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How to grow the best wallflowers

Wallflower buds just starting to open

Wallflower buds just starting to open

When my mother married my step father she asked him if there was anything that he particularly wanted to see in our new garden.

“Camellias and biannual wallflowers.” Was his instant response.
My mother was a very keen gardener but she had never grown these plants. She mentioned years later that she hadn’t been happy with the wallflower request at the time.
“They seemed to me such an ordinary and dull little plant. But when I smelt the heady scent, all was forgiven.”

The trick with wallflowers is to plant them in large drifts rather than the odd one dotted here or there. They need a sunny spot, can be grown on poor soil but respond well to a good mulch on planting to keep them moist. If they dry out they can quickly go to seed. Planted along the edge of a path they are a joy. Combined with Honesty (Lunaria) or Forget me nots (Myosotis) they can look stunning. But one of the main reasons for growing wallflowers is their heady honeyed scent.

Like Sweet Williams, these biennials need to be sown a long time in advance. I sow the seeds in modules at the end of May beginning of June. When they are large enough to handle I pot them on into 3” pots and keep them outside in a spot where I will not forget to water them regularly.

Wallflowers like a sunny, well drained spot. I try and plant them out late August early September so that they have time to settle well into their final positions before the weather gets cold. When planting (6”- 8” apart), I nip out the tops to promote bushy grown and mulch with home made compost. Usually they start to flower in March or April and if regularly dead headed will continue to flower for several months.

2010 was a busy year for me. I bought wallflower seeds to sow in early June but forgot about them. So in September I ordered some wallflower plugs and planted them immediately on arrival. They survived the big winter freeze of 2011 but in the spring not a single plant flowered – I was so disappointed. Over last summer the plants grew voraciously and have been flowering on and off since October 2011. They have finally given me far more pleasure than if they were flowering at the ‘right’ time of year.

My favourite mix of wallflowers is Persian Carpet Mix (RHS Award winner). This contains all the colours of a lush Persian carpet and smells glorious.

N.B. Wallflowers, being part of the cabbage family, are prone to attacks from flea beetle. If you are planting them in your kitchen garden keep them well away from the brassicas!



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  1. chris s

    You can get some fantastic perennial wallflower.And easy cultivated from cuttings.

  2. I have found that you need to water them if we have a dry autumn, and ideadly, let them soak in a bucket of water and day before. Once it’s really wet and cold there’s no need, but it can be dry up until Bonfire night sometimes, even quite warm.

  3. Chris maddison

    Didn’t know you dead headed wallflowers. What are best bedding plants for a shadey spot

  4. As a member of the brassica family, as Anne Wilson says, wallflowers also like a fairly alkaline soil – add a bit of lime when planting unless your soil is very “limey”.

  5. Eileen Colton

    This is my first time to grow wallflowers and they grew fantastic, I am not much of a Gardner so did not know about deadheading them to prolong flowering. They have all gone to seed what do I do now,can I grow more from these seeds and how do I go about that. If you can help me with this I would be very greatful.

    • patscanlan

      how long do wallflowers flower ?

    • Mary Christiansen

      Are wallflowers bi-ennial? when they have gone to seed what do I do?

    • john robilliard

      my wallflowers have now finished flowering can i leave them in the ground and will they flower next year.

  6. Hilary Depledge

    What do you do when the wallflowers have finished flowering do you pull them up or will the flower next year

    • Anne Hall

      The wallflowers in my small garden have had really good flowers but are now fading. They are taking over the garden so what should I do. Do I remove them or if left will they come up again,

  7. The Liquineer

    We panted some last year on the roadside outside our garden fence- we think of it is our land, so we cultivate it- its a narrow area,about 4 ft wide, but it just grows weeds otherwise.Looking forward to the flowering season.

  8. Helle (Helen)

    I have them in my garden for the first time this year, planted out last autumn. Some are already really big, healthy-looking plants, the other small things that don’t seem to have grown at all since autumn. I got them because of the fragrance, have only read about them, so am looking forward to when they start flowering. Didn’t know they are part of the brassicas, a good thing to know.

  9. Or companion plant them with nasturtiums (edible!), borage (bee forage!), onions garlic or shallots (food!) or geraniums, which are pretty but attract a lot of mollusks….

  10. Anne Wilson

    I also love wallflowers and intend growing them this year but as you say they are a member of the brassica family and can also suffer from club root.

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