How to Plant, Grow, and Care for ‘Oriental Nights’ Sweet Alyssum

Sweet alyssum is the perfect flowering ground cover for beginners. ‘Oriental Nights’ is low-maintenance, fast-growing, and beautiful. Join organic farmer Jenna Rich as she shares how to plant, grow, and care for this dainty, beneficial perennial.

Close-up of a flowering Oriental Nights Sweet Alyssum (Lobularia maritima) plant in a sunny garden. Oriental nights alyssum forms a low, mounding habit, with small, lance-shaped leaves of dark green color. The plant produces clusters of fragrant, dark purple flowers.

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Last season, I learned the true benefits of sweet alyssum in the garden. This occurred after planting them with my tomatoes, alongside annual flowers, and in hanging baskets throughout my tomato high tunnel. They were always a-buzz with pollinators, remained in full bloom almost until frost, and added a sweetness to the breeze. 

While you may be familiar with the most popular type of white sweet alyssum, did you know there are cultivars with bright petals, too? 

In this article, I’ll discuss the cultivar ‘Oriental Nights’ Sweet Alyssum. Let’s get into it. 

Oriental Nights Sweet Alyssum Seeds

Oriental Nights Sweet Alyssum Seeds
  • Continuous Blooms
  • Drought and Heat Tolerance
  • Versatile Garden Plant
  • Perfect for Containers and Planters
  • Easy to Grow with Edible Flowers
View at Botanicalinterests.com

Overview 

View of a flowering 'Oriental Nights' Sweet Alyssum plant against a blurred background of green foliage. This variety features small, fragrant flowers that bloom in clusters, forming a dense carpet of deep purple or violet hues. The tiny, four-petaled blossoms create a charming contrast against the dense green foliage.
Botanical Name  Lobularia maritima
Plant Type  Perennial flowering ground cover is often grown as an annual
Family Brassicaceae (mustard)
Attracts Pollinators
Special Characteristics Edible flowers, sweet fragrance, drought resistant 
Native Area  Mediterranean region and Macronesia
Exposure Full sun to partial shade
Height  2-12 inches
Watering Requirements  Moderate 
Alternate Name Alyssum, sweet Alison, carpet flowers 
Pests  Bagrada bug, caterpillars, aster leafhopper 
Diseases Root rot and wilt, downy mildew, Botrytis blight, leaf blight
Maintenance Low
Hardiness Zones 5+
Bloom Time Spring until frost 

Plant History 

The word alyssum roughly translates to “without madness” in Greek. The plant was once used to treat rabies. Today, it’s commonly referred to as just ‘alyssum’, which refers to the genus Alyssum in which it was formerly classified.

Gardeners mostly grow it for its sweet-scented petals, easy-to-grow beauty, and ability to attract beneficial insects like the syrphid fly.

Appearance

Close-up of a flowering 'Oriental Nights' Sweet Alyssum plant against a blurred background. This cultivar of Alyssum features dense clusters of small, fragrant flowers that bloom in light and deep purple. The tiny flowers form a carpet-like effect, covering the ground.
This flower forms a colorful ground cover, attracting beneficials.

‘Oriental Nights’ sweet alyssum is a low-growing perennial known for its cheerful clusters of tiny flowers. This cultivar transitions from white to lavender, deep purple, and pale purple shades of four-petaled, slightly cup-shaped flowers. True leaves are long, oval, narrow, and alternate on the stems. The plants will form a mound over time. 

It will be just two to four inches tall when mature, and its shallow roots will spread six inches to a foot. It can be used as a standalone ground cover or to create a blanket underneath other crops like tomatoes or peppers to decrease weed pressure and attract beneficials. 

Standout Feature

Close-up of a flowering Lobularia maritima 'Oriental Nights' plant against a blurred green background. The plant boasts small, fragrant blossoms that bloom in deep purple, forming dense clusters that cover the compact, low-growing foliage.
The honey-like fragrance attracts pollinators, including bees, wasps, and flower flies, essential for pollination.

