Wallflower – Cheiranthus cheiri

The Wallflower has always had a special place in cottage gardens and today it is one of the most popular plants for late spring and early summer flower displays. Many gardeners use it to provide a bright display prior to setting out their summer annuals.

Cheiranthus cheiri originates in Europe and is one of the most commonly-grown varieties. Enthusiasts have developed many good hybrids and cultivars, including dwarf forms.

Wallflowers vary in size from 20-60cm (8-24in), depending on the type grown. They have an erect or a compact growth.

The variety Cheiranthus cheiri usually has yellow flowers that are produced in dense clusters, but there are also many cultivars and hybrids to choose from. ‘Fair Lady Mixed’ comes in various pastel colours; stronger-coloured plants include ‘Blood Red’ and ‘Fire King’, which is an orange-red. Many of the dwarf varieties are sometimes grouped in the genus Erysimum, but dwarf forms of C. cheiri are also available.Wallflower - Cheiranthus cheiri

Growing from seed

1 Sow seeds in seed trays in May or June. Use a slightly alkaline soil-based compost (pH 7 or above) to help prevent club root. Cover the seed thinly with sand (above).

2 The seeds will take about 14 days to germinate. When the seedlings are large enough to handle, prick them out into pots or other containers where they are to grow. Water and feed regularly throughout the summer.

When the plants are 13-15cm (5-6in) tall, pinch out the tips to encourage the stems to branch out.

3 You can move the plants into a frost-free place in September or October if you wish. Water the plants sparingly during the winter and do not feed. Ensure that indoor plants are well-ventilated — damp stale air will encourage grey mould.

4 Gradually increase watering in the spring. Put plants outside again in April or May.

Pests And Diseases

Grey mould can attack plants overwintered indoors if the humidity is too high.

Treatment: Remove the affected parts and spray the plant with a fungicide.

Stunted growth is a sign of club root, which can develop when Wallflowers are grown in the same position for several successive years. The disease is caused by a fungus in the compost and results in badly swollen and misshapen roots. The leaves gradually wither and eventually drop off.

Treatment: Discard and burn the plants and replace the potting compost in the containers.

Side shoots or the entire plant withers in winter as a result of frost damage followed by grey mould.

Prevention: Set nursery-bought plants out as early as possible in the autumn and apply a complete fertilizer to the compost.

PLANT CARE

This plant is easy to care for and will almost look after itself if grown in a sheltered position.

  • Potting: Use a soil-based potting compost that is slightly alkaline (pH 7 or above). Once the plant is established in its container there is no need to repot.
  • Water generously in the summer and sparingly in the winter.
  • Feeding: Feed occasionally in spring and summer with a standard liquid fertilizer.

BEST GROWTH ENVIRONMENT

  • Light: The plant likes a sheltered position in full sunlight.
  • Temperature: It will tolerate normal summer and winter temperatures, but in very cold areas the pots can be moved inside into a frost-free place for the winter.

Buying Tips

  • Young plants are often available in the autumn from garden centres and nurseries. Alternatively, buy seed in the spring for sowing in May or June.
  • Choose plants with good growth and healthy leaves. If buying seed check the date stamp on the packet to ensure that the seed is fresh.
  • Wallflowers are perennials that are usually grown as biennials.

Very popular in parks and gardens throughout Britain, Wallflower can also brighten a balcony or patio. It is grown both for its fragrance and its bright and cheerful colours.

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