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Plant Profile: Spider Flower (Cleome hassleriana)

A native of South America, spider flower will add a unique look to any border. The long thin stamens that protrude from the flowers look like the legs of spiders, giving the plant its common name. Theses stamens together with the abundant long slender pods add to the light fluffy look of the plants as they grow to 3-6’ tall. Tall varieties are a good choice for the back of the border, where it will attract butterflies and birds, against a fence, in large containers, and in shrub borders, filling in until the shrubs reach their mature size. Spider flower is easy to start from seed and reseeds itself with abandon. The leaves are attractive but have spines at their base and produce a slightly sticky and odiferous substance that some people find objectionable. These few negatives are minor compared to the high impact the beautiful flowers have in my garden and I grow it every year from seed to be sure I have a good supply to fit into the holes left by perennials as they pass their prime. And here’s a final tidbit: in its native habitat it is pollinated by bats!

Type: Annual (perennial in zones 8-10).

Bloom: Large racemes of white, pink, rose, or mixed colored flowers, are borne through out the summer until frost.

Size: 3-6’ H x 1-3’ W.

Light: Full sun to part sun.

Soil: Average, light, moist, well drained, but tolerates some dryness when established.

Care: Deadheading to encourage flowering; may be shaped by pinching terminal growth when about 1’ high to promote the development of branches.

Pests and Diseases: None of significance but susceptible to aphids, spider mites, whiteflies, Japanese beetles, mildew and rust.

Propagation: Seed but hybrids may not come true. Reseeding can become a problem but seedlings are easy to remove and are stopped by a covering of mulch.

Companion plants: Plant shorter annuals or perennials such as celosia, gomphrena, or gooseneck lysamachia, in front of spiderplant to hide its leggy lower stems.

Outstanding Selections: ‘White Queen’; ‘Violet Queen’.

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