All sweet alyssum features a very sweet, honey-like fragrance that is strongest in the morning and evening. Its aroma attracts pollinators like stingless wasps, bees of all types, and flower flies.

Small insects are especially attracted to alyssum as the nectar of the tiny flowers is easy to access. It is a hermaphroditic species that requires pollination from insects. 

How to Grow

Overall, alyssum is low-maintenance. That’s why you should have no problem cultivating your own.

Sunlight Requirements 

Close-up of a flowering Lobularia maritima 'Oriental Nights' plant in a sunny garden. It is a charming and visually striking plant with compact, trailing growth. Its foliage consists of small, lance-shaped leaves that are green, providing a lush backdrop for the fragrant flowers. The flowers are a deep, rich purple color. The blooms are composed of tiny, four-petaled flowers that form dense, eye-catching inflorescences.
This plant thrives in full sunlight, making it an ideal choice for gardens that receive ample sunlight throughout the day.

Sweet alyssum will perform best when planting where it receives full sun to partial shade. In hotter climates, afternoon shade will keep yours blooming through to the first frost. In cooler climates, at least six hours of direct sun is best.

Water Requirements 

Close-up of Lobularia maritima 'Oriental Nights' clusters covered with water droplets. The clusters consist of tiny four-petaled flowers in a soft purple hue. The leaves are dark green, small, lance-shaped.
Provide well-drained soil and moderate watering.

Once established, alyssum is drought and dry-soil-tolerant but should be watered on average one inch per week if no rainfall has occurred for the best blooms. If rainfall is consistent through the year, you won’t need to add supplemental water.

Soil Requirements 

Top view of a young Sweet Alyssum 'Oriental Nights' plant in a flowerbed in a sunny garden. The plant features dense clusters of tiny, four-petaled flowers that bloom in shades of deep purple and white, creating a striking contrast against the dark green leaves. The soil is dry, loose, sandy, light brown.
Give plants well-draining, fertile soil.

Soil should be well-draining and can be sandy or loamy with pH level levels between 6.0 and 7.0. In poorer soils, you’ll notice the plant produces more flowers. More fertile soil can actually reduce the overall performance of the plant.

Mulch

Close-up of alyssum purple flowers in full bloom among the fallen orange autumn oak leaves. The foliage consists of small, lance-shaped leaves that form a dense carpet of deep green. The real beauty of this variety lies in its clusters of tiny, fragrant flowers that bloom profusely.
Alyssum spreads naturally, serving as a self-mulching ground cover.

No mulching is necessary as alyssum will spread into a natural mulch for surrounding plants. This is what is called a “living mulch”, when a plant provides ground cover that functions in the same way.

Climate and Temperature Requirements

Close-up of a flowering Sweet Alyssum plant (Lobularia maritima) in a sunny garden. The plant has small, lance-shaped dark green leaves and purple coasters of tiny, four-petalled flowers.
Rebloom may occur in fall with adequate water.

This plant prefers cooler temperatures (50-60°F or 10-16°C) and may dry out and become a bit brown in the summer heat. If you keep it watered and continue caring for it, it will rebloom in the fall. It can handle temperatures as low as 28°F (-2°C), but you may see a little discoloration if extended temperatures are cold. It’s moderately drought-resistant

‘Oriental Nights’ can be grown as a perennial in zones 5+ but will sometimes get leggy in subsequent years, so it’s often grown as an annual. Light pruning will encourage new growth when the time is right. Starting new plants each year isn’t much trouble due to its high germination rates, fast growth rate, and ease of care. 

Fertilizing 

Close-up of vibrant Lobularia maritima on a blurred background. The intricate details of the purple deep flowers are revealed, showing their velvety texture and delicate structure. Each small blossom forms a tight cluster, creating a lush carpet of rich color.
Choose organic, phosphorus-rich, low-nitrogen fertilizer for ‘Oriental Nights’.

