How to Plant, Grow, and Care for 'Oriental Nights' Sweet Alyssum (2024)

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Last season, I learned the true benefits of sweet alyssum in the garden. This occurred after planting them with my tomatoes, alongside annual flowers, and in hanging baskets throughout my tomato high tunnel. They were always a-buzz with pollinators, remained in full bloom almost until frost, and added a sweetness to the breeze.

While you may be familiar with the most popular type of white sweet alyssum, did you know there are cultivars with bright petals, too?

In this article, I’ll discuss the cultivar ‘Oriental Nights’ Sweet Alyssum. Let’s get into it.

Oriental Nights Sweet Alyssum Seeds

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  • Continuous Blooms
  • Drought and Heat Tolerance
  • Versatile Garden Plant
  • Perfect for Containers and Planters
  • Easy to Grow with Edible Flowers

View at Botanicalinterests.com

Overview

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Botanical Name Lobularia maritima

Plant Type Perennial flowering ground cover is often grown as an annual

Family Brassicaceae (mustard)

Attracts Pollinators

Special Characteristics Edible flowers, sweet fragrance, drought resistant

Native Area Mediterranean regionand Macronesia

Exposure Full sun to partial shade

Height 2-12 inches

Watering Requirements Moderate

Alternate Name Alyssum, sweet Alison, carpet flowers

Pests Bagrada bug, caterpillars, aster leafhopper

Diseases Root rot and wilt, downy mildew, Botrytis blight, leaf blight

Maintenance Low

Hardiness Zones 5+

Bloom Time Spring until frost

Plant History

The word alyssum roughly translates to “without madness” in Greek. The plant was once used to treat rabies. Today, it’s commonly referred to as just ‘alyssum’, which refers to the genus Alyssum in which it was formerly classified.

Gardeners mostly grow it for its sweet-scented petals, easy-to-grow beauty, and ability to attract beneficial insects like the syrphid fly.

Appearance

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‘Oriental Nights’ sweet alyssum is a low-growing perennial known for its cheerful clusters of tiny flowers. This cultivar transitions from white to lavender, deep purple, and pale purple shades of four-petaled, slightly cup-shaped flowers. True leaves are long, oval, narrow, and alternate on the stems. The plants will form a mound over time.

It will be just two to four inches tall when mature, and its shallow roots will spread six inches to a foot. It can be used as a standalone ground cover or to create a blanket underneath other crops like tomatoes or peppers to decrease weed pressure and attract beneficials.

Standout Feature

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All sweet alyssum features a very sweet, honey-like fragrance that is strongest in the morning and evening. Its aroma attracts pollinators like stingless wasps, bees of all types, and flower flies.

Small insects are especially attracted to alyssum as the nectar of the tiny flowers is easy to access. It is a hermaphroditic species that requires pollination from insects.

How to Grow

Overall, alyssum is low-maintenance.That’s why you should have no problem cultivating your own.

Sunlight Requirements

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Sweet alyssum will perform best when planting where it receives full sun to partial shade.In hotter climates, afternoon shade will keep yours blooming through to the first frost. In cooler climates, at least six hours of direct sun is best.

Water Requirements

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Once established, alyssum is drought and dry-soil-tolerant but should be watered on average one inch per week if no rainfall has occurred for the best blooms. If rainfall is consistent through the year, you won’t need to add supplemental water.

Soil Requirements

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Soil should be well-draining and can be sandy or loamy with pH level levels between 6.0 and 7.0. In poorer soils, you’ll notice the plant produces more flowers. More fertile soil can actually reduce the overall performance of the plant.

Mulch

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No mulching is necessary as alyssum will spread into a natural mulch for surrounding plants.This is what is called a “living mulch”, when a plant provides ground cover that functions in the same way.

Climate and Temperature Requirements

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This plant prefers cooler temperatures (50-60°F or 10-16°C) and may dry out and become a bit brown in the summer heat. If you keep it watered and continue caring for it, it will rebloom in the fall. It can handle temperatures as low as 28°F (-2°C), but you may see a little discoloration if extended temperatures are cold. It’s moderately drought-resistant.

‘Oriental Nights’ can be grown as a perennial in zones 5+ but will sometimes get leggy in subsequent years, so it’s often grown as an annual. Light pruning will encourage new growth when the time is right. Starting new plants each year isn’t much trouble due to its high germination rates, fast growth rate, and ease of care.

Fertilizing

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You don’t want to fertilize your alyssum, as fertility can reduce the vigor of the plant and its ability to flower. If you do fertilize, follow this regimen.

