SPECIES, HYBRIDS, CULTIVARS:
I. sempervirens ‘Autumn Snow’-blooms spring and fall; 9 inches. I.s. ‘Purity’-7 inches. I.s. ‘Pygmea’-4 inches. All the preceeding are perennial forms. Annuals are often found in pink and lavender tones: I. amara and I. umbellata.
TYPE: Perennial and annual
DESCRIPTION: Dark, evergreen leaves and a shower of white spring flowers make candytuft a nice addition to the perennial bed in spring. The leaves might look a bit ragged by late winter, but a liitle selective pruning will go a long way toward creating a lovely mass of blooms by late spring. Because of its growth habit, candytuft is often called a sub-shrub.
CULTIVATION: Rich, well-drained garden soil, ample moisture, and full sun are necessary for growing candytuft. Annual varieties can be grown from seeds sown directly in the garden bed in late spring or early summer. Perennial species can be propagated by taking cuttings in late summer.
Candytuft, candyedge, or candyturf, as it was sometimes called, was first found growing on the shore of the Mediterranean Sea. The name candy is from Candia, the ancient name of Crete.
The genus name, Iberis, is from the Roman name for ancient Spain, Iberia. Many species of Iberis are native to Spain.
A member of the mustard family, candytuft was often called candy mustard and was used as a cheap substitute for mustard. Although this was a very popular practice among the common folk, the upper class scorned this idea, and for many years candytuft was rarely grown in estate gardens.
The perennial candytuft did not suffer the effects of snobbery, for it is a wonderfully beautiful plant, first sent to Chelsea Gardens in London from Persia in 1793. According to the Oriental language of flowers, perennial candytuft was a symbol of indifference, because it is adaptable to a wide range of conditions.
Candytuft was often used to treat rheumatism and was at one time included in almost every herb garden for this purpose. An infusion made from all parts of the plant was said to be particularly soothing.