You don’t want to fertilize your alyssum, as fertility can reduce the vigor of the plant and its ability to flower. If you do fertilize, follow this regimen.

Select an organic fertilizer that’s high in phosphorus and low in nitrogen, preferably a liquid that can be applied after rain or irrigation. For best results, dilute to 1/4 strength and fertilize when flowers are blooming when temperatures are cooler, in the spring and fall. When the heat of summer hits, plants won’t uptake nutrients so cease any feeding above 50°F (10°C).

Harvesting

Close-up of Lobularia maritima 'Oriental Nights' flowering plants against a blurred green background. The foliage consists of small, lance-shaped leaves that form a dense carpet of deep green. The plant produces a profusion of vibrant, velvety purple flowers that create a captivating contrast against the lush greenery.
Harvest garnish flowers by plucking healthy tops or snipping whole stems as needed.

When harvesting flowers for garnish, simply pluck off the tops of healthy-looking flowers in full bloom but before they’ve been fully pollinated. You can also snip off whole stems, depending on how many you need. 

Pruning

Close-up of Lobularia maritima 'Oriental Nights' plants in flower in a garden under sunlight. The plant produces upright, slightly curved, slender stems covered with clusters of tiny purple, four-petalled flowers.
No pruning is necessary for the mat-forming sweet alyssum.

Pruning isn’t necessary. This mat-forming cover will keep low to the ground and continue to spread throughout the season. If you notice any discoloration or browning from heat, you can lightly prune them to encourage them to bush out and create more blooms. However, it’s not required. 

Collecting Seeds

Close-up of Lobularia maritima with seed pods and white flowers against a blurred brown-green background. The plant produces clusters of tiny flowers that adorn the stems, creating a profusion of blooms. As the flowers mature and fade, they give way to seed pods. These seed pods are small and elongated.
Collect seeds by removing browned blooms and releasing seeds onto a paper towel or colander.

Look near the base of the plant for the older blooms that have lost their color and are now browning. Gently tug the stem off the plant and identify the tiny seed pods. They resemble coriander seeds. With your hand, collect the seeds by rolling the stem in your fingers over a paper towel to see them easier. The seeds are a light brown, tannish color. 

Alternatively, add the stems to a colander, use the same technique to remove the seeds from the pod, and shake the colander over a bowl. The seeds will fall into the bowl below. 

Store the seeds in a brown seed bag, airtight container, or plastic baggie. Label with the variety and year saved and store them in a cool, dry spot until next season. 

Propagation 

You can propagate this plant easily from seed or cuttings. Dividing is not recommended. Opt for the other two methods instead.

Starting From Seed

Sweet alyssum seedlings in an oblong rectangular pot close up. The seedlings have vertical stems covered with green lance-shaped leaves.
Start ‘Oriental Nights’ from purchased or saved seeds indoors before the last frost.

Growing ‘Oriental Nights’ from seed is extremely easy. Use purchased seeds or those you saved from last year’s plants. Sow seeds indoors four to five weeks before the last frost in your region. Tamp them down gently into the soil but don’t cover the seeds as they need light to germinate. Keep the soil moist during the germination phase, which will take 5-15 days. 

If direct seeding into the garden, sprinkle a pinch of 20-30 seeds about every six inches and thin as needed, or leave them as is.  

From Cuttings

lose-up of woman's hands holding Lobularia maritima seedlings in a black plastic tray over flowering Sweet Alyssum plants in a greenhouse. The seedlings bloom with purple, white and lavender flowers. The plant has green, oblong lance-shaped leaves and clusters of tiny four-petaled flowers.
Propagate by cutting a four-inch stem, potting it until new roots form, then transplant.

Propagating from stem cuttings is typically done where alyssum grows as a perennial. Cut about four inches off the stem top in the spring or fall. Pot it up in fresh soil, and new roots will form. Keep the soil moist during this process. Transplant it outdoors or into a new container when it’s ready. 