Select an organic fertilizer that’s high in phosphorus and low in nitrogen, preferably a liquid that can be applied after rain or irrigation. For best results, dilute to 1/4 strength and fertilize when flowers are blooming when temperatures are cooler, in the spring and fall. When the heat of summer hits, plants won’t uptake nutrients so cease any feeding above 50°F (10°C).

Harvesting

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When harvesting flowers for garnish, simply pluck off the tops of healthy-looking flowers in full bloom but before they’ve been fully pollinated. You can also snip off whole stems, depending on how many you need.

Pruning

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Pruning isn’t necessary. This mat-forming cover will keep low to the ground and continue to spread throughout the season. If you notice any discoloration or browning from heat, you can lightly prune them to encourage them to bush out and create more blooms. However, it’s not required.

Collecting Seeds

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Look near the base of the plant for the older blooms that have lost their color and are now browning. Gently tug the stem off the plant and identify the tiny seed pods. They resemble coriander seeds. With your hand, collect the seeds by rolling the stem in your fingers over a paper towel to see them easier. The seeds are a light brown, tannish color.

Alternatively, add the stems to a colander, use the same technique to remove the seeds from the pod, and shake the colander over a bowl. The seeds will fall into the bowl below.

Store the seeds in a brown seed bag, airtight container, or plastic baggie. Label with the variety and year saved and store them in a cool, dry spot until next season.

Propagation

You can propagate this plant easily from seed or cuttings. Dividing is not recommended.Opt for the other two methods instead.

Starting From Seed

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Growing ‘Oriental Nights’ from seed is extremely easy. Use purchased seeds or those you saved from last year’s plants. Sow seeds indoors four to five weeks before the last frost in your region. Tamp them down gently into the soil but don’t cover the seeds as they need light to germinate. Keep the soil moist during the germination phase, which will take 5-15 days.

If direct seeding into the garden, sprinkle a pinch of 20-30 seeds about every six inches and thin as needed, or leave them as is.

From Cuttings

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Propagating from stem cuttings is typically done where alyssum grows as a perennial. Cut about four inches off the stem top in the spring or fall. Pot it up in fresh soil, and new roots will form. Keep the soil moist during this process. Transplant it outdoors or into a new container when it’s ready.

Self-Seeding

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This plant will drop seeds, and some may germinate for you next season. However, they’ll likely revert to having white flowers.

In warmer growing regions, they may germinate sooner if conditions allow. If you don’t want the seedlings where they germinated, you can simply thin them out while weeding.

Planting

While sweet alyssum is considered invasive in some areas, growers in cooler regions or those growing it as an annual should have no trouble keeping it under control.

Always check with your local extension office before planting. A native alternative to consider is creeping phlox.

Hardening Off

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Harden off seedlings at around 50°F (10°C) before transplanting them outdoors.Stage your exposure. Start with two hours in the elements and bring them in. Then, increase by increments of two hours until they are outside for an entire day. Finally, plant them out.

Spacing

When transplanting seedlings, leave six to eight inches between them. Alyssum grows quite well when it’s jammed together in a garden bed, though. Thinning is only an aesthetic preference in this regard.

Transplanting

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Transplant seedlings after the risk of frost has passed. Young seedlings may need added protection from the cold while getting established. Use row cover if needed for a week or so.

To transplant alyssum from one location to a new one in the garden, do so in the fall when new growth is happening. Roots should be strong and healthy. Water in well and fertilize at this time.

Plant Uses

There are many different design ideas for ‘Oriental Nights’ due to its varying purple shades and low-growing habit.Here are a few to consider.

Design Ideas

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Due to its natural cascading effect, ‘Oriental Nights’ is perfect to grow along rock walls, garden edges, hanging baskets, and patio containers. Try sowing seeds along a pathway out into a forest area on your property or to a firepit. It will spill over into the path, adding a fun, whimsical feel.

Its colors are gentle enough to add to a cottage garden as a ground cover, as the carpet floor of a fairy garden, or a butterfly garden.

Insectary Plant

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The reason this plant makes a great companion for your vegetable beds is that it attracts beneficial predator insects like parasitic wasps, hoverflies, and minute pirate bugs. All of these are extremely prolific predators of multiple damaging garden pests such as aphids, mites, moths, mealy bugs, and various eggs.

Medicinal Uses

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Sweet alyssum was used to treat colds, coughs, and various abdominal ailments in the 1500s. Today, studies suggest alyssum leaf extract may interact positively with antioxidants, protecting against liver injury. This has only been trialed on mice, but it’s promising!

