February 18, 2016

Spider Flower

Spider flower plants create striking focal points at the back of a garden due to their ability to grow 3 to 5 feet tall. Nor do they need to be staked to stay upright. In fact, one small plant can grow to create a small shrublike specimen covered in flowers. (Unfortunately, many gardeners overlook spider flower in garden centers because of its weedy appearance when young.) This plant’s spidery-looking flowers add tropical flair to mixed borders. Hummingbirds and pollinators such as butterflies and moths love spider flower for its copious amounts of nectar. Studies show this plant also attracts beneficial insects that feed on pests.

genus name
  • Cleome hassleriana
  • Part Sun,
  • Sun
plant type
  • 1 to 3 feet,
  • 3 to 8 feet
  • 1-4 feet
flower color
foliage color
season features
problem solvers
  • 2,
  • 3,
  • 4,
  • 5,
  • 6,
  • 7,
  • 8,
  • 9,
  • 10,
  • 11

Colorful Combinations

Most commonly available in shades of white, pink, and purple, spider flower's unique airy blossoms add interest to any garden. Spider flower will begin blooming as soon as it's established and won't stop until it's knocked out by the first frost. Even the seed pods add interest to the display; they're held outward from the main flowering stem, adding to the spiderlike quality of the flower stalks.

See more of our top picks for late-summer color.

Spider Flower Care Must-Knows

As long as spider flower is planted in well-drained soil with a decent amount of organic matter, it will bloom all season long. Many varieties of spider flower work as well in containers as they do in the ground. When planting spider flower in a container, give it some slow-release fertilizer or frequently fertilize the plant to support its prolific blooming habits. Supplemental waterings help establish new plants in garden soil, after which they are extremely drought- and heat-tolerant.

Plant spider flower in full sun for a dense habit and the best floral display. The stalks continuously bloom from the tip, which makes deadheading plants harder than normal because you can't simply pinch off the top. Even in ideal conditions, though, some older varieties of spider flower may lose their lower foliage. Disguise those bare stems, if you like, by placing shorter species around the taller plant.

Because spider flower plants are prolific bloomers, they produce lots of seeds. As these seedpods ripen and burst open, the seeds scatter about the garden. So if you plant it once, you may be blessed with new spider flower plants for years to come—without any extra effort on your part. Spider flower may be considered invasive in the right setting. The best way to control seed spread is to remove seedpods before they open.

Learn what 'full sun' really means here.

New Innovations

Much of the breeding work in recent years has focused on shrinking spider flower's substantial height. These new shorter varieties are better suited to containers, as well as the front or middle of the garden.

More Varieties of Spider Flower

'Helen Campbell' spider flower

Cleome 'Helen Campbell' bears pure white flowers on tall, 4-foot stems.

'Queen Series' spider flower

Cleome 'Queen Series' offers a mix of rose, violet, and white flowers on 4-foot-plants.

'Senorita Rosalita' spider flower

Cleome 'Senorita Rosalita' bears lavender-pink flowers on a more heat-resistant 4-foot-tall plant.

'Violet Queen' spider flower

Cleome 'Violet Queen' produces lavender-purple flowers on 4-foot-tall plants.

Plant Spider Flower With:

You can depend on this cottage-garden favorite to fill your garden with color all season long. The simple, daisylike flowers appear in cheery shades on tall stems that are great for cutting. The lacy foliage makes a great backdrop for shorter plants, as well. Cosmos often self-seeds in the garden, so you may only have to plant it once, though the colors can appear muddy or odd in the reseeders.Plant cosmos from seed directly in the ground in spring. Or start from established seedlings. This flower doesn't like fertilizing or conditions that are too rich, which causes the foliage to be large and lush but with fewer blooms. It does best with average moisture but will tolerate drought.

Moonflower is one of the most romantic plants you can grow in the garden. It's a statuesque, ideal evening-garden plant bearing large trumpet-shape flowers that unfurl in the evening (or on overcast days) and stay open until the sun rises. Some are sweetly fragrant when open. This beautiful plant is also very heat- and drought-resistant. Beware: It's quite poisonous, especially the seeds.Moonflower can be found as an established plant in garden centers. Plant outdoors after all danger of frost has passed. Give it moderate moisture and fertilizer. You can also train it into a treelike plant along a stake, especially in a large container. Datura reseeds freely to the point of being invasive in some conditions.

Want fast color for just pennies? Plant zinnias! A packet of seeds will fill an area with gorgeous flowers in an amazing array of shapes and colors -- even green! And it will happen in just weeks. There are dwarf types of zinnias, tall types, quill-leaf cactus types, spider types, multicolor, special seed blends for cutting, special blends for attracting butterflies, and more.Zinnias are so highly attractive to butterflies that you can count on having these fluttering guests dining in your garden every afternoon. But to attract the most, plant lots of tall, red or hot pink zinnias in a large patch. 'Big Red' is especially nice for this, and the flowers are outstanding, excellent for cutting. Zinnias grow quickly from seed sown right in the ground and do best in full sun with dry to well-drained soil.


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