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Past Articles Library | How to Grow and Care for Candytuft

Candytufts belong to the Iberis genus that includes forty or more plants species that can be classified as annuals, perennials, and sub shrubs.  The Iberis genus can be broken down into five of the most popular species, which includes Iberis amara, Iberis gibraltarica, Iberis pruitti, Iberis serpervirens, and Iberis umbellate.  The Iberis amara is a cool season annual that grows from 6 to 18 inches in height and has a spread of 6 inches.  This candytuft creates a 4 to 6 inch mound of flowers that can either be white, pink or lavender in the spring.  The Iberis gibraltarica is a bushy perennial that grows to 12 inches in height in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 7 through 11.  It produces 2 inch clusters of white flowers that are highlighted with red or pink.  Iberis pruitti is a perennial that is short lived.  It grows to a height of 6 inches and has a girth of 8 inches.  It is hardy in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 7 through 11.  In summer, this candytuft will produce a tight cluster of white or light violet flowers.  The candytuft called Iberis serpervirens is a sub shrub that grows to a height between 6 and 12 inches.  It can spread 18 to 24 inches and can be found covered in white blooms from spring to early summer.  This sub shrub calls home in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 4 through 11.  The last favorite candytuft is the Iberis umbellate.  This is another cool season annual that has a mound growth habit.  It is the most colorful of all the candytufts, which means you can expect to be greeted by pink, white or purple blooms in late spring to early summer.

Since candytufts can be broken down into annuals and perennials, we will cover both forms of propagation.  When it comes to the annuals, the process is pretty simple and starts off with pulling out the calendar.  What you want to figure out is when to start your seeds indoors.  The best time to start your candytufts is eight weeks prior to your local frost free date.  If you do not know when this date is contact your local extension agent for this information.  Once you have this date, you can plan on the proper planting time. 

The next step of this process is to prepare your flats or pots for planting.  While this process is simple, it is very important to do.  The first step in this process is to fill a basin with water and add a capful of bleach.  After that is done, place your container(s) in the bleach water and allow to soak for a few minutes.  Once that is done, scrub the container(s) to remove soil and debris.  Rinse the container(s) in clear water and sit out to dry. 

Next, fill your container(s) with an all purpose potting soil and pull out your ruler.  Candytuft seeds need to be spaced so that there is 1 inch between seeds.  Once you have the measurement down, plant seeds so that they are ¼ inch deep into the soil.  Place your planted container(s) in a warm location and in 16 to 20 days you should see little green dots.  These are your little candytuft seedlings.

After your seedlings have their second set of leaves, thin out the seedlings so that there is 9 inches of space between seedlings. 

Prior to your local frost free date, begin the process of hardening off the seedlings.  What is hardening off?  Well, it is a simple process by which you slowly expose your seedlings to their new home.  This should be done over a week period.

While you are hardening off your seedlings, you can begin the process of selecting and preparing the garden space.  All candytufts require a well draining soil that is on the alkaline side.  Candytufts require full sun but the sub shrub variety can tolerate some shade. 

Once you have your site picked out, prepare it as you would any other garden space.

When it comes to planting candytuft in the garden, you will want to space them so that there is 6 to 9 inches between plants.  After all the plants have been put in the ground, add 2 inches of mulch.

If you do not want to get a jump on the gardening season, you can directly sow the candytuft seeds into the garden space. 

When it comes to the annual varieties of candytuft, remove the annual plant as soon as it has stopped blooming. 

Perennial candytufts can be propagated by either divisions or softwood cuttings.  While divisions are the easiest to do when it comes to perennials, it does require having or knowing someone who has a perennial candytuft.  When it comes to dividing the candytuft, only do this every two years and do not just dig up the part you want.  Instead, dig up the whole plant in the spring, and divide.  The division process is easy and only requires one to cut through the root mass to divide.  Once that is done, replant the mother plant and plant the division.  The number of divisions will depend on the size of the mother plant. 

The second form of perennial candytuft propagation is softwood or green wood cuttings.  This is a cutting that is taken in the spring when the new growth has appeared.  Prior to doing this, you will need to do a few things.  First, you will need to clean your container(s).  Second, you will want to create your own planting medium.  The best planting medium for this type of propagation is 50 percent sand and 50 percent peat moss.  Once this planting medium is mixed, moisten it and fill your container(s).

The next step is to clean your cutting implement.  The best type is a sharp knife, which should be soaked in bleach water or wiped down with rubbing alcohol.  After you have performed the above tasks, the next step is to take the cuttings.  Candytuft cuttings should be 3 to 4 inches in length and at an angle.  Once the cutting has been taken, remove all the flower buds.  Remove all the leaves except the top 3 to 4 and then dip the cut end in a rooting hormone.  Push the cutting into the potting medium and repeat with all the cuttings.  Place the containers in a clear, plastic bag and seal off.  Put the cutting in a warm room away from direct sunlight. 

Check the health of the cuttings often and remove any that are declining.  In 6 to 8 weeks, you should check to see the progress of the rooting by gently tugging on each cutting.  If you feel resistance then the cutting is rooting. 

Move the cutting to the garden space once roots have formed.


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When to Water

If you can, it is always best to water early in the morning. This allows the plant's leaves and flowers to dry off as the day warms up.

If you water at night, the plant stays wet for hours in the cool, which are prime conditions for fungi and other problems to set in.

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