How to Grow Stone Cress — Aethionema

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Aethionema—common name stone cress– is a small shrub grown for its dense to loose terminal racemes of small 4-petaled, cross-shaped flowers that are sometimes fragrant in red, pink, or creamy to white.

Stone cress grows best in fertile, humus-rich soil but will grow well in poor soil. It is a good choice for a rock garden or to plant in stone wall crevices.

Flowers are born on leafless stalks and rise abut 6 to 8 inches above narrow leaves.

There are more than 40 species of Aethionema.

Persian stonecress, Aethionema grandiflorum
Persian stonecress, Aethionema grandiflorum

Get to know Aethionema

  • Plant type: Perennial
  • Growing zones and range: Zone 5 to 8
  • Hardiness: Adapt to colder climates
  • Height and width: 4 to 12 inches tall and 6 to 12 inches wide depending on the cultivar.
  • Foliage: Leaves are usually stalkless, fleshy, and arranged alternately.
  • Flowers: Four-petaled, cross-shaped, sometimes fragrant flowers in red, pink, or creamy to pure white.
  • Bloom time: Late spring to early summer
  • Common name: Stone cress
  • Botanical name: Aethionema
  • Family name: Brassicaceae
  • Origin: Mediterranean region and Asia Minor

Where to plant Aethionema

  • Plant Aethionema in full sun.
  • Aethionema grows best in light to humus-rich, well-drained soil with considerable lime; will tolerate poor soil.

When to plant Aethionema

  • Set Aethionema outdoors in spring after the last frost.
  • Seed can be started indoors in late winter or early spring a few weeks before the last expected frost.
Aethionema 'Warley rose'
Aethionema ‘Warley rose’

Planting and spacing Aethionema

  • Space Aethionema 8 to 12 inches (20-25cm) apart depending on the variety.
  • Sow seed 1/8 inch deep in evenly prepared soil or if starting plants indoors, sow in a light potting mix.

How to water and feed Aethionema

  • Keep the soil evenly moist.
  • Fertilize Aethonema in spring with an all-purpose organic fertilizer.

Aethionema care

  • Deadhead flowers to encourage more blooms.

Aethionema pests and diseases

  • Aphids and spider mites can attack Aethionema.

Aethionema propagation

  • Sow seed of perennials in containers in a cold frame in spring.
  • Sow seed of annuals where they will grow in autumn.
  • Seedlings grown from garden seeds are often hybrids.
  • Root softwood cuttings in late spring or early summer.

Aethionema varieties to grow

  • Aethionema armenum: compact evergreen subshrub with linear leaves; dense racemes of small pale pink flowers.
  • A. grandiflorum, Persian stone cress: Short-lived evergreen perennial bears pale to deep rose-pink flowers in loose racemes.
  • A. oppositifolium: Mat- or cushion-forming evergreen bears small racemes of lavender-pink flowers.
  • A. schistosum: Narrow leaves with erect stems to 10 inches high; fragrant rose-col0red flowers.
  • A. warleyense: Compact plant to 8 inches tall; pink flowers in dense clusters.

Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. has more than 10 million visitors each year.

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