Garden Design

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Try planting sweet alyssum alongside long-season annual vegetables like pepper and tomatoes to keep weed pressure down and bring pollinators to the area. Keep in mind that they will spread quite a bit.

I did this last year along some of our tomato beds, and while I loved the ground cover at first, it became a little unruly because it was my first time trying this companion duo. If you go this route, I recommend light pruning in the peak of summer to keep them under control. You can allow a bit more space in between plants for better airflow.

Grow ‘Oriental Nights’ at the base of white rose bushes to add contrasting beauty and to attract predatory beneficials. For a real zinger, pair it with bright marigolds, celosia, and various shades of snapdragons and zinnias.

Edible Flowers

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Garnish salads, charcuterie boards, or desserts with these lovely little flowers. For a wintertime treat, freeze flowers into cubes and add them to soups and stews. They have a mild mustard or anise flavor.

Common Problems

Sweet Alyssum doesn’t have many insect or disease issues.However, you will probably see insects on your plants. There are a few diseases to pay attention to as well. Deer and rabbits shouldn’t bother your ‘Oriental Nights’.

Pests

Painted bug or Bagrada bug (Bagrada hilaris)

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This pest is attracted to alyssum as a cruciferous plant in the mustard family. Its unique black, shield-shaped body is just ¼ inch long with orange and white markings. Bagrada bugs look like a smaller version of the Harlequin bug, but they’re actually small stink bugs.

Nymphs are orangish-red with a black head, looking slightly like lady beetles. Multiple generations can be hatched in a season, laying about 100 eggs in a few short weeks. Hatching coincides with the blooms of alyssum in the spring and fall, and they thrive in hot temperatures.

Bagrada bugs will attack young plants and can cause serious damage by piercing plant tissues, creating lesions on leaves, and causing stunting or leaf scorch. They hide in the soil during the cooler parts of the day and at night. The key to winning the battle against the Bagrada bug is early detection, and scouting and killing.

Provide healthy soil and insect netting when plants are young. Eventually, established alyssum becomes great for trap cropping. Remove infested plants if needed. Keep the area weed-free.

Caterpillars

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Diamondback moth larva causes defoliation of leaves and can do so quickly. They chew circular holes in leaves, giving them a shothole effect. Cabbage loopers cause more of a Swiss cheese effect by chewing all the way through. BT can be used preventatively, but early detection is crucial.

Hand-pick those you find into a jar of soapy water. They’ll overwinter in the soil, so remove all garden debris before closing up for winter. Rotating crops is another great way to keep caterpillar pressure down.

Aster leafhopper (Macrosteles quadrilineatus)

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This insect can transmit aster yellows to healthy plants after feeding on infected plants in the spring. The grayish-green bug is only ⅛ inch in size and hard to control as it has a wide range of preferred host plants and moves quickly. Aster leafhoppers suck juices from plants, giving it a mottled appearance.

Most seasons will bring two to three generations of this insect and nymphs hatch out in June to early July. Cultural controls include removing possible weed hosts and infected plants immediately and avoiding planting alyssum near other possible hosts.

Diseases

Root rot and wilt

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Caused by the fungi Rhizoctonia solani, root rot will showcase above-ground symptoms of yellowing, wilting, and foliar collapse. Avoid overwatering, especially if you have heavier soil. Prevention is key as plants will likely not recover once root rot occurs.

Downy mildew

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Pay close attention to upper leaf yellowing as it may indicate downy mildew caused by Peronospora. When left to continue, spots will break through as fuzzy mildew forms. Leaves will begin to shrivel and drop if the infection is bad.

To avoid DM, grow the healthiest plants you can and avoid watering in the evening so foliage can dry before night. This decreases the risk of fungal activity. Give plants ample space and provide good airflow.

Botrytis blight or gray mold

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If you start to notice browning petals, dropping leaves, or spots of gray mold, you may have this disease caused by Botrytis cinerea, which can cause plant death. Remove infected plants and keep your garden tidy to avoid it.

Leaf blight

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This is another symptom that can be caused by too much wetness in the soil and why placing alyssum in a well-draining area is crucial. It may be treated with copper or fungicides with care.

Final Thoughts

Adding ‘Oriental Nights’ to your garden is a no-brainer if you’re looking for a low-maintenance, attractive, and beneficial plant. Enjoy its beautiful violet shades and honey-sweet scent!

How to Plant, Grow, and Care for 'Oriental Nights' Sweet Alyssum (2024)

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