Candytuff Shrubs: How To Grow, Plant, Care for Candytuff Ground Cover Tips

Georgette Kilgore headshot, wearing 8 Billion Trees shirt with forest in the background.Written by Georgette Kilgore

Gardening | March 28, 2024

Man smalling white candytuff ground cover flowers after learning how to plant and grow candytuff low maintenance flowers and shrubs for beautiful and effortless blooms.

If you want to visually organize your property landscape, make it look amazing, and help support your local ecosystem, then the low-maintenance Candytuft or Iberis sempervirens can be the perfect garden addition.

This extremely hardy shrub can be planted in gravel and requires very little assistance and care, making it a great plant for people with limited time.

The Candytuft shrub is extremely low maintenance and easy to take care of for gardeners and this comprehensive guide provides all the tips you’ll need to ensure your flowers thrive.

Candytuft or Iberis sempervirens shrubs are slow-growing and ground-hugging evergreen perennials that are often used for ornamental landscaping, boundary demarcating, footpath boundaries, and soil-protecting erosion control.

Loved by both landscapers and gardeners for their signature white and pinkish-white flower displays and dark green foliage which enhances ‘pop,’ you can plant Iberis sempervirens in almost any well-draining soil medium except clay, which could encourage root rot.

Candytuft Shrub

(Iberis sempervirens)

Candytuft shrub image in an oval frame on a green background.
  • Characteristics: Iberis sempervirens is a slow-spreading and flamboyantly ornamental shrub that is aesthetically prized for its pleasantly fragrant and white-colored flower clusters.
  • Family: Brassicaceae
  • Genus: Iberis
  • Leaf: The leaves of the Iberis sempervirens are small and measure about half an inch to about two inches long and one-fifth of an inch wide. The leaf is linear but oblong shaped, flat, glossy, leathery to the touch, and green or dark green colored.
  • Bark: The bark of the stem or branches can be green, copper, or brown colored.
  • Seed: Seeds are small, light, medium, or dark reddish-brown, and feature a crimped, flattened border ridge surrounding the interior of the seed.
  • Blossoms: They usually blossom from Spring throughout the Summer
  • Fruit: Does not produce traditional fruit. After the flower blooms a dry fruit pod appears that splits open to produce seeds.
  • Native Habitat: Regions stretching from Spain, Portugal, Turkey, and Northwest Africa.
  • Height: These shrubs can grow anywhere between six inches and up to a foot tall.
  • Canopy: These shrubs can have a canopy as wide as a foot and a half.
  • Type: Perennial
  • Native Growing Zone: USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 3,4,5,6,7,8, and 9

Image Credit: 🌼Christel🌼 (ChiemSeherin)22

Candytuft Shrub (Iberis sempervirens)

Its official scientific classification is Iberis sempervirens.8

Iberis sempervirens is technically a flowering plant.9 It’s a mostly non-woody plant that blossoms flowers.

However, Iberis sempervirens is also considered a shrub, basically a small tree, and more technically a subshrub.10 A subshrub, which is also technically an herbaceous bush, can have thin woody stems at its base but is mostly herbaceous.

Iberis sempervirens is almost entirely edible; you could grind up the herbaceous stems and use it as a cooking herb, but the plant has a very bitter taste.

Iberis sempervirens is native to parts of Southern Europe, the Mediterranean, Northwest Africa, and West Asia.

The term “iberis” is a Greek-derived name and scientific genus reference to the fact that the plant species probably originated in the Iberian Peninsula long ago. “Sempervirens” may be a term that roughly translates to “always green” or “always living.”11

Experts have been trying to deconstruct Candytuft symbolism and the meaning behind its name for a long time.

Clusters of white Candytuft flowers at the tip of flower stems with dark green foliage in the background.

(Image: anjosteber23)

No one knows for certain where the colorful candy name originated for certain, but there are many speculative theories. Many experts believe the name comes from the fact that the flower petals of Iberis sempervirens are white and pinkish-white, appear cloud-like soft, and have a cotton candy-like aesthetics.

