Wallflowers are a peculiarly British phenomenon. Originally native to seaside cliffs they're still largely a staple of British gardens where their relaxing colours and sharp scent are an integral feature of both traditional and more modern displays.
These spring flowering biennials have two, no three great attractions. Their colour for a start. the plants cover the range from deepest blood reds to purples, to gold through primrose peach and other pastel shades to almost white.
Their enjoyable slightly floppy petalled flowers are not only colourful but unexpectedly endearing (like cheerful urchins, extras in a BBC Dickens dramatisation). And then there’s that scent - nothing can compare with the fragrance of just a few wallflowers after a spring shower. The third attraction is that they are very easy to raise from seed.
The rich coloured wallflower 'Ruby Gem' ('Purple Queen' is also given as a synonym as it is, actually quite purple) is a wonderful shade of rich ruby-violet. They make superb cut flowers, their stem ends seared in boiling water for 20 seconds, ideal in arrangements with spring bulbs. The traditional accompaniment for wallflowers are tulips and they work well, flowering at around the same time, the tall goblets of tulip rising above the massed foliage of the wallflowers.
I like it on its own, in a small bed, perhaps by the front door, where its colour can be admired and its fragrance savoured.
Wallflowers, which along with similarly fragrant Stocks, are called giroflées in French (literally, "clove-scented"), are widely grown as winter bedding plants and are found self-sown through many cottage gardens and their walls. That's where they get their English name of "wallflower": they love the sharp drainage of a little pocket of gritty soil in a stone wall.
That's a hint on how to grow wallflowers: give them excellent drainage, especially if you have clay soil. Mix some coarse sand and compost into the planting area. And give them full sun; wallflowers aren't meant for shade.
Cheiranthus prefer temperatures of 21°C (70°F) days and 10°C (50°F) nights and can flower in moderate heat at a maximum temperature of 27°C (80°F).
Plants require 70 to 80 days to flower from sowing and will start flowering when they are 10cm (4in) tall. Start in pots or sow direct in mid August.
Late summer to early winter (June to Aug) for spring flowering
or late winter to early spring (Jan to Mar) for autumn flowering
Starting in Pots:
Surface sow in pots or containers containing good quality seed compost (John Innes or similar) Cover with a fine thin layer of compost or vermiculite.
The compost should be kept moist but not wet at all times. Seed germinate in seven to 10 days at 20°C (68°F).
Prick out each seedling as it becomes large enough to handle, transplant into 7.5cm (3in) pots. Gradually acclimatise to outdoor conditions for 10-15 days before planting out after all risk of frost.
Seeds may also be sown outdoors directly where they are to flower or in a reserve bed in a sheltered position. Prick out to 15cm (6in) apart and transplant in October.
Deadheading wallflowers prolongs their bloom, but let some of them go to seed. They are often generous self-sowers, or you can gather the seed and resow it yourself.
All parts of the plant are poisonous. specially the seeds. Plant contains Cheirotoxin that has similar but lesser toxic effects as Digitalis does...
Plant in rock gardens, containers, beds, and borders. They are pleasant by paths and doorsteps. They make good cut flowers, too. Bees and butterflies love them, a good addition to Wildlife and Habitat type gardens
Wallflowers look great interplanted with tulips, especially the lily-flowered types whose elegant forms contrast nicely with the mounded flower heads of the wallflowers.
There are basically two types of wall flower, ‘Siberian’ and ‘English’.
The Siberian types have flowers that are always orange or yellow-orange, with the English types having purples, whites and pinks as in the picture above. Both make good garden plants
Wallflowers have a long history. The heavily scented biennial flower was commonly carried as a nosegay to smother the stench of Elizabethan streets. And the name cheiranthus is thought to derive from the Greek for hand (cheir) and flower (anthos), indicating their use as a floral version of the pomander.
John Gerard, writing in 1596, said that "the wallflower groweth on bricke and stone walls, in the corners of churches, as also among rubbish and other such stony places everywhere", alluding to how the plant got its common name, as well as its love of good drainage and sun. Many varieties have been around for at least a century and some bear the prefix Bedder, an indication of their wide use in Victorian planting schemes.
- Additional Information
Packet Size 1 gram Average Seed Count 600 Seeds Family Brassicaceae Genus Erysimum (formerly Cheiranthus) Species cheiri (also spelt "cherii) Cultivar Ruby Gem Common Name English Wallflower Hardiness Hardy Biennial Flowers Rich Ruby Red Natural Flower Time Early spring through to summer Height 45cm (18in) Spread 20-30cm (8-12in) Position Full Sun Soil Average to dry Notes Very fragrant, pleasant and sweet. Usually grown as a Biennial