Self-Seeding

Close-up of tiny Sweet Alyssum sprouts in damp garden soil. These sprouts are small, composed of thin vertical stems of pale green color and a pair of cotyledons.
Plants may reseed themselves, but the flowers may revert to the original white.

This plant will drop seeds, and some may germinate for you next season. However, they’ll likely revert to having white flowers.

In warmer growing regions, they may germinate sooner if conditions allow. If you don’t want the seedlings where they germinated, you can simply thin them out while weeding.

Planting 

While sweet alyssum is considered invasive in some areas, growers in cooler regions or those growing it as an annual should have no trouble keeping it under control.

Always check with your local extension office before planting. A native alternative to consider is creeping phlox

Hardening Off 

Close-up of flowering Sweet Alyssum seedlings in white trays outdoors. The seedlings bear round clusters of tiny four-petaled lavender and purple flowers with yellow stamens at the centers. The leaves are small, green, lance-shaped.
Before transplanting, harden off seedlings by gradually exposing them to outdoor conditions.

Harden off seedlings at around 50°F (10°C) before transplanting them outdoors. Stage your exposure. Start with two hours in the elements and bring them in. Then, increase by increments of two hours until they are outside for an entire day. Finally, plant them out.

Spacing

When transplanting seedlings, leave six to eight inches between them. Alyssum grows quite well when it’s jammed together in a garden bed, though. Thinning is only an aesthetic preference in this regard.

Transplanting

Close-up of a woman's hand holding a Lobularia maritima seedling with root ball against a blurred background of a flower bed with abundantly flowering Sweet Alyssum plants. The plant has slender stems adorned with small lance-shaped leaves. The stems bear clusters of tiny, fragrant flowers in purple and white shades.
Plant out seedlings after last frost.

Transplant seedlings after the risk of frost has passed. Young seedlings may need added protection from the cold while getting established. Use row cover if needed for a week or so. 

To transplant alyssum from one location to a new one in the garden, do so in the fall when new growth is happening. Roots should be strong and healthy. Water in well and fertilize at this time. 

Plant Uses

There are many different design ideas for ‘Oriental Nights’ due to its varying purple shades and low-growing habit. Here are a few to consider.

Design Ideas

Top view of a flowerbed with purple, pink and white alyssum, coniferous thuja and Festuca glauca growing. Alyssum, a delightful and versatile flowering plant, is characterized by its low-growing and trailing habit, forming dense mounds of small lance-shaped leaves. Alyssum produces clusters of tiny, fragrant flowers in various colors, commonly white, pink, and purple, which densely adorn the stems. Festuca glauca, commonly known as Blue Fescue, presents a striking appearance with its tufted, fine-textured, and evergreen foliage. Coniferous Thuja, commonly known as Arborvitae, is characterized by its distinctive, evergreen foliage and elegant, pyramidal shape.
‘Oriental Nights’ suits rock walls, edges, hanging baskets, and containers with cascading, whimsical beauty.

Due to its natural cascading effect, ‘Oriental Nights’ is perfect to grow along rock walls, garden edges, hanging baskets, and patio containers. Try sowing seeds along a pathway out into a forest area on your property or to a firepit. It will spill over into the path, adding a fun, whimsical feel. 

Its colors are gentle enough to add to a cottage garden as a ground cover, as the carpet floor of a fairy garden, or a butterfly garden. 

Insectary Plant

Close-up of a small wasp on a blooming Sweet alyssum inflorescence against a blurred floral background. The plant produces a thin, upright stem covered with tiny purple four-petaled flowers.
Sweet alyssum attracts beneficial insects like minute pirate bugs—effective against garden pests.

The reason this plant makes a great companion for your vegetable beds is that it attracts beneficial predator insects like parasitic wasps, hoverflies, and minute pirate bugs. All of these are extremely prolific predators of multiple damaging garden pests such as aphids, mites, moths, mealy bugs, and various eggs. 

