Growing Wallflowers Erysimum

Wallflowers are one of the most highly scented of garden plants, which are often overlooked, perhaps because of their association with cottage gardens. Wallflowers are available in a host of lovely shades of reds, orange, russet, pinks, apricot, purple and in both subtle shades, and strong colours, see images above. The stunning feature of Wallflowers is their amazing scent present throughout their long flowering period from spring to early summer.

Wallflowers are easy to grow and need little more than a sunny spot and well-drained soil. They are not fussy about soil types and will grow on very average soil. There are both perennial and biennial varieties, and it is the biennial variety which has the best scent, illustrated in the top three images.   The biennial varieties can be treated as bedding and, once flowering has finished, put in the compost, although sometimes they are good for another year.  The strong red varieties, such as 'Constant Cheer' look great as a contrasting plant combination with lime green Euphorbia.

Wallflowers are suitable for coastal gardens for advice on plants suitable for gardening by the sea side

Ideas for other spring and summer flowering plants check out the 20 best scented plants.

Autumn Planted Wallflowers

You can buy Wallflowers, Latin name Erysimum, as bare-rooted cuttings in the Autumn, which are inexpensive and plant them out to establish roots and growth over the late Autumn and winter ready for flowering in the spring. Autumn planted Wallflowers can look weedy when first planted out, but they soon get established and usually do very well in the spring. Given that Wallflowers are mainly biennial and short-lived, it is more economical to buy them as bare-rooted plants as compared to the fully grown container plants, which are sold later in the year/early spring in garden centres. 

If you miss the autumn planting, Wallflowers are available in the spring as fully grown plants ready for flowering and whilst more expensive, they make a great fix for colour and scent in containers and borders. Wallflowers are fully hardy. 

Different types of Wallflowers

Confusingly Wallflowers are both annual, biennial and evergreen perennials.  Those illustrated above are the biennial/short-lived perennial varieties which are best for scent.  This means when selecting Wallflowers for scent, pick carefully the biennial varieties which do have a strong scent and make a really good spring bedding plant. Good scented Wallflower is the E. cheiri group.

If you are selecting wallflowers looking for colour and longevity, the image below left is of E. Bowles's Mauve which is a popular, widely grown perennial variety of Wallflower, ideal for the borders and long flowering,  but it is not scented.

Wallflowers look fabulous with Tulips if planted with a late flowering type so they will bloom together. Many on-line retailers and garden centres sell Tulips and Wallflowers which will flower together for a planting scheme. They also look good with forget-me-nots, another spring biennial.

When selecting Wallflowers a good starting point is to select those varieties which have the RHS award of garden merit.  E.  Sunset Apricot' and 'Sunset Primrose Sunset Apricot' and 'Sunset Primrose are good and fully hardy. 

Very popular also are 'Constant Cheer'  'Apricot Twist' 'Blood red' and 'Fire King'

Updated 20.09.2021