Wallflowers (Erysimum)

Wallflowers are spring and summer-flowering bedding plants, providing a wealth of colour for beds, borders and containers. Many also produce delightfully scented flowers. They can be annuals, biennials (growing in their first year and flowering in the second) or perennials.

When you say ‘wallflowers’, most people think of the spring-flowering bedding plants – Erysimum cheiri – previously called Cheiranthus cheiri. But there also numerous short-lived perennial types that flower for several months in spring and summer – and even well into autumn – such as the very popular Erysimum Bowles Mauve.

Erysimum Bowles Mauve.

How to grow wallflowers

Cultivation

Bedding wallflowers prefer to be grown in full sun, but will tolerate light or dappled shade.

For best result, they prefer a fertile soil enriched with lots of organic matter, which holds plenty of moisture in spring and summer, doesn’t dry out or become waterlogged. However, they will tolerate poor soils. Add a general or high potash granular feed to the soil before planting out.

Perennial wallflowers need full sun and prefer poor to moderately fertile, well-drained, neutral or, preferably alkaline soil.

Sowing bedding wallflowers

Wallflower seeds are sown from May to July.

You can sow the seed directly outside in the ground. Choose a sunny position with good, well-drained soil. Sow thinly, at a depth of 13mm (0.5in) deep in rows 30cm (12in) apart. Cover the seed with fine soil and water in well. Water regularly, especially during dry periods. When the plants are large enough to handle, transplant them to their final flowering positions.

It is usually better to sow wallflowers indoors in seed trays, cell trays or pots of good seed sowing compost at a temperature of around 13-15C (55-65F). Put the container inside a polythene bag or propagator. When seedlings are large enough to handle, transplant them individually into pots and grow them on in cooler conditions, before planting outdoors in their final flowering positions.

When the young wallflower plants are 12.5cm (5in) tall, pinch out the growing point to make them bush out.

Planting wallflowers

For bold, colourful bedding displays, plant out around 30cm (12in) apart. The best time to plant out bedding wallflowers is in September or October.

If you don’t grow your own from seed, plug plants and seedlings are available from mail order seed companies, and larger, ready-to-plant plants are available from garden centres. Traditionally, these are available bare root, having been dug up out of the ground. Make sure the roots are given a good soaking in a bucket of water for 20-30 minutes before planting.

The perennial wallflowers, like Bowles Mauve, can be planted any time of year, but the best time is during spring.

Growing wallflowers from cuttings

The perennial wallflowers aren’t grown from seed, but are grown from cuttings taken in summer from the current year’s growth. It is possible to take cuttings from bedding wallflowers, but this usually isn’t necessary as plants are cheap to grow or buy and usually perform better.Take cuttings around 7.5-10cm (3-4in) long, cutting just below a leaf joint, or node. Heel cuttings (carefully pulling off the cutting with a piece of stem or ‘heel’ at the base) often give better results. Remove the leaves from the lower half to two-thirds of the stem and insert in pots of a suitable cuttings compost to the base of the leaves, spacing cuttings so the leaves don’t touch. Place the pot in a plastic bag or in a propagator and place somewhere warm, with good light, but out of direct sunlight to root.

Pot up plants individually once they have rooted and grow them on until they are big enough to plant out.

Suggested planting locations and garden types

Flower beds and borders, patios, containers, city and courtyard gardens, cottage and informal gardens, bedding displays.

How to care for wallflowers

Keep the soil or compost moist, especially when plants are flowering. Regular liquid feeds will help prolong the flowering period.

Deadheading plants, removing the developing seedpod, may prolong flowering of bedding wallflowers.

After flowering, cut back perennial wallflowers to keep them compact. This, along with liquid feeds, will also help encourage further flushes of flowers well into autumn.

Wallflowers may be susceptible to Clubroot disease.

Flowering season(s)

Spring, Summer, Autumn

Foliage season(s)

Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter

Sunlight

Full sun

Soil type

Chalky, Clay, Loamy, Sandy

Soil pH

Neutral

Soil moisture

Well-drained

Ultimate height

30-75cm

Ultimate spread

20-90cm

Time to ultimate height

1-5 years

Wallflower Care: How To Plant A Wallflower Garden Plant

Fragrant and colorful, many varieties of wallflower plants exist. Some are native to areas of the United States. Most gardeners succeed at growing wallflowers in the garden. Wallflower plants can brighten containers as well. Learn how to plant a wallflower and what is needed for wallflower care.

