Spiderwort

These easy-to-grow perennials produce small but numerous flowers over several weeks in summer.

Spiderwort Overview

Genus Name Tradescantia
Common Name Spiderwort
Plant Type Perennial
Light Part Sun, Shade, Sun
Height 6 to 6 inches
Width 8 to 36 inches
Flower Color Blue, Pink, Purple, White
Foliage Color Blue/Green, Chartreuse/Gold
Season Features Fall Bloom, Spring Bloom, Summer Bloom
Special Features Good for Containers, Low Maintenance
Zones 10, 11, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9
Propagation Division, Seed, Stem Cuttings
Problem Solvers Deer Resistant, Drought Tolerant, Groundcover

Colorful Combinations

With their simple foliage and small flowers, spiderworts are great companions to many other plants. Spiderwort flowers are comprised of three petals, borne at the tips of foliage stems and often in clusters. Usually, a few blooms in each cluster are open at once, and all blooms are only open for a single day. Luckily, there are many buds per stalk, and the bloom time can last up to three months.

Spiderwort Care Must-Knows

Spiderworts are simple plants that don't need much special care. Native to the Western Hemisphere, a large variety of spiderworts are on the market. With tropical and perennial options, many different spiderworts are available. Luckily, spiderwort care is fairly universal.

Spiderworts aren't too picky when it comes to exposure. Many varieties are just as happy in partial shade as in full sun, and most 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 better than others and do fine in consistently drier soils. However, plants may go dormant in very dry soils, especially 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.

Potential Problems

Despite the ease of growth with spiderworts, there are a few things to note when planting them. Spiderworts are susceptible to leaf spot diseases, and plants start to decline once they begin to get it. Luckily, this generally won't 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 you can prevent aggressive seeding by deadheading spent blooms.

More Varieties of Spiderwort

'Bilberry Ice' spiderwort

'Bilberry Ice' spiderwort
Jay Wilde

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

'Sweet Kate' spiderwort
Greg Scheidemann

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

'Innocence' spiderwort

'Innocence' spiderwort
Peter Krumhardt

Tradescantia 'Innocence' bears pure white flowers in early to midsummer. It grows 2 feet tall and wide. Zones 4-9

Spiderwort

spiderwort
Greg Ryan

Tradescantia x andersoniana has broadly grassy leaves that clasp the fleshy stems. Clusters of buds top the stems opening sequentially to jewel-tone flowers, each lasting only a day. It grows 3 feet tall. Zones 5-9

Spiderwort Companion Plants

Coreopsis

Coreopsis
Scott Little 

One of the longest bloomers in the garden, coreopsis produces (usually) sunny yellow daisylike flowers that attract butterflies. Depending on the variety, Coreopsis 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

Lady's mantle
Matthew Benson

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.

Loosestrife

loosestrife
Cynthia Haynes

These vigorous growers are beautiful additions to the garden. They vary in form, including 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. Unfortunately, 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.

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