Others believe that the name derives from the theory that the Iberis genus may have originated in the ancient Crete capital city Candia, now known as Heraklion.12

Iberis sempervirens is drought resistant, durable, and is known to recover fairly quickly from any garden-based problems it might encounter. As long as you plant it in well-draining soil, you can plant it in almost any soil medium, although heavy clay is not recommended.

You could plant Iberis sempervirens in a gravel or rock garden and it will thrive.

Iberis sempervirens seeds must go through the germination process in warm weather conditions if you plan to grow from seed. (More on this later) Once Iberis sempervirens matures, it is cold hardy but may need help to endure long-term frost conditions; if you live in a cold region you will need to lay down ample layers of mulch to protect your Candytuft shrubs during colder periods.

The typical cost of hiring a professional landscaper is anywhere between $4 to $17 per square foot, but the typical average is about $11 per square foot.13 The typical American yard has anywhere between 15,000 to 25,000 square feet of space, although smaller yards tend to have less than 10,000 square feet of space.14

You might have to pay a landscaper anywhere from $2,600 to almost $14,000 to do a job relative to the amount of landscaping space available and your aesthetic preferences.13

These costs can get potentially much higher if you are interested in landscaping trees.

The point is that unlike other plants that require certain soil conditions, exacting maintenance standards, and continuing landscaper visits, you can affordably install low-maintenance Iberis sempervirens shrubs and make your landscape, walking paths, borders and edging, and garden ground cover look more expensive than it actually is.

Growing a Candytuft From a Seed, Cutting, or Seedling

It might take you 14 days or a little longer to fully germinate Iberis sempervirens seeds. Germinating this shrub won’t be hard, but you should remember that it could take years to grow Iberis sempervirens to maturity from seed.

Iberis sempervirens need a warm soil environment to sprout from seed. Additionally, the seeds must always be moist but never soaking wet.

When Iberis sempervirens flowers fade away, they fruit dry pods full of seeds. You could source these seeds from a friend who grows this plant or from a nursery.

It could take six weeks to two months before your seeds become sproutlings, so be patient. To start, you should fill a flower bed or small flower pots with a mixture of loamy soil, perlite, and sand.

Each seed should get its own pot, or make sure the seeds are spaced out by an inch or more if you use a flower bed.

The soil temperature should be in a constant temperature range of 75 degrees to 85 degrees Fahrenheit. You could set the flower bed or pots on a heating blanket set to the appropriate settings to germinate your seeds in a room where you can control the ambient heat.

Make sure that you insert the seeds only half an inch down into the soil. You don’t necessarily need to cover the seeds completely since air helps accelerate the germination process, but you can sprinkle a little more sand on top of the soil.

Pour water onto the soil until it is moist to help collapse any unseen air pockets in the soil.

Place the seeds near a window or preferably a greenhouse where they will receive up to six hours or more of direct sunlight exposure. Carefully drape plastic cling wrap on top of the soil but do not create a vacuum seal, otherwise, the seeds will rot.

Water daily to maintain soil moistness but be careful not to overwater. Grow the the seedlings until they are about two inches tall and then carefully transplant each seedling to its own pot.

A garden bed with an evergreen Candytuft showcasing its white flowers, surrounded by purple lavender and white daisies.

(Image: Matthias Böckel (matthiasboeckel)24)

If you have access to a friend’s Iberis sempervirens shrub then you can make your own clone, or a cutting of the plant via a process known as air layering.17 Air layering is a process where you force a slightly damaged branch to grow its own roots; then you remove it and plant it.

Select a branch that is wider than a pencil or a pen in diameter and one that is not too old or too young.

Old, weathered, and sickly-looking branches may not be able to heal or generate viable leaves. Younger branches are not strong either.

Use a brand-new potato peeler or carving blade to carefully slice away the woody top layer of bark in a circle around the branch near where it connects to a larger branch. Don’t slice or cut too deep; this process is akin to cutting away the layers of skin from a tree, its bark, to expose its wood flesh.