Wallflower Garden Plant

Most wallflower plants are of the genus Erysimum, with some types being from Cheiranthus, sometimes called Gillyflower. Wallflower plants have perky spring blooms, often in shades of yellow and orange. Newer cultivars of the wallflower garden plant come in shades of pinks, purples and blue; some varieties have chocolate or crimson blooms.

Most wallflowers are drought tolerant. Some are short-lived perennials, others are annuals or biennials. Perennial wallflower plants are grown as annuals in colder zones. But they retain evergreen foliage in USDA gardening zones 8-10, which may have a silvery tint.

How to Plant a Wallflower

When growing wallflowers, you can start them from seed, which may be sown right into the garden or started indoors. Plant wallflower seeds in spring or in autumn. Cover seeds lightly or simply press them into moist soil. Seeds of wallflower need light to germinate. They may also be covered with perlite or vermiculite. Once sprouted, some gardeners cover with netting about 8 inches (20 cm.) above the plant to keep the 3 foot (90 cm.) specimens upright.

Propagation of growing wallflowers can also be done by cuttings in spring.

Grow wallflower plants in a sunny or partly shaded location. When growing wallflowers, make sure to plant them in well-draining soil. In the right location and with the right conditions, growing wallflower blooms may last until fall. Plant wallflowers in masses with summer flowering bulbs or include a few in containers planted with summer blooms.

Wallflower Care

Water the plants regularly until established, then water occasionally if there is no rainfall.

Wallflower care includes the pinching back of spent blooms. Deadheading encourages more flowers on the growing wallflower.

Now that you’ve learned how to plant a wallflower, give it a try in the garden. You’ll find wallflowers are a simple, colorful and sweet-smelling addition to the garden.

New Wallflower Seeds

I’ve just sown a dozen seed trays with English Wallflower seed. We sow these biennials during late summer so as to have decent sized plants to row out when we plant tulips after Anzac Day. Sowing a hundred seeds to a tray gives them enough space to make a big enough plant to be dropped straight into a 10cm pot 4 to 6 weeks after sowing.

During the 1950s my uncle Cyril used to grow tens of thousands of wallflowers every year at his nursery in the English East Midlands. I worked for him on weekends and during school holidays from the age of 12 until I was 15 when my parents moved away from the village.

Seeds would be sown in drills in seed beds during late spring and early summer and would be planted out into the nursery field during late summer. My job was to keep my cousin Eric supplied with the seedlings which he manually planted at an astonishing speed. The seedlings were dipped in sooty water first and then I would lay out the plants, evenly spaced, next to a taut string line. We worked from early morning through to the evening taking our tea breaks squatting in the paddock. My great aunt Lizzie would bring a thick jam sandwich wrapped in newspaper and an enamel mug of hot, strong, sweet milky tea out to the field where we were working. We didn’t wash, this would have meant wasting time on a long walk back to the sheds, but the newspaper protected the sandwich from the mud and soot which caked our hands.

After planting out, the wallflowers would make a spurt of growth before winter set in. During a mild spell in early spring they would be dug, have the soil shaken from them and tied into bundles of a dozen, dipped into a trough of water, wrapped in newspaper and taken to market. Once planted in gardens they would burst into flower and fill the air with their sweet fragrance during spring and early summer. These field grown wallflowers would make huge plants in their final home, much too big to inter plant with tulips the way we do it here at Lambley.

Our 10cm pot plants are an ideal size for the tulip beds. First of all we plant the bulbs 10-15cm deep and about 15cm apart. We then plant the wallflowers on top of the beds at 45-50cm spacing. With luck the wallflowers and the tulips will flower at the same time. This is unlikely with the early flowering tulips but it usually works out with the mid-season and late flowering varieties.

The award winning Sunset strains of wallflowers are more and more taking over from older varieties in Europe and North America. Compact, sturdy and vigorous and consistently flowering true to type they are now available in a great range of colours.

Whilst we sow them in seed trays they can also be direct sown as long as the soil is not allowed to dry out before the seeds germinate.

Award of Garden Merit winner Sunset Apricot has apricot aging to cream flowers on 40cm tall plants. Sunset Bronze has beautiful old fashioned coloured flowers, bronze with hints of red and orange. 40cm tall by as much across.
Sunset Purple has delightful soft mauve-purple flowers.` Sunset Orange is an exceptional strain of wallflower orange flowers. 40cm by 40cm.
Sunset Primrose has primrose coloured flowers on 40cm by 40cm bush. Sunset Red has tawny rich red flowers on 40cm by 40cm bush.
Sunset White features ivory White coloured flowers on 40cm by 40cm bush. Sunset Yellow has rich warm yellow flowers on s 40cm by 40cm bush.

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