Pretty Spiderworts

They also are deer-resistant and will bloom from spring into the summer

By L.A. Jackson

Pretty Spiderworts

In spite of their odd name, spiderworts (Tradescantia sp.) can be very pretty plants. With strap-like leaves that form mounds up to 24 inches tall, these perennials show off clusters of three-petal, 1 – to 2-inch diameter blooms typically dipped in shades of purple. A spiderwort blossom only lasts a day, but each stem brims with many more blooms to extend the spring flower show into the summer. And after this first flush of color has finished, pruning the plants back will encourage another burst of flowers later in the summer.

Spiderworts can be pretty dependable, too. Being North American natives, they are deer-resistant plants that can comfortably meld into almost any backyard garden scheme. Spiderworts tolerate shady areas but will produce fewer blooms in such sunless spots. A location in partial shade seems to suit these beauties the best, but sites in full sun will also work, as long as they are watered regularly during the summer. There are some variations in height, leaf shape and bloom color among the wild species of spiderworts, but plant breeders have created cultivars with even broader deviations for use in Carolina landscapes. Here are just a few examples to consider for your flower garden that can be found for sale at local garden centers or on the Web:

  • Purple Profusion One of the more popular spiderwort cultivars. It waves deep purple flowers over mounds of green leaves that top out at a compact 18 inches tall. ‘Valour’, with more pinkish flowers, has a similar restrained growth habit.
  • Blue and Gold This “sassy spider” is as advertised — thin, chartreuse-bright yellow leaves create a colorful cacophony with bluish-purple blooms. It is sometimes tagged with the alternate name of ‘Sweet Kate’.
  • Osprey Talk about a real eye-catcher--imagine ghostly white flower petals offset by center stamens dusted in deep lavender. This is the elegance of ‘Osprey’. ‘Bilberry Ice’ offers a similar look but with slightly more lavender shading.
  • Caerulea Plena A fancy name for an equally fancy spiderwort. Gardeners always look twice at this beauty of a floozy that flaunts double flowers in hues of pleasing violet.

Tip of the Month

If you are thinking about growing such popular plants as lettuce, snapdragons, ageratums, balloon flowers, petunias, coleus, gazanias (pictured), columbines, nicotiana and impatiens from seed outside in the garden this year, for better germination, let ol’ Sol help. These seeds are a bit odd because they need light to properly sprout. So, the best planting technique is to simply scatter the seeds over a prepared bed in a sunny location and then lightly press them into the soil surface, keeping the ground evenly moist while waiting for sprouts to appear. Resist tucking these sun-loving seeds any deeper into the dirt.

 

 

 

About the Author

L.A. Jackson is the former editor of Carolina Gardener Magazine. If you would like to ask him a question about your garden, contact L.A. at: lajackson1@gmail.com

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