Medicinal Uses 

Close-up of Lobularia maritima 'Oriental Nights' in bloom in a sunny garden. Lobularia maritima 'Oriental Nights' is a captivating annual plant distinguished by its compact and trailing growth habit. The foliage consists of small lance-shaped leaves forming a dense carpet of deep green. The blossoms are purple, small, four-petalled, purple, arranged in clusters.
Historically used for ailments, alyssum extract shows potential antioxidant benefits, protecting against liver injury.

Sweet alyssum was used to treat colds, coughs, and various abdominal ailments in the 1500s. Today, studies suggest alyssum leaf extract may interact positively with antioxidants, protecting against liver injury. This has only been trialed on mice, but it’s promising!

Garden Design 

Close-up of a flower bed with Lobularia maritima and Crocus. The Lobularia maritima plant features dense clusters of tiny, four-petaled flowers that form intricate and abundant blooms. These flowers come in various shades, including white, pink, lavender, and purple, creating a carpet of color.
Plant with long-season vegetables for weed control and pollinator attraction.

Try planting sweet alyssum alongside long-season annual vegetables like pepper and tomatoes to keep weed pressure down and bring pollinators to the area. Keep in mind that they will spread quite a bit.

I did this last year along some of our tomato beds, and while I loved the ground cover at first, it became a little unruly because it was my first time trying this companion duo. If you go this route, I recommend light pruning in the peak of summer to keep them under control. You can allow a bit more space in between plants for better airflow. 

Grow ‘Oriental Nights’ at the base of white rose bushes to add contrasting beauty and to attract predatory beneficials. For a real zinger, pair it with bright marigolds, celosia, and various shades of snapdragons and zinnias. 

Edible Flowers

Close-up of Lobularia maritima inflorescence against a blurred green-brown background. The cluster consists of tiny, four-petaled flowers ranging from deep purple to lavender to white. The flowers have orange stamens in the centers.
Decorate salads, charcuterie boards, or desserts with these lovely little flowers.

Garnish salads, charcuterie boards, or desserts with these lovely little flowers. For a wintertime treat, freeze flowers into cubes and add them to soups and stews. They have a mild mustard or anise flavor. 

Common Problems

Sweet Alyssum doesn’t have many insect or disease issues. However, you will probably see insects on your plants. There are a few diseases to pay attention to as well. Deer and rabbits shouldn’t bother your ‘Oriental Nights’.

Pests 

Painted bug or Bagrada bug (Bagrada hilaris)

Сlose-up of a Bagrada bug (Bagrada hilaris) on a green leaf against a green background. Adult Bagrada bug measures around 5 mm in length and displays a shield-shaped body with a black background adorned with prominent orange and white markings.
The bagrada bug, attracted to alyssum, attacks young plants, causing damage.

This pest is attracted to alyssum as a cruciferous plant in the mustard family. Its unique black, shield-shaped body is just ¼ inch long with orange and white markings. Bagrada bugs look like a smaller version of the Harlequin bug, but they’re actually small stink bugs.

Nymphs are orangish-red with a black head, looking slightly like lady beetles. Multiple generations can be hatched in a season, laying about 100 eggs in a few short weeks. Hatching coincides with the blooms of alyssum in the spring and fall, and they thrive in hot temperatures.

Bagrada bugs will attack young plants and can cause serious damage by piercing plant tissues, creating lesions on leaves, and causing stunting or leaf scorch. They hide in the soil during the cooler parts of the day and at night. The key to winning the battle against the Bagrada bug is early detection, and scouting and killing.

Provide healthy soil and insect netting when plants are young. Eventually, established alyssum becomes great for trap cropping. Remove infested plants if needed. Keep the area weed-free. 

