All about Alyssum (Lobularia Maritima) – History, Meaning, Facts, Care & More

Facts about Alyssum

In ancient times, Sweet Alyssum was used to treat the bites of rabid animals. Interestingly enough, the word Alyssum has Greek roots that mean ‘without madness’. These are native to the Mediterranean region, Europe, Asia, and northern Africa.

The genus ‘Alyssum’ comprises of anywhere from 100 to 170 species of herbaceous plants with oval leaves. Also called Sweet Alison, it is a plant that propagates through seed without much fuss and grows easily. It is a perennial plant that can grow up to 30cm in length which makes it a small growing plant and often grows in mounds. Its clusters of tiny flowers can be found in shades of pink, white, purple, and yellow.

Alyssum can be found growing in unexpected places such as in cracks or walls due to its self-sowing capabilities. Its sweet smell is quite pungent and its pollination is usually done through insects.

It is widely grown as ornamental annual and its young stems, leaves and flowers are edible. It has had traditional medicinal use in Spain and is been used to treat cold, coughs, bleeding gums, and even scurvy.


History of Alyssum

Though it may look dainty and delicate, Sweet Alyssum is the champion of annual plants because of its heart – and drought-resistant properties. There is no wonder then that it has thriven in wide regions and has become naturalized to the Americas as well.

Its cultivation practice in North America goes as far back as the 18th century but its nativity is to the Mediterranean and Southern European countries such as France, Greece, Portugal, Italy, and Albania.

Though it has always been a plant that sprouts and spreads on its own, it has lately become a popular garden plant. Lately, there has been a lot of research done to try to make them even better suited for garden and creating varieties that are much more tolerant of heat and can continue to bloom throughout the summers.


Characteristics of Alyssum

Typically, Alyssum grows up to 0.75 feet in height and spread up to one foot. Its bloom time is between April and June and requires full sun to partial shade. It is one of the easiest annuals to grow. The spreading mounds of Alyssum have branched stems that have lance-shaped leaves.

The mounds are covered from early spring to early summer by dense clusters of sweetly fragrant, tiny, variegated flowers. Flowering can be so abundant at times as to completely hide the foliage. The plant grows best in average to medium moisture and well-drained soils. It attracts butterflies and is hardy to USDA 9 through 11 while being grown as an annual in colder regions.


Use of Alyssum

There have been various uses of Alyssum. In Spain, it is used to treat gonorrhea while the flowers and leaves also find their way into Spanish salads for flavor. It is also used in the treatment of abdominal pain, cold, and coughs. In ancient times in Greece, it was used to treat rabies.

Sweet Alyssum has also been thought helpful in treatment for edema and ascites. Many have also found it useful in lowering the buildup of fluids in tissues and cells. This herb has also been thought useful for treating scurvy and providing pain relief and improving bleeding gums.

Disorders concerning the retention of fluids are also managed by Sweet Alyssum. It also promotes the elimination of excess water from the body through urine secretion. Additionally, it also promotes the removal of excess water from the kidneys and supports renal functions.

It must be noted that Alyssum must be taken in moderate amounts and only after consulting a health practitioner. Allergic people should stay away from it.


Alyssum Flower Meaning

Its genus name Lobularia comes from the Latin word lobulus which essentially means small pod which refers to the shape of its fruit. The word Maritima means ‘of the sea’ or ‘coastal’. As mentioned before, the name Alyssum comes from Greek ‘Alysson’ which means ‘without madness’ or ‘curing madness’ as it was believed to cure rabies.

It is also known as Sweet Allysum for its sweet and pungent smell. Other common household names include Sweet Alison in English, Alysson Maritime in French, and Mastuerzo Maritimo in Spanish.


How to Care for Alyssum?

It is important to understand the basic needs of the plant when it comes to caring for Alyssum. These include the amount of light and water that must be given, the soil conditions, fertilizers to use, and the temperature and humidity levels to maintain.

Since Alyssum is quite resistant against heat and drought, it requires minimal caring. The plant will self-sow year after year, especially in milder climates.


Alyssum likes long periods of full sun, but long periods of the dry spell will mar any plant species. If your region is especially hot and dry, it is preferable to keep a shaded region for this plant.


Alyssum prefers soil conditions that are clayey and sandy when grown in gardens. Under natural conditions, it is mostly found in beaches and dunes. The plant can also grow on walls, slopes, cultivated fields, and also within cracks in sidewalks.


An inch of water per week is sufficient for this plant. During dry or hot spells, provide more water and make sure the water drains well. If this is not done, the plant may become susceptible to rot.

Temperature and Humidity

In temperate conditions, these plants can continue to grow all year long, but they have a short life. They can self-sow so proficiently that it may seem as if the same plants are surviving. In reality, what’s happening is that new seedlings are coming in to fill the gaps. The plants repeat bloom though there are many varieties that stop flowering in hot conditions.


Unless the soil is in poor condition, Sweet Alyssum doesn’t need any fertilizer. If Alyssums are in containers, they may require more water and monthly feedings of water-soluble fertilizer.


Alyssums are generally pest-free. However, there are certain conditions that can spell doom for it. If the plants are under stress Aphids can become pests. The plants will also do poorly when drainage is a problem. Leaf blight or stem rot can also occur when too much shade prevents the leaves and the soil from completely drying out.