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Plant of the Month: Alyssum

Lobularia 'Snow Princess'

Lobularia ‘Snow Princess’

Latin name: Lobularia ‘Snow Princess’
Common name: Sweet alyssum
Flowers: Clusters of small white flowers
Foliage: Mounding
Mature height: 24-36 inches
Hardiness: Annual to Zone 9
Soil: Well-drained
Exposure: Full sun
Water usage: Medium
Sources: Local nurseries

Every so often a new plant comes along that completely surprises me, and this one really surprised me. What could possibly be new about alyssum? Well let me tell you, this isn’t like any sweet alyssum you’ve ever grown. Think of it more like alyssum crossed with kudzu; this plant GROWS! Unlike other varieties, ‘Snow Princess’ will hang from a basket as much as 4 to 5 feet (Yes, I said feet!), and if planted in the ground, it will easily spread 2 to 3 feet across. ‘Snow Princess’ is also a sterile hybrid, so it never sets seed, which means it is in constant flower.

Oh, and it doesn’t die in the heat, either! We planted it in the Dallas Arboretum trial garden in full Texas sun, in the ground and in containers. I was certain that the torrential rains this year, followed by our infernal heat, would wipe it out, but it didn’t. As our Trial motto says, “If we can’t kill it, no one can!” — and we really tried!

Like all royalty, ‘Snow Princess’ doesn’t like to share her spotlight, so be careful when planting her near other plants. She’ll outshine them and smother them. Personally, I think this alyssum is best planted by itself in containers to show off its spreading habit. It is incredible in hanging baskets or large pots, where it will form large balls of pure white flowers. Did I mention that the flowers are incredibly scented, too? Make sure not to plant in small containers, though, because this one needs a good-sized root ball or you’ll have to water a couple of times per day.

‘Snow Princess’ is easy to care for — just be sure to water regularly, and give it fertilizer periodically. Other than that, you just need to provide full sun and well-drained soils. This is the first year for me to trial this beauty, so I am not sure of its cold tolerance yet. Until next year, I recommend planting only in early spring, after all chances of hard frost have passed. Of course, if you’re in South Texas, or if you have a protected location, you may not want to wait. If you find the transplants, you could give a few a try just for fun.

Even though this was the first year I have trialed this new variety, I’m already impressed. I’ll be looking next year to see how it does again, but I thought I’d let the news out so e-gardens readers could try it along with me next spring. I hope you cool down your garden next year with a ‘Snow Princess’ of your own.