Caterpillars

Close-up of a Moth caterpillar on a dark green leaf. This larvae has an oblong body with segmented sections and is brightly colored. Its body is beige in color with bright yellow thin horizontal stripes and black irregular spots over its entire surface.
The larvae quickly defoliate leaves, creating shothole effects.

Diamondback moth larva causes defoliation of leaves and can do so quickly. They chew circular holes in leaves, giving them a shothole effect. Cabbage loopers cause more of a Swiss cheese effect by chewing all the way through. BT can be used preventatively, but early detection is crucial.

Hand-pick those you find into a jar of soapy water. They’ll overwinter in the soil, so remove all garden debris before closing up for winter. Rotating crops is another great way to keep caterpillar pressure down. 

Aster leafhopper (Macrosteles quadrilineatus)

Close-up of a Leafhopper on a dark green leaf. Leafhopper is a small, wedge-shaped insect belonging to the Cicadellidae family. It has a slender body with large, colorful, and intricately patterned wings. This insect has a green body and white-transparent wings.
Aster leafhoppers transmit aster yellows, impacting alyssum.

This insect can transmit aster yellows to healthy plants after feeding on infected plants in the spring. The grayish-green bug is only ⅛ inch in size and hard to control as it has a wide range of preferred host plants and moves quickly. Aster leafhoppers suck juices from plants, giving it a mottled appearance.

Most seasons will bring two to three generations of this insect and nymphs hatch out in June to early July. Cultural controls include removing possible weed hosts and infected plants immediately and avoiding planting alyssum near other possible hosts. 

Diseases

Root rot and wilt

Close-up shot of a flowering Alyssum plant against a blurred background. The plant forms dense mounds of small, lance-shaped gray-green leaves. It produces clusters of tiny, white, four-petaled flowers that create a carpet of blooms.
Caused by Rhizoctonia solani, root rot results in yellowing and wilting.

Caused by the fungi Rhizoctonia solani, root rot will showcase above-ground symptoms of yellowing, wilting, and foliar collapse. Avoid overwatering, especially if you have heavier soil. Prevention is key as plants will likely not recover once root rot occurs.

Downy mildew

Close-up of a young Lobularia maritima plant affected by Downy mildew. This plant has purple clusters of tiny four-petalled flowers. The leaves are grey-green, lance-shaped, covered with irregular yellowish spots with a fluffy moldy coating.
Prevent downy mildew by growing healthy plants, avoiding evening watering, and ensuring good airflow.

Pay close attention to upper leaf yellowing as it may indicate downy mildew caused by Peronospora. When left to continue, spots will break through as fuzzy mildew forms. Leaves will begin to shrivel and drop if the infection is bad.

To avoid DM, grow the healthiest plants you can and avoid watering in the evening so foliage can dry before night. This decreases the risk of fungal activity. Give plants ample space and provide good airflow.

Botrytis blight or gray mold

Close-up of a flowering Lobularia maritima plant affected by Botrytis blight. This plant has a cluster of small, four-petaled, purple flowers. The leaves are gray-green, with brownish-yellow dry spots.
Manage Botrytis cinerea by removing infected plants and maintaining a tidy garden to prevent spread.

If you start to notice browning petals, dropping leaves, or spots of gray mold, you may have this disease caused by Botrytis cinerea, which can cause plant death. Remove infected plants and keep your garden tidy to avoid it.

Leaf blight

Close-up of a flowering Lobularia maritima plant affected by Leaf blight against a background of rocks. The plant produces round clusters of tiny deep pink flowers with yellowish-green centers. The leaves are small, lance-shaped, green with yellowish spots.
Prevent leaf blight by placing alyssum in well-draining soil.

This is another symptom that can be caused by too much wetness in the soil and why placing alyssum in a well-draining area is crucial. It may be treated with copper or fungicides with care.

Final Thoughts

Adding ‘Oriental Nights’ to your garden is a no-brainer if you’re looking for a low-maintenance, attractive, and beneficial plant. Enjoy its beautiful violet shades and honey-sweet scent!

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