Candytuft is an evergreen perennial that gets its name from the fragrant umbels of blossoms that cover it from late spring to early summer, so much so that the foliage is sometimes obscured. Because this plant forms such a compact mat of foliage, it works well at the front of a border. These ground-hugging perennials are actually considered sub-shrubs because their stems get woody. Candytuft is also extremely drought-tolerant, which makes it suitable for rock gardens or very dry areas of the garden.
Perennial candytuft is most commonly found in pure, bright white varieties with emerald-green foliage. This plant begins blooming in mid-spring and the flowers can last for several weeks. Some varieties feature white flowers that fade to a soft, pale lavender at their centers, giving such plants an added color bonus. For even more color, consider annual species of candytuft that come in shades of pink and purple as well as white. Even when this plant is not in bloom, its deep green foliage acts as a vibrant backdrop for other neighboring plants.
Candytuft Care Must-Knows
This tough southern European native requires well-drained soil because it is susceptible to crown rot in soggy conditions. Avoid soil with too much clay because such ground holds too much moisture, especially during winter months. The soil should be more alkaline than acidic.
Candytuft also needs as much sun as possible. Full sun will bring out the best blossoms and prevent legginess. Cut this plant back after it blooms (or when grown in part shade) to stimulate new growth and promote a compact habit. Mulch the plant in winter to minimize damage from sun scorch or desiccation (aka winter burn) from low soil moisture, freezing temperatures, and harsh, blowing winds.
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As candytuft grows along the ground, its sprawling stems root wherever they lay on the soil, creating dense mats of foliage. These rooted stems can be left where they are or they can be divided up and transplanted throughout the garden.
Candytuft Companion Plants
Rock cress, as you can guess from the name, is one of those plants that like tough love—give it a hot, dry crack between some stones somewhere and it will flourish. It can cover a stacked-stone wall or rocky outcropping with beautiful blue-purple flowers. Purple rock cress usually has purple or blue flowers, but rock wall cress is more likely to bloom in white or pink. Both make attractive low mounds that look great at the edge of retaining wall where they get full sun and excellent drainage. Cut stems back after spring bloom to keep plants compact.
Basket-of-gold is one of those plants that loves to grow in the least likely of place—cracks between paving stones, the edge of gravel paths and patios, rocky outcroppings, between the stacked stones of a retaining wall, and more. It loves a baked spot with excellent drainage but will struggle in hot, humid areas and tends not to do well in the South. But where it does well, it's a showstopper. It will reseed prolifically in little cracks, filling an area each spring with dazzling neon yellows. After it finishes blooming, the grayish-green foliage makes an attractive mat in the perennial garden.
Easy and undemanding, veronicas catch the eye in sunny gardens over many months. Some have mats with loose clusters of saucer-shaped flowers, while others group their star or tubular flowers into erect tight spikes. A few veronicas bring elusive blue to the garden, but more often the flowers are purplish or violet blue, rosy pink, or white. Provide full sun and average well-drained soil. Regular deadheading extends bloom time.