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Erysimum linifolium.
Erysimum linifolium. / SUR

The Spanish wallflower

  • The Spanish wallflower is found across the Mediterranean and is a bushy perennial with masses of scented lilac flowers from early spring

Erysimum linifolium is commonly called the Spanish wallflower. It is a genus in the Barssicaceae (cabbage) family which has over 180 species. The genus is also known as Cheiranthus. Erysimum linifolium (Alhelí de invierno in Spanish), is native to Spain and Portugal but has spread to many other countries with a temperate climate.

The Spanish wallflower forms a shrubby plant about one metre tall by the same wide, with thin tapering blue-green leaves and dense racemes of scented, lilac flowers. The flowers open a pink or salmon colour and gradually change to lilac and purple. They are short-lived but continue to open from early spring until it starts to get too hot, although flowering may continue sporadically all year round in mild winters.

Once established, the Spanish wallflower is resistant to drought but will benefit from occasional watering. It thrives in dry soil with good drainage and will seed itself easily around the garden. It is not hardy and will need protection from frosts. Although the seed from E. linifolium is viable, many cultivated varieties such as E. linifolium 'Bowles mauve' and E. linifolium variegatum cannot be raised from seed. However wallflowers are easy to propagate from cuttings taken when flowering has finished.

The Spanish wallflower is a woody plant and needs to be cut back hard midsummer to promote autumn flowering and to keep it compact. Pinching out the tips will also stop it from getting too straggly. Bees and other pollinating insects love wallflowers and it is not difficult to find space for them in the garden as they can be grown in containers, as an accent plant or in small groups.

E. linifolium is a striking species; the leaves are particularly attractive as they are edged with cream or white. E. semperflorens is native to Morocco and Algeria, has white flowers and is well adapted to hot, dry climates.

All parts of the plant are toxic if ingested in significant amounts.