Apply rooting hormone to the newly exposed woody flesh. Then, cover the exposed area with a soil medium like peat moss, sphagnum moss, potting, or coconut coir.

You can also use gardening soil, but you need to moisten it to make sure it will cling to the branch.

Heavily moisten the soil medium you use with water. Then, completely cover the soil medium with plastic cling wrap and seal it.

You need to check on the plastic film and look for evidence of roots growing through the soil medium every few days for up to five weeks.

If you notice the soil drying out you can use a syringe full of water to inject more water into the soil medium. When you see roots growing out of the soil medium you can carefully remove the plastic cling wrap.

You can leave the soil medium clinging to the roots, but you need to carefully shear the branch away from the tree under the new root generation.

Then, you can plant your cutting into a pot.

Your best option is to buy a young Iberis sempervirens sapling from a nursery. You can plant it and only need to wait a year or two before it matures enough to bloom.

Candytuft Growing Zone

Iberis sempervirens can be optimally grown in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9. Even though this is a cold hardy plant, you should liberally spread mulch around its base to protect it during cold weather months relative to the planting zones you live in.

The optimal growing zones for Candytuft, where to grow them aren’t as important as understanding what adjustments you should make while growing them.

Candytuft Growth Rate

Growing Iberis sempervirens from seed is the slowest manner in which to grow the plant. It could take anywhere from five years to a full decade before Iberis sempervirens fully matures as a perennial and grows to its full size.16

So, in terms of how long it takes to grow Candytuft, it may grow an inch or two annually under optimum conditions.

Graphics showing Candytuft growth rate with images of the plant from its first year up to when it's fully matured.

Relatively speaking, how long does it take for a tree to grow? Depending on the types of trees you plant, it could take 15 years to grow a tree to maturity.

Best Growing Conditions for Candytuft

How much sunlight does Candytuft need each day? Iberis sempervirens can grow in partial shade but will benefit from at least six hours of direct sunlight exposure daily.

As long as you don’t use heavy clay you can grow Iberis sempervirens in almost any well-draining soil medium. This shrub grows healthier flowers when the soil is not nutrient-heavy, so you can add fertilizer once a year.

Iberis sempervirens grows best in gravel or rock soil gardens. Mix sand and perlite into your gravel or rock garden to ensure the water does not drain away too quickly.

A flowerbed filled with dense white Candytuft flowers and tall orange and yellow blooms, next to a small pond with lily pads.

(Image: Swami Stream (Swaminathan)25)

Use a stick to insert into the soil to measure its dryness and assess the watering needs for Candytuft plant. You can water it once or twice a week, taking care to keep the soil moist without overwatering it.

Watering Iberis sempervirens is a less maintenance-heavy routine than watering a tree or trying to grow a tree.

How far apart to plant Candytuft shrubs? Plant your shrubs about a foot or a foot and a half apart to give them space to grow out their root systems.

When to plant Candytuft for the best yield? One of the most useful Candytuft facts is that you should probably plant it in early spring.

Candytuft in Winter

Iberis sempervirens is a cold hardy plant. It can survive in temperatures as low as negative 5 degrees Fahrenheit.8

However, just because this shrub can technically survive in low temperatures does not mean that you go out of your way to do so.

If you plant Iberis sempervirens in frosty weather then make should to lay down a thick layer of mulch or pine tree boughs to protect the root system.

How To Stop Candytuft Disease

Iberis sempervirens is pretty disease-resistant. You should always be vigilant against overwatering the plant at the root which will cause root rot.

Iberis sempervirens is good at recovering from such problems, but it could cause stunted growth and discolored leaves.

Snails, slugs, and caterpillars are the common pests of the Candytuft shrubs, but they usually don’t cause many problems. You don’t really have to worry about natural pest control for Candytuft.

Companion Plants For Growing Candytuft

There are many low-growing and low-maintenance perennials that you can plant alongside Iberis sempervirens. Such plants include but are not limited to bleeding heart, basket-of-gold, moss phlox, cornflower, rock cress, or catmint.

