How to Grow and Care for Wallflower Plants

Wallflowers are colorful, fragrant, and easy-to-grow

Altgold wallflower plant with orange flowers in sunlight

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Of the more than 150 species in the Erysimum genus, the two species typically referred to as wallflower and bred as a garden plants are Erysimum cheiri and Erysimum linifolium, both native to southern Europe.

The plant derives its name from the fact that it sprouts pretty blossoms through silty cracks in brick or cement walls and not because it's a bashful specimen as the term would mean if describing a person. Clearly, they are determined, hardy blooms. In warm climates, they bloom nearly year-round and can be grown as a short-term perennial or biennials. In cooler climates, they are mostly grown as annuals.

Their beautiful four-petalled flowers come in yellow, orange, red, blue, and purple. Most wallflower varieties grow as shrubs, but there are some groundcover species as well.

Wallflowers are usually planted or started from seed in the spring but in warm climates, they can also be started from seed in the fall.

Common Name Wallflower
Botanical Names Erysimum cheiri, Erysimum linifolium
Family Brassicaceae
Plant Type Perennial, annual, biennial, herbaceous
Mature Size 1-3 ft. tall, 2-4 ft. wide
Sun Exposure Full, partial
Soil Type Sandy, well-drained
Soil pH Neutral, alkaline
Bloom Time Spring, summer, fall
Flower Color Yellow, orange, purple, pink, blue, red
Hardiness Zones 6-10 (USDA)
Native Area Europe

Wallflower Care

Wallflowers are attractive and fragrant and make great additions to any rock garden, border, or container garden. They are generally easy to grow and low-maintenance.

Altgold wallflower plant with orange flowers closeup

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Altgold wallflower plant with yellow and orange flowers in sunlight

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Fire king wallflower plant with red flowers and buds closeup
Fire king wallflower plant with red-orange flowers closeup

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Light

Wallflowers should be grown in a bright, sunny location. While they can tolerate part shade they will thrive in full sun. Gardeners in northern climates should choose locations that receive direct sun, whereas gardeners in southern climates should plant in places that receive some shade.

Soil

Well-drained, dry to medium-dry soils are ideal for wallflower. Wallflowers do not tolerate wet feet, or having their roots sit in standing water, so avoid planting wallflowers in particularly wet areas of your garden or in poorly draining soil, which leads to rapid decline and plant death. Wallflowers can grow in very alkaline soils (pH 7.0 to 9.0).

Water

Wallflowers are considered drought-tolerant, and as such, they do not require too much water. Only water wallflowers regularly as they are becoming established, and then cut back once they have matured.

Temperature and Humidity

In warm climates (USDA zones 8 to 10) perennial wallflower varieties grow as evergreens. At the lower end of their hardiness range, they can still be grown as a perennials but their foliage will likely die back in the winter. Below their hardiness range, wallflower is usually grown as an annual.

Fertilizer

Wallflowers do not require a lot of fertilizer to thrive, in fact, fertilization is generally not recommended.. Instead, mix compost into the soil when you are first planting.

Types of Wallflowers

Most wallflowers are cultivars or hybrids. Notable varieties include:

  • E. cheiri 'Sunset Apricot', a biennial with fragrant, yellow-apricot flowers
  • E. cheiri ' 'Sunset Primrose', an evergreen perennial with flowers that start lemon yellow and turn primrose as they age
  • 'Winter Passion' and 'Winter Orchid' belong to the trademarked 'Winter' series of compact and mounding perennial hybrids with large, fragrant flower spikes.
  • 'Red Jep', a hybrid with fragrant red to purple flowers
  • E. linifolium 'Bowles’s Mauve' with rich, mauve blooms
  • 'Walberton’s Fragrant Sunshine', a trademarked hybrid with compact, bushy orange blooms

Pruning

Dead-heading is important for keeping wallflowers healthy and full looking. To encourage ongoing blooming, pinch back spent blooms regularly. Once the plants have finished blooming, or in the early spring in warm climates, prune the back at least half to prevent them from getting leggy. In cooler climates, prune them in the fall so there is only a couple of inches left above the soil, and they will reward you with dense new growth once temperatures warm up again.

Propagating Wallflowers

Before you set out to propagate a wallflower, check whether the variety is trademarked or protected by a plant patent, as the propagation of those plants is prohibited. If that's not the case, wallflowers that are grown as biennials or perennials can be propagated through cuttings in the late spring.

  1. With a sharp knife or pruners, take a cutting that has at least one leaf node.
  2. Remove all flowers and flower buds from the cutting and leave only three to four leaves.
  3. Dip the cutting in a rooting hormone and insert it in 4-inch pots filled with potting mix.
  4. Water it well and keep it evenly most until new growth appears and the cutting does not move when you gently tug on it. At this point, you can transplant it in garden soil or in a larger container for a patio or deck.

Growing Wallflowers from Seed

To grow wallflowers from seed, sow the seeds directly into the garden or start them indoors 10 to 12 weeks before the last frost in your area. In locations with warm winters (USDA zone 8 to 10) you can also start the seeds in the late autumn.

The seeds require light to germinate so don't cover them with more than 1/8 of an inch of soil. Make sure to provide adequate light for germination.

Wallflowers transplant well once established.

Potting and Repotting Wallflowers

Shrub-type wallflowers make excellent container plants as they are low maintenance and don’t require too much water. Choose a container that is large enough to accommodate the root system plus about 6 inches. Ensure your container has adequate drainage as wallflowers do not tolerate having their roots sit in water. Choose a well-draining potting soil.

Repot the plan when its roots fill the container, or grow out of the drainage holes.

Overwintering

When grown in its hardiness range, wallflower does not need any winter protection although it might drop its leaves at the cooler end of the hardiness range.

Outside of its hardiness range, it is best to grow wallflower as an annual. While you can bring a potted the plant indoors for the winter, it might get leggy if you don't have a spot in a bright, south-facing window, or add supplemental growth lights.

Common Pests & Plant Diseases

As a part of the Brassicaceae family, wallflowers are susceptible to a host of common garden pests just like their vegetable cousins. These include flea beetles, aphids, and cabbage worms. However, wallflowers are better suited to dry growing conditions than their Brassicaceae relatives, which inadvertently helps to prevent pest infestations. Another way to prevent infestations and diseases in wallflowers is to ensure that you are not planting wallflowers in a garden bed or container that has recently grown other Brassicaceae species as pathogens may remain in the soil from the previous plant.

How to Get Wallflowers to Bloom

If you propagated your own plant, depending on when you started it, the wallflower might not bloom during the first year. A plant purchased from a nursery, on the other hand, should bloom the first year. If it doesn't, it is most likely due to lack of sun, as wallflower needs full sun to bloom at its best.

FAQ
  • What do you do with wallflowers once they have flowered?

    If you live in a warm climate, trim it back to about half and deadhead it (unless you would like it to reseed itself). In a climate where it won't survive the winter and wallflower is usually grown as an annual, the end of the bloom also means the end of the plant's life cycle so you should discard it.

  • Is there a walllflower native to North America? native?

    The Western wallflower (Erysimum capitatum) is native to North America. It is also known as the sanddune wallflower or prairie rocket.

  • Is Siberian wallflower invasive?

    While Siberian wallflower (Erysimum x allionii) is a plant that was introduced from Europe, it is not considered invasive in North America.

Article Sources
The Spruce uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Erysimum x cheiri. North Carolina State University Cooperative Extension.