All about Candytuft (Iberis) – History, Meaning, Facts, Care & More

Candytuft or Iberis is a genus of the flowering plants that belong to the Brassicaceae family. These flowers are mid-spring bloomers, and waiting for them is worth it! They can be annual or perennial and are native to some areas of the Mediterranean.


Facts about Candytuft (Iberis)

  • Candytuft comprises about 30 species varying from annuals and perennials to evergreen subshrubs.
  • This plant is quite fast-growing, cold and hardy.
  • Candytufts can reach a height of about 30 cm (12 inches). It can spread up to 6 inches (15 cm).
  • The white or pink flowers brighten the gardens during the months of April and May.
  • It is not a good idea to gather around them too much or too close, as they possess a very unpleasant smell.
  • Candytufts are both rabbit proof and deer-resistant.
  • This plant is generally free of harmful disease-causing pests and other agents. However, the roots of the plant could be an issue if you plant it in boggy soil.
  • These plants can survive drought-like situations quite well.
  • Even though these plants are edible, these are not as sweet as the name might suggest.

History of Candytuft (Iberis)

The name Candytuft does not denote candy, but is rather derived from Candia, which is the former name of Iraklion situated on the Island of Crete. The word ‘tuft’ may denote clusters of flowers. Iberis species consist of annuals and evergreen perennials and subshrubs, which are native to the Old World that includes Asia, Africa and Europe. This name remained for over ages, and also is symbolic to fluffy blossoms, which resemble cotton candies.


Candytufts have been used as medicinal substances in ancient times. Before or during the colonial era, each and every part of this plant was used for treating anything between gastrointestinal upsets to lung problems, and even arthritis.


Many artists have also been drawn to the fascinating and somewhat whimsical appearance of the flower, and are seen to be reflected in various works of art. One among them includes ‘Candytuft Fairy’, a short story by Cicely Mary Barker. It describes an interesting day in the life of a fairy, and comes with an illustration of a winged dainty, sitting on white and pink Iberis umbellatas.


Characteristic of Candytuft (Iberis)

The Iberis comes with lanced shaped green leaves. It has showy flowers and comes in a variety of colour variations. They are available in red, pink, lilac, maroon, deep purple, white, and others. The colourful and right blossoms of candytufts stand out prominently against the dark green foliage, thus also making them excellent for moon gardens.


The petals of the candytufts form a beautiful pattern, which never fails to attract one’s attention. The candytufts are good at attracting bees, butterflies and insects, thus helping them with pollination of some other perennial plants.


Use of Candytuft (Iberis)

  • Candytufts are used as ornamental plants, especially for bedding purposes, rock gardens and creating borders in light shade or full sunlight.
  • These flowers are also made into bouquets or other arrangements for gifting purposes.
  • The flowers, due to their ground-hugging nature, are used as ground cover and are often used for edging along the pathways. Moreover, due to their short heights, they won’t block your view of the flowers situated behind them.
  • Candytufts are useful in landscapes because of their spreading nature. They prefer dry conditions and are suitable for xeriscaping.
  • Ots blossoms can be used in flower arrangements for various special occasions.
  • Some species, like the Rocket candytuft, are used in modern herbalism practices. It is a bitter-tasting tonic, which aids in the digestive process. It also helps to relieve bloating and is used as treatments of gout, arthritis and rheumatism.
  • As per recent studies, the candytufts are effective solutions for treating stomach ailments.
  • Some modern American herbalists have also taken to producing tea out of a candytuft flower. This is useful for treating conditions like cardiac hypertrophy, asthma, nervousness and gout.


Candytuft (Iberis) Flower Meaning

Candytuft denotes indifference, if we decipher its meaning in the language of flowers. This is because the flower is able to adapt to a wide range of climatic conditions. Other symbolic meanings of the candytuft include sweetness and stoic beauty.


If someone gifts a candytuft plant to someone, it would symbolise joy, owing to the fanciful and lively appearance of the flower. Therefore, these flowers are often presented on birthdays, weddings and anniversaries.


How to Care For Candytuft (Iberis)

To grow your candytuft to be a strong and healthy plant, and it would require certain measures and cautiousness. Here is a brief guide of how to take care of your candytuft.


  • Most of the plants require full sunlight for optimum blooming. However, the Iberis sempervirens can tolerate light shades.
  • Plant your candytufts about 6-9 inches apart in sandy, light and well-draining soil. Also, make sure that the soil you are choosing is slightly alkaline.
  • Make sure to plant your water regularly at the very beginning, especially if you are planning to plant it in autumn or spring. You can also water during the first few months of planting.
  • You can even consider adding dolomite or lime to adjust the pH of the soil.
  • You need to deadhead your candytuft plants regularly for prolonging their bloom.
  • After blooming, you must shear back the perennial Iberis species by one-thirds, to induce branching.
  • You should remove the annual species of the plant from your garden after beginning to die back.
  • One can also propagate the perennial plants of candytuft, along with softwood cuttings that are taken in the summer season.
  • Choose a moderate climatic situation, free from the dangers of frost, before planting your candytuft.
  • You can start with the seeds indoors in separate pots, about 8 weeks before planting them in the garden. Make sure to keep the temperature between 65-70° Fahrenheit within the growing medium. The germination process would start in 16 to 20 days.
  • Consider pruning the plant about the top 1/3rd of the foliage after blooming. This will facilitate new and fresh growth of Candytuft.