How to Grow Wallflowers for Colour and Fragrance

Written by Hannah Miller. Reviewed and Fact Checked by Elizabeth Smith. Published to Spring Plants. Updated: 21st February 2023.

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Not only can wallflowers produce an abundance of vibrant colour and delightful fragrance, but in my garden, I’ve found they are also one of the best companion plants for dozens of spring-flowering bulbs.

Key points:

  1. I grow biennials as spring bedding plants, while my perennials flower well into summer.
  2. I’ve found them easy to grow.
  3. Many are highly fragrant.
  4. They come in a wide array of colours, with my favourites being bright red, yellow, orange, and pinks.
  5. Perfect for borders amongst spring-flowering bulbs or in containers of any size.
  6. Good for pollinators, and I’ve used them as cut flowers indoors.

Size

Height: Up to 30cm (12″)

Spread: Up to 65cm (25″)

Perennial wallflowers are often taller, up to 75cm (30″) and spreader further

Type

Type

Hardy biennial (perennials have also become popular in recent years, are semi-evergreen and short-lived)

Growth icon

Growth

Perennials reach full size by year two or three

Difficulty

Very easy to grow in all parts of the UK

Native

Southwest Asia, Mediterranean, Europe, Africa, and North America

Location

A moist but free-draining spot is ideal but wallflowers will grow in poor soils. Consider flower beds and containers

Sunlight

Full sun but some will tolerate very light shade

Hardiness

US zone 6-9 and all parts of the UK

Water & Feed

Water after planting until established and then only during drought conditions. Wallflowers in containers may need more frequent watering. No fertiliser is required

Companions

Often placed amongst spring-flowering bulbs such as tulips and daffodils

Planting

Dig in grit to improve drainage if required. There’s no need to add organic matter or fertiliser when planting into soil

Flowering

Biennial wallflowers usually bloom in March and April but some varieties and perennials flower through to the summer and beyond

Purple wallflower blooms
Orange and yellow wallflower blooms on green stems with foliage

How to Grow Wallflowers

I’ve been growing wallflowers for five years, and below I’ve provided answers to questions I think a complete beginner may ask.

I hope you find them helpful:

How and When are Wallflowers Sold?

Wallflowers are usually sold in three ways:

  1. As seeds that should be started off indoors from late January and planted out after the last frosts.
  2. As established plants ready for planting from March.
  3. As bare roots for planting in late August through to late September

I have experience with all three, and I found that both the potted plants and bare roots were the most successful.

If you’re on a budget, I suggest buying the bare roots as they’re cheaper than established plants but more reliable than seeds.

Where is the best location to plant wallflowers?

Wallflowers prefer a sunny spot but will tolerate very light shade.

While moist soil is best, it should be free-draining and you can add grit to improve drainage.

I’ve found that they thrive in poor soil as well, so there’s no need to grow them in nutrient-rich compost.

My general rule of thumb is; if the location is suitable for spring-flowering bulbs or lavender, it will suit wallflowers.

I’ve previously grown wallflowers successfully in containers and amongst tulips and daffodils in beds.

Some of the taller wallflowers in my garden stooped over, and I had to stake them to keep them upright.

How should the ground be prepared?

There’s no need to add organic matter as I’ve found that wallflowers thrive in poor soil.

Consider adding grit to improve drainage if required and ensure containers have adequate drainage holes.

How much water or fertiliser do wallflowers need?

Once established, wallflowers only require watering during drought conditions.

Based on my testing and experience, there’s no need to add compost, other organic matter or fertilisers to wallflowers.

How tall and wide will wallflowers grow?

Biennial wallflowers usually grow up to 30cm (12″) tall, but perennials can reach 75cm (30″), and in my garden, I had to stake some of them.

In my garden, most of the wallflowers spread by up to 65cm (25″).

Should wallflowers be deadheaded?

Biennal wallflowers will set seed when the temperature warms up and will then stop flowering, you might be able to prolong their flowering period by deadheading throughout the flowering season.

All wallflowers make excellent cut flowers, so don’t let them go to waste!

Are there any pests or diseases that affect wallflowers?

I’ve never had any issues with pests or diseases on the wallflowers in my garden, even the slugs leave them alone.

I’ve read that the flea beetle may affect younger plants, and they will leave small holes in all the tender leaves.

This page explains how to get rid of flea beetles naturally, and there are plenty of chemical solutions to consider.

Mildew and blights may affect plants that are grown in overly wet soils and watered overhead but I’ve never experienced these issues.

When do wallflowers produce blooms and how long do they last?

I’ve been growing wallflowers for five years, and I’ve noticed that the perennial wallflowers bloom for long periods from spring into summer, while most of my biennials flower for around four weeks, usually from March into April.

Can wallflowers be propagated to create more plants?

