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Iberis sempervirens

Previously known as:

  • Iberis commutata
Phonetic Spelling
eye-BEER-is sem-per-VY-renz
Description

Candytuft is a low-growing, spreading, evergreen ground cover that may be classified as herbaceous perennial or sub-shrub. It has a mounding and sprawling habit and measures 6 to 12 inches in height and 6 to 18 inches in width. It has a woody interior and is evergreen in warmer climates and semi-evergreen in colder climates. Flowers emerge in the early to late spring and are small, white, 4-petaled, and appear in dense clusters. The foliage is nearly hidden by the profuse flowers. The leaves are narrow, dark green, leathery, and measure 1 to 1.5 inches long. Candytuft is a woody subshrub but is often treated as a herbaceous perennial.

Candytuft is a native of southern Europe from the Iberian Peninsula of Spain and Portugal to Turkey, and including Northwest Africa. 

The genus name, Iberis, is derived from the Greek word, iberis, meaning the plant is originally from Iberia. The specific epithet, sempervirens, is derived from Latin and is two separate words. Semper, meaning "always," and vivus, meaning "alive." 

This plant prefers full sun but will tolerate light shade; however, flowering is more profuse in full sun. The plant requires moist to slightly dry well-drained soils, and they are intolerant to wet or poorly drained soils. They tolerate a range of soil types but prefer alkaline to neutral soil. They are easily transplanted. Cut or sheer candytuft back by 1/3 after flowering to encourage new growth. Stems easily root when they are in contact with the soil thereby creating new plants. In cold climates, it is best to mulch the plants to prevent winter damage. Candytuft is drought-tolerant and moderately salt-tolerant. It is supposedly deer and rabbit resistant; however, one source describes Candytuft as "deer candy.'

Candytuft works well as an accent, border planting, or along walkways. It is attractive as a groundcover, cascading over the edge of raised beds or containers, and sprawling over a rock wall. Consider this plant in a Children's Garden, Cottage Garden, Rock Garden, or Pollinator Garden.

Seasons of Interest:

Bloom:  Spring to Summer      Foliage:  Year-round

Quick ID Hints:

  • Evergreen groundcover has small, flat, linear leaves
  • Covered with crowded white-flowered racemes in Spring
  • Flowers scissors-shaped; 4 free, clawed petals
  • Leaf scars on older twigs raised, prominent

Insects, Diseases, and Other Plant Problems:  Candytuft has no serious insect or disease issues. Caterpillars, slugs, and snails can be a problem.  Downey mildew, powdery mildew, fungal leaf spots, and rust occasionally occur.  Wet soils lead to crown rot.  Cold winters can cause leaves to get sun-scorched.  

VIDEO created by Andy Pulte for “Landscape Plant Identification, Taxonomy, and Morphology” a plant identification course offered by the Department of Plant Sciences, University of Tennessee.

 