How To Identify Candytuft

There are over 30 species of Iberis genus plants, and over 50 when you count cultivars.15 However, there is basically one species of this plant that is coveted by gardeners and landscapers more than others, and it is Iberis sempervirens.

You would have to try very hard not to notice an Iberis sempervirens. It’s a short shrub with vivid dark green leaves and billowing, and dome-shaped clusters of flat-petaled flowers accented with tiny spots of yellow stamens that seem to float above the contrast of the foliage like pillowy soft clouds.

Graphics showing how to identify Candytuft Shrub, with images of Candytuft leaves, white Candytuft flowers, and Candytuft bark in circle frames, alongside a US climate zone map and a temperature chart.

(Leaves and Bark Images: AfroBrazilian26)

The flowers of Iberis sempervirens blossom twice annually, but the striking foliage still grabs attention even when the plants are not in bloom.

The types of white flowers and pink flowers that Iberis sempervirens blooms are soft and fragrant, seem to float, and almost aesthetically resemble the softness of cotton candy.

Candytuft Seeds

Iberis sempervirens seeds are light, medium, or dark reddish brown colored and feature a crimped, flat border around the seed. The seeds almost resemble ultra-tiny shriveled-up almonds.

Growing From Candytuft Seeds

Iberis sempervirens is challenging to grow from seed and could take five years to a decade to fully mature. You are better off growing this shrub from a sapling.

Candytuft Leaves

Iberis sempervirens leaves are linear, evergreen, and measure about a half inch to two inches long and about a fifth of an inch wide. The leaves are flat, oblong-shaped, leathery, glossy, and green or dark green colored.

Candytuft Flower

The Iberis sempervirens flower petal is usually widely spatulate in shape with a flattened top that rounds out along the edges. The leaves alternate in arrangement in a dome-like shape on a shortened floral stalk.

The shape of the flowers and the way they blossom all over the foliage make them look like puffy little clouds floating over the leaves. Each petal mound also features an arrangement of several yellow-colored stamens which creates a colorful aesthetic contrast.

Candytuft Flower Colors

There are several dozen Iberis sempervirens species and cultivars, but Candytuft flower petals are usually white or pinkish-white. Some other species can be red-colored.

Evergreen Candytuft

Iberis sempervirens is an evergreen and perennial shrub. Many experts believe that “sempervirens” is a Latin term that roughly translates to “evergreen.”

The leaves stay on throughout the year and are a striking aesthetic feature of the plant even when during non-blooming seasons.

Candytuft Ground Cover

Iberis sempervirens is renowned for being useful as ground cover for landscape walkways, boundary lines, gardens, and strategic landscape edging. These shrubs usually don’t grow more than a foot and a half off of the ground, but their foliage and signature flowers with grab visual attention and help highlight your landscape.

Why You Should Consider the Candytuft Plant for Landscaping

One reason that many homeowners loathe to initiate or install small or even moderate-scale floral landscapes on their properties, and maintain them, is that it requires consistent and moderately high physical exertion.

Landscapes and gardens don’t become visually appealing spontaneously.

The typical American gardener spends over 120 minutes daily toiling in their gardens,2 and that estimate only references the motivated home gardeners who treat it as a serious hobby or lifestyle. Most homeowners with gardens spend a lot less than two hours daily tending to them.

A garden with clusters of white flowers from a Candytuft plant, and some more blurred red, blue, and pink flowers in the background.

(Image: Sabrina Eickhoff (NWimagesbySabrinaEickhoff)27)

Gardening also requires a lot of physical exertion. You have to stand up, bend down, crouch, pull weeds, move around tools and supplies, and tend to plants, all of which are considered moderate exercise activities.

You can burn anywhere between 200 to 400 calories an hour just by gardening.3 Many American homeowners don’t do anything to improve their landscapes not just because it’s hard work, they just don’t know what they are doing.

Over 31 percent of people have no idea how to take care of or maintain their lawns.4 Almost 70 percent of homeowners believe that their existing landscapes could be improved somehow without knowing how to do it.

