 10 in. high, 14 in. wide; in white, rose, pink, lavender, peach, lemonade, and violet) are tetraploids whose genetics give them extra vigor and heat resistance. The Stream series grows 812 in. high, is heat tolerant, and comes in shades of purple, lavender and white. An increasing number of strains combine many colors in each seed packet. 'Snow Princess', a hybrid, is a trailing white selection that grows 6 in. high. Because it's sterile, it keeps on bloomingeven through hot summers as far south as Miami.
Sweet alyssum is a dependable, easy-to-grow annual that takes almost any soil and blooms from seed in six weeks. If you shear plants back by half and fertilize about four weeks after they come into bloom, new growth will make another crop of flowers, and plants won't become rangy.