Profile Video:
See this plant in the following landscape:
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Alexander White'
    low-growing, early blooming, fine textured foliage
  • 'Little Gem'
    dwarf, only 6 inches tall
  • 'Masterpiece'
    blooms mid-spring to fall, larger flowers
  • 'Purity'
    8 inches tall, wide spreading
  • 'Snow Cone'
  • 'Snow Cushion'
    5 to 6 inches tall, great for Children's Gardens or Fairy Gardens
  • 'Snowflake'
    8 to 10 inches tall, large flower clusters, and broad, leathery leaves
  • 'Tahoe'
    shorter blooming period, mid to late spring
  • 'Whiteout'
    smallest cultivar, 2 to 3 inches tall, 3 to 5 inches wide, petite
'Alexander White', 'Little Gem', 'Masterpiece', 'Purity', 'Snow Cone', 'Snow Cushion', 'Snowflake', 'Tahoe', 'Whiteout'
Tags:
#evergreen#showy flowers#full sun tolerant#drought tolerant#perennials#white flowers#wildlife plant#nectar plant#salt tolerant#broadleaf evergreen#rabbit resistant#cpp#mounding#edging#pest resistant#spreading#deer resistant#shiny#children's garden#herbaceous perennials#playground plant#fairy garden#groundcover#rock garden#border planting#spring interest#alkaline soils tolerant#subshrub#garden walls#butterfly friendly#partial shade tolerant#HS302#Guilford Crevice Garden#container plant#wet soils intolerant#dense growth#full sun#landscape plant sleuths course
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Alexander White'
    low-growing, early blooming, fine textured foliage
  • 'Little Gem'
    dwarf, only 6 inches tall
  • 'Masterpiece'
    blooms mid-spring to fall, larger flowers
  • 'Purity'
    8 inches tall, wide spreading
  • 'Snow Cone'
  • 'Snow Cushion'
    5 to 6 inches tall, great for Children's Gardens or Fairy Gardens
  • 'Snowflake'
    8 to 10 inches tall, large flower clusters, and broad, leathery leaves
  • 'Tahoe'
    shorter blooming period, mid to late spring
  • 'Whiteout'
    smallest cultivar, 2 to 3 inches tall, 3 to 5 inches wide, petite
'Alexander White', 'Little Gem', 'Masterpiece', 'Purity', 'Snow Cone', 'Snow Cushion', 'Snowflake', 'Tahoe', 'Whiteout'
Tags:
#evergreen#showy flowers#full sun tolerant#drought tolerant#perennials#white flowers#wildlife plant#nectar plant#salt tolerant#broadleaf evergreen#rabbit resistant#cpp#mounding#edging#pest resistant#spreading#deer resistant#shiny#children's garden#herbaceous perennials#playground plant#fairy garden#groundcover#rock garden#border planting#spring interest#alkaline soils tolerant#subshrub#garden walls#butterfly friendly#partial shade tolerant#HS302#Guilford Crevice Garden#container plant#wet soils intolerant#dense growth#full sun#landscape plant sleuths course
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Iberis
    Species:
    sempervirens
    Family:
    Brassicaceae
    Life Cycle:
    Perennial
    Woody
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Seed
    Stem Cutting
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Iberian Peninsula--Spain and Portugal to Turkey, and NW Africa
    Distribution:
    Native: Albania, Algeria, Bulgaria, East Aegean Island, France, Greece, Italy, Lebanon-Syria, Morocco, Spain, Turkey, and Yugoslavia. Introduced: Assam, Austria, Czechoslovakia, Germany, Great Britain, and the United States
    Wildlife Value:
    Flowers attract butterflies and birds.
    Play Value:
    Attractive Flowers
    Attracts Pollinators
    Colorful
    Defines Paths
    Dimensions:
    Height: 0 ft. 6 in. - 1 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 0 ft. 6 in. - 1 ft. 6 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Ground Cover
    Herbaceous Perennial
    Perennial
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Broadleaf Evergreen
    Habit/Form:
    Dense
    Mounding
    Spreading
    Growth Rate:
    Medium
    Maintenance:
    Medium
    Texture:
    Fine
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Soil Texture:
    Clay
    Loam (Silt)
    Sand
    Soil pH:
    Alkaline (>8.0)
    Neutral (6.0-8.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    Available Space To Plant:
    3 feet-6 feet
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Mountains
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    3a, 3b, 4a, 4b, 5a, 5b, 6a, 6b, 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Green
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Summer
    Fruit Type:
    Capsule
    Fruit Length:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Width:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Description:
    The fruit is an orbicular-elliptic capsule, green maturing to brown, and 1/5 inch in diameter. The fruit is dry and splits open when ripened to release its seeds. The seeds are narrowly winged.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Pink
    White
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Raceme
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Spring
    Summer
    Flower Shape:
    Cross
    Flower Petals:
    4-5 petals/rays
    Flower Size:
    1-3 inches
    Flower Description:
    Numerous small, white flowers of up to 2-inch clusters and blooms from April to July. The petals are scissor shaped or as a narrow "X." They are oblong-spatulate and clawed and the outer two petals are longer than the inner two. Petals are 0.25 to 0.5 inches in diameter. The inflorescence is a flat-topped, congested raceme, terminal, and measures about 1.5 to 2 inches in diameter. There are delicate yellow dots on each petal. Flowers can turn light pink as they get older.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Broadleaf Evergreen
    Leaf Color:
    Green
    Leaf Feel:
    Leathery
    Smooth
    Leaf Value To Gardener:
    Long-lasting
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Alternate
    Leaf Shape:
    Linear
    Oblong
    Leaf Margin:
    Entire
    Hairs Present:
    No
    Leaf Length:
    < 1 inch
    Leaf Width:
    < 1 inch
    Leaf Description:
    Basal leaves are sessile and are linear to oblanceolate. The cauline leaves are similar but smaller with entire margins. This leaf is 1/2 to 2 inches long and 1/5 inch wide, alternate, simple, linear-oblong, obtuse, shiny, leathery, entire, flat, and dark green.
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Green
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Description:
    Stems can root where they touch the ground. Older stems have leaf scars that are raised and prominent. The stems appear to be decumbent (lying along the ground and curve upward), and they branch both basally and distally. The young stems are green, and the woody stems are brown.
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Container
    Patio
    Recreational Play Area
    Rock Wall
    Walkways
    Landscape Theme:
    Butterfly Garden
    Children's Garden
    Drought Tolerant Garden
    Fairy Garden
    Rock Garden
    Design Feature:
    Accent
    Border
    Attracts:
    Butterflies
    Songbirds
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Deer
    Drought
    Rabbits
    Salt