How To Grow - Sweet William

Sweet William is a traditional cottage plant famous for its late spring and early summer colour and sweet peppery perfume. Dense clusters of flowers are produced on sturdy self-supporting well-branched stems in a superb mix of complimentary colours. It’s also prized as a cut flower to bring indoors. Here’s our easy to follow guide to growing these plants.

Basics

The nectar of Sweet William will attract bees, butterflies and birds to your flower beds – it’s a good choice for a wildlife orientated garden. The leaves are tapered and the flowers grow in clusters at the top of the stems. Sweet William is a biennial which will reseed itself.

When and where to plant

Ideally, the location should be in full sun, though a partial or light shade can be tolerated. The soil conditions should be slightly alkaline, fairly rich, quite loose and well draining. Mix in a general garden fertiliser before planting out, and then every 6 weeks. If the general temperature is going to be hotter than average, then choose to plant out in a shadier location to off-set this.

How to plant

For planting in a bed or border: Use a trowel to dig an individual hole for each plant, deep enough to submerge the root ball and keep the base of the stem at soil level. Position your plant and fill the hole back in. Gently firm down and water in. Leave a 15 cm space between plants, and bear in mind that the plants will grow to a height of between 20 and 40 cm.

Flowering

The flowers are five-petaled and 2 to 3 cm in diameter. The petals also have serrated edges. Deadheading will encourage further flowering – however, bear in mind that Sweet Williams is self-seeding so you need to keep enough flower heads to provide the seed for next year.

Plant care

Weed around the plants as weeds will compete with the Sweet Williams for nutrients and water. Apply a layer of mulch once the plants are established. Inspect the plants for any signs of aphids, nematodes or slugs, and remove or apply appropriate deterrents as necessary.

Did you know

Older plants will stop sending up new shoots – pruning the stems by 50 percent should have a reinvigorating effect.


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