Additionally, over 94 percent of homeowners have hired a professional landscaper to improve their properties.4 Worse, most American homeowners will hire landscapers to avoid doing the work themselves and achieve a home landscaping aesthetic they saw on celebrity reality shows.5

In other words, many people are hiring landscapers to create home aesthetics to impress others and not themselves, which can be an emotionally and financially exhausting epiphany once realized.

On the other end of the home maintenance spectrum, many people completely give up on caring about their property landscape. However, letting your lawn or landscape fall into aesthetic disrepair can crater your home property values, and your neighbor’s property values, and potentially get you into legal trouble.

Depending on where you live, the local municipal government or HOA authorities could make it illegal for you not to maintain a satisfactory visual landscape. These rules are rarely enforced by local authorities until complaints by neighbors and anonymous civilian whistleblowers force the issue.6

A town in Indiana made local headlines because the local municipal government issued over 1,800 citations to homeowners with unkempt lawns and landscapes with each fine averaging at least $200.7

It must be stressed that this only happened because the local city government was inundated with complaints from neighbors and people frustrated about the aesthetic state of other people’s lawns.

The point here is that while it takes dedication and work to maintain a home landscape, planting Iberis sempervirens shrubs will make your job easier while also making your landscape look amazing.

Carbon Sequestration Benefits of Iberis sempervirens

Shrubs grow faster than many types of evergreen trees and absorb more carbon than trees.18 Plants, trees, shrubs, and soil are all powerful carbon sequestration engines, but shrubs are the most powerful.

Carbon sequestration is the process by which plant life and soil absorb ambient carbon dioxide and store it for years, decades, or even centuries.

However, due to climate change and human beings flooding the atmosphere with carbon dioxide via fossil fuels and industrialization, more carbon dioxide is being pumped into the atmosphere faster than carbon sequestration can organically absorb it.

Shrubs are powerful and aggressive carbon-sequestration engines. If you planted enough shrubs on 2.5 acres of land, they could absorb over 15.4 tons of carbon dioxide annually.1

You could help fight climate change by just planting a few Iberis sempervirens shrubs on your landscape.

You don’t have to spend a lot of money or work very hard to have a landscape you can be proud of full of beautiful flowers, and if you’re looking for a low-maintenance shrub that can be planted in a gravel garden and highlight your landscape admirably then the evergreen Candytuft a an excellent choice.

Frequently Asked Questions About Candytuft

Are Candytuft Plants Edible?

The edible shrub has a bitter taste, yet its herbaceous stems can be ground and used as a culinary herb if one chooses. Iberis sempervirens is technically related to cabbage via their relation in the Brassicaceae scientific classification.19

Is Candytuft Toxic to Pets?

Although you will find conflicting data online, most experts agree that Iberis sempervirens are not toxic to pets.20 This shrub is known to be a repellent to rabbits and deer.

How Did Iberis sempervirens Get the Name Candytuft?

There are many theories as to how Iberis sempervirens got its colorful name. One interesting theory suggests that Candytuft flower petals were once covered in sugar and eaten as candy centuries ago.21

Do Candytuft Plants Attract Butterflies?

Iberis sempervirens is a great pollination facilitator and its flowers attract butterflies and other pollinators. The types of butterflies your shrubs will attract depend on the diversity of butterfly species that live in your region.

Are Candytuft Plants Invasive?

Iberis sempervirens grows very slowly and is not considered an invasive plant species. If you are worried about your shrubs proliferating too much, remember to space them apart by a foot or more.


