HARDINESS: Zones 3 to 9
PREFERRED SOIL pH: Neutral
PREFERRED SOIL TYPE: Well-drained
PREFERRED LIGHT: Sun to partial shade
ATTRIBUTES: White flowers on semi-evergreen plants; for edging, groundcover, pots
SEASON OF INTEREST: Blooms in spring, sometimes reblooms later in summer or fall
FAVORITES: 'Snow White', 'Alexander's White', 'Autumn White'
QUIRKS: Looks best if sheared back after flowering
GOOD NEIGHBORS: Dianthus, iris, peony, tulips, woodland phlox, spring-flowering shrubs
WHERE IT GROWS BEST: Sunny, well-drained soil
POTENTIAL PROBLEMS: Rare when soil drainage is adequate; occasional powdery mildew
RENEWING PLANTS: Plants live many years; every 3-4 years shear almost to the ground
CRITTER RESISTANCE: Good
SOURCE: Cuttings, seed
DIMENSIONS: 4-10 in (10.2-25.4 cm) tall. 1-2 ft (0.3-0.6 m) wide
Candytuft in the Landscape
Like late-season snow, candytuft flowers bring drifts of fluffy white to the spring scene. The blooms waver above loose mounds of fleshy stems studded with slender, glossy green, 1 in (2.5 cm) long leaves that form an attractive groundcover even after the flowers have faded. In Zone 5 and warmer climates, candytuft foliage can persist year-round, but the flowers usually disappear for the rest of the season when summer nights turn sultry.
Never growing more than 12 in (30.5 cm) tall, candytuft mixes beautifully with woodland phlox (Phlox divaricata) and makes a lacy skirt at the base of upright bloomers, such as red tulips and blue iris, or around azaleas and other spring-flowering shrubs. Alone or combined with its many possible companions, candytuft is ideal for edging the front of perennial beds, flanking sidewalks, or tucking into the crevices of stone walls.
Some dwarf varieties, such as 'Snow White', are beautiful when allowed to tumble over the edge of a brick wall or stone planter. They are also handy for filling little bare spots in rock gardens. Choose larger varieties, such as the 10 in (25.4 cm) tall 'Alexander's White' for edging beds, where the dense foliage does a better job of discouraging weeds. For gardeners who can't get enough of candytuft flowers, there is 'Autumn White', a reblooming variety that will stage a second coming in the fall.
A rigorous shearing back after the plants finish blooming in late spring will encourage compact new growth and possibly a second flush of flowering. For large colonies, use manual or electric hedge trimmers to make quick work of cutting the plants back by half their size. Lightly rake out the trimmings, and then add a balanced organic or controlled-release fertilizer according to package directions to the soil in the bed to encourage plants to produce a bumper crop of flowers the following season.
Candytuft needs full sun except in Zones 8 and 9, where it benefits from afternoon shade. It thrives in soil that has good drainage and a nearly neutral pH value. The plants will fill in faster if you amend sandy or clay soil with compost before planting; compost has the added benefit of neutralizing the pH of the soil.
Some varieties can be grown from seed, but it's simpler to buy plants and set them out 6 in (15.2 cm) apart in early spring. Fall planting is practical in warm-winter regions. Weed as needed during the first growing season to help candytuft claim its space, and from then on, it's care-free.
Animal and insect pests seldom visit candytuft, and it is remarkably disease resistant. When days are warm and nights are cool and damp, you may occasionally find leaves that show the grayish white deposits of fungal powdery mildew. Simply pick off the affected leaves and dispose of them.
Because of its talent for accenting other spring bloomers, keep a few plants in little pots to use for filling gaps between bulbs or tucking into containers. In late spring or early fall, use a sharp knife to sever any stems that have developed roots where they touch the ground. Scoop up the rooted cuttings with a garden trowel and pot them up, keeping them.moist and shaded for a few weeks. If you plan to overwinter potted plants, store them in a garage or other location where temperatures will remain above freezing to prevent root damage.