Biennial wallflowers readily set seeds, usually when the temperature increases. The new plants probably won’t be true to the parent plant, I’ve never grown them so I can’t comment further.

The perennials in my garden are sterile but can be propagated from stem cuttings during the growing season. I tried this just the once with ten stems and the success rate was 60%.

Are wallflowers toxic or harmful to humans and pets?

While wallflowers are technically poisonous, they are generally considered safe for cats, dogs and humans unless consumed in vast quantities.

Source.

Are wallflowers beneficial to wildlife?

Wallflowers are beneficial to pollinators, including bees and I’ve seen them buzzing around my plants many times.

Source.

Can wallflowers be grown in pots?

Wallflowers can be grown in pots of all sizes, either alone or with other plants, such as spring-flowering bulbs.

I have successfully grown them in pots, just don’t forget, you can use poor, gritty soil in your pots.

Buy Wallflowers Online

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3 x WallFlower Scarlet Bedder Erysimum Cheiri Plug Plants in Eco Pots Red
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3 x WallFlower Scarlet Bedder Erysimum Cheiri Plug Plants in Eco Pots Red
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Flowering Plants - WallFlower 'Tom Thumb' - 6 x Plug Plant Pack - Garden Ready + Ready to Plant - Premium Quality Plants
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Growing Wallflowers: 8 Pro Tips

I asked qualified horticulturist Elizabeth Smith to provide our readers with eight tips, this is what she told us:

  1. While perennials may sound like the better option, they are usually short-lived in cooler areas, and you may get better results with biennials which pack more of a punch.
  2. Choose a sunny spot for the best results. While wallflowers will grow in partial or light shade, they’ll produce more numerous and larger blooms if grown in full sun.
  3. Heavy clay soil should be augmented with grit to improve drainage.
  4. If grown in pots, choose a compost with a neutral ph or slightly alkaline. There’s no need to load up the pots with organic matter.
  5. Bare root wallflowers are the easiest to grow, but seeds are the cheapest. The most expensive option is to buy established plants.
  6. There’s no need to regularly feed or fertilise wallflowers as this can cause the stems to grow woody.
  7. Pinch out the centre stem after three pairs of leaves are visible; this will produce a more bushy plant that won’t need staking.
  8. Deadhead to encourage new blooms, especially if growing biennials.

If you’ve never grown wallflowers before, consider my recommendations:

For Scent

I know from experience that wallflowers with the strongest scent are the short-lived/biennials from the Erysimum Cheiri (Cheiranthus) group. Available in a wide range of colours, they all produce a sweet fragrance.

For Prolonged Flowering

While Erysimum Cheiri is a popular wallflower grown as bedding, Erysimum Bowles Mauve is the best bet for prolonged flowering as the blooms often last for several months from spring into summer. This variety is likely to come back year after year but, unfortunately, is unscented.

For Multi Coloured Blooms

Erysimum “Jacob’s Jacket” is a low sprawling wallflower with compact dark pink, red and purple blooms atop short stems up to 40cm.

Companion Plants

The best companion plants will depend on whether you’re growing spring or summer flowering wallflowers.

My general rule of thumb is; early flowering biennials go well with bulbs such as early alliums, tulips and late daffodils while perennial wallflowers sit well with late alliums, pinks, sage, coneflowers and anemones.

That’s just a personal preference based on my testing and experimenting.

Consider these:

Problem Solving

Here are the solutions to common wallflower problems:

Plants flopping over – This only affects taller wallflowers which may require staking to keep them upright. Discover the best garden stakes here. Or you could do what I’ve started doing, just pinch out the stem when three buds are present, and it will grow bushy.

Woody stems – Perennial wallflowers can become woody, but as they’re often short-lived, one can propagate from cuttings each year to replenish stock and keep them looking fresh.

Slug and snail damage – This is only likely to affect young plants or when there’s little else for these pests to consume in the garden. Consider these slug deterrents and traps. I haven’t had issues with slugs, but I’ve heard they can nibble on young leaves.

Holes in wallflower leaves – These are most likely caused by flea beetles. Try these solutions.

More Photos

yellow blooms on wallflower
Reddish purple wallflowers in a flower bed
Red wallflower on green foliage
Yellow and orange wallflower

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Orange and purple wallflowers

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This guide was reviewed and fact-checked by qualified horticulturist Elizabeth Smith.

Explore: Elizabeth's profile and qualifications.

Meet The Author: Hannah Miller

Hannah is a keen gardener who grows organic fruit and vegetables in her Surrey garden and is moving towards a more sustainable lifestyle. 

She is also the proud grower of a dahlia and herb garden.

Hannah worked for the NHS for 12 years but also has a level 3 qualification in horticulture and is currently studying for her level 4.

More About Hannah Miller

Hannah Miller

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