While a name like spiderwort may not sound like something you'd want around, this resilient perennial should have a home in everyone’s garden. With slender, graceful foliage and bright jewel-tone blossoms, spiderworts are easy to use in any garden design. These plants may not have the showiest blooms, but they certainly make up for it with quantity.
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With their simple foliage and small flowers, spiderworts are great companions to many other plants. The flowers of spiderwort are comprised of three petals, which are borne at the tips of foliage stems, and often in clusters. Usually just a few blooms in each cluster are open at once, and all of the blooms are only open for a single day. Luckily, there are generally many buds per stalk, and the bloomtime can last up to three months.
Spiderwort Care Must-Knows
Spiderworts are pretty simple plants that do not need a lot of special care. Native to the Western Hemisphere, there are a large variety of spiderworts on the market. With tropical and perennial options, there are many different spiderworts to choose from. Luckily, general care of these plants is fairly universal.
Spiderworts aren't too picky when it comes to exposure. Many varieties are just as happy in part shade as they are in full sun, and most do appreciate some shade from the hot afternoon sun. There are even some species that will do just fine in full shade.
Most spiderworts prefer to be planted in well-drained soil that stays somewhat moist. Some species can handle drought much better than others and can even do fine in consistently drier soils. In very dry soils, especially in the summer, plants may go dormant, which can commonly happen in southern climates with hot summers. Foliage is generally the first thing to decline, becoming yellowed and limp. When this happens, plants can be cut back to the ground. Come fall and cooler temperatures, many species of spiderwort will happily begin again, sending up new shoots and sometimes new blooms.
Despite the ease of growth with spiderworts, there are a few things to note when you are planting them. Spiderworts are susceptible to leaf spot diseases, and once they begin to get it, plants start to decline. Luckily, this generally will not kill the plants, and as long as foliage is removed, the next re-sprouting should be clean. Spiderworts also tend to be aggressive seeders, which in some garden settings may become a nuisance. These seedlings can easily be removed, and by deadheading spent blooms, you can prevent aggressive seeding.
More Varieties of Spiderwort
'Bilberry Ice' spiderwort
Tradescantia 'Bilberry Ice' offers white blooms with a lavender-purple blush at the center. It blooms in early summer and grows 2 feet tall. Zones 4-9
'Sweet Kate' spiderwort
Tradescantia 'Sweet Kate' has bright yellow foliage that emerges in late spring. The brilliant purple flowers are dramatic against the leaves. It grows to 15 inches tall. Zones 4-8
Tradescantia 'Innocence' bears pure white flowers in early to midsummer. It grows 2 feet tall and wide. Zones 4-9
Spiderwort Companion Plants
One of the longest bloomers in the garden, coreopsis produces (usually) sunny yellow daisylike flowers that attract butterflies. Coreopsis, depending on the variety, also bears golden-yellow, pale yellow, pink, or bicolor flowers. It will bloom from early to midsummer or longer—as long as it's deadheaded.
Lady's mantle looks great in the garden and in a vase. Its scalloped leaves catch rain or dewdrops, making them look dusted with jewels. The chartreuse flowers appear in playful, frothy clusters above the foliage. Lady's mantle is ideal for softening the edge of a shaded path or creating a groundcover in dappled shade.
These vigorous growers are beautiful additions to the garden. They vary form, including types that are tall, stately plants suitable for borders and others that are more like creeping groundcovers. Flowers are tight spikes of 1/2-inch to 1-inch cups carried alone or in whorls. Humus-rich, moisture-retentive soil is recommended; some varieties enjoy wet soil and ample water. Several sorts may become invasive and need to be controlled. Note: These are not the invasive purple loosestrife, which has been banned in many parts of the United States.