1Matthews, A. (2020, February 4). How shrubs can help solve climate change. BBC. Retrieved December 14, 2023, from <>

2BLS. (2023, June 22). American Time Use Survey – 2022 Results. BLS. Retrieved December 14, 2023, from <>

3Shaw, G. (2013, August 16). Too tired to hit the gym? Simple tips on how to burn calories doing everyday activities. WebMD. Retrieved December 14, 2023, from <>

4Business Wire. (2016, March 16). New Research Finds Majority of Americans Lack Lawn Care Knowledge. Business Wire. Retrieved December 14, 2023, from <>

5Kurzius, R. (2023, July 7). HGTV is making our homes boring and us sad, one study says. The Washington Post. Retrieved December 14, 2023, from <>

6Sisser, J. M., Nelson, K. C., Larson, K. L., Ogden, L. A., Polsky, C., & Chowdhury, R. R. (2016). Lawn enforcement: How municipal policies and neighborhood norms influence homeowner residential landscape management. Landscape and Urban Planning. Retrieved December 14, 2023, from <>

7ABC57 Staff. (2014, June 9). Residents upset about tall grass at vacant home. ABC57. Retrieved December 14, 2023, from <>

8Wikipedia. (2022, April 15). Iberis sempervirens. Wikipedia. Retrieved December 14, 2023, from <>

9Wikipedia. (2023, December 11). Flowering Plant. Wikipedia. Retrieved December 14, 2023, from <>

10Wikipedia. (2023, July 20). Subshrub. Wikipedia. Retrieved December 14, 2023, from <>

11NC State. (2023). Iberis sempervirens. NC State. Retrieved December 14, 2023, from <>

12Nielsen, L. (2023, March 2). Candytuft: Easy-Growing Perennial Border Plants. Epic Gardening. Retrieved December 14, 2023, from <>

13Wallender, L. (2023, April 20). How Much Does Landscaping Cost? The Spruce. Retrieved December 14, 2023, from <>

14Wasson, S. (2023, October 13). The Average Yard Size by State and City. Today’s Homeowner. Retrieved December 14, 2023, from <>

15Wikipedia. (2023, July 30). Iberis. Wikipedia. Retrieved December 14, 2023, from <>

16Beaulieu, D. (2023, May 19). How to Grow and Care for Candytuft. The Spruce. Retrieved December 14, 2023, from <>

17NParks Buzz. (2021, October). Air-layering – A Viable Way of Propagating Woody Plants. NParks Buzz. Retrieved December 14, 2023, from <>

18Fisher, A. (2019, January 2). Native Shrubs and Why They’re Essential for Carbon Sequestration. Resilience. Retrieved December 14, 2023, from <>

19Klingaman, G. (2008, May 2). Plant of the Week: Candytuft. University of Arkansas. Retrieved December 14, 2023, from <>

20Gardener’s World. (2023). Iberis ‘Masterpiece’. Gardener’s World. Retrieved December 14, 2023, from <>

21Dale H. (2012). Iberis – Candytuft. Dale Harvey. Retrieved December 14, 2023, from <>

22Candytuft, Iberis, Flower Photo by 🌼Christel🌼 (ChiemSeherin). (2020, April 18) / Pixabay Content License. Cropped and added text, shape, and background elements. Pixabay. Retrieved December 18, 2023, from <>

23Candytuft, Flowers, Plant Photo by anjosteber. (2021, May 11) / Pixabay Content License. Resized. Pixabay. Retrieved December 26, 2023, from <>

24Evergreen candytuft, Grape hyacinths, Floowers Photo by Matthias Böckel (matthiasboeckel). (2022, April 7) / Pixabay Content License. Resized. Pixabay. Retrieved December 26, 2023, from <>

25Garden of flowers Photo by Swami Stream (Swaminathan). (2007, March 22) / CC BY 2.0 DEED | Attribution 2.0 Generic. Resized. Flickr. Retrieved December 26, 2023, from <>

26Iberis sempervirens 01 Photo by AfroBrazilian. (2016, May 27) / CC BY-SA 4.0 DEED | Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International. Cropped and added image, text, shape, and background elements. Wikimedia Commons. Retrieved December 18, 2023, from <>

27Candytufts, Flower wallpaper, Iberis Photo by Sabrina Eickhoff (NWimagesbySabrinaEickhoff). (2022, April 14) / Pixabay Content License. Resized. Pixabay. Retrieved December 26, 2023, from <>