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Plant Profile: Spiderwort (Tradescantia x andersoniana aka T. virginiana)

tradescantia-31Native to North, South, and Central America, this herbaceous perennial is a member of the dayflower family, Commelinaceae, a family of 731 species.  The plants grow in clumps up to 3′ tall and have tubular branched stems and narrow, arching, bright green leaves  that are up to 1′ long and are angularly arranged so that they resemble a squatting spider.  Unfortunately, the leaves decline by mid summer and are unsightly.   From spring into summer terminal umbels of blue or purplish flowers appear.  Each flower  is 2″ across and has three petals and showy yellow stamens.  The flowers are open only in the morning of one day and then the petals wilt and turn to jelly but so many buds are produced that the plant seems to be constantly in bloom for weeks.  Virginia spiderwort is a good choice for  shade, native plant, and wildlife gardens and does well in borders and naturalized areas.  Plants may hybridize with other species and self seed so many different combinations of traits may appear including different flower color.  The genus name, Tradescantia, honors John Tradescant (1608-1662) who served as gardener to Charles 1 of England.  The specific epithet, virginiana, is the Latinized name for Virginia, a place where the plant is native.

Type: Herbaceous perennial.

Bloom: Blue, lilac, purple, pink, white flowers in late spring-early summer for about 8 weeks total.

Size: 24” W-36” H with ever enlarging clumps.

Light: Full sun to partial shade; in most climates will bloom better and be less lanky in sun.

Soil: Average well drained but tolerates most soils .

Fertilizer: Average soil provides all that is needed.

Hardiness: Zones 4-9.

Care: Cut back when foliage becomes unattractive to encourage another bloom.

Pests and Diseases: None of importance but snails can cause leaf damage.

Propagation: Division in spring or autumn; self sows.

Companion plants: Grasses, daylilies, liriope, Siberian iris and hosta.

Outstanding Selections: ‘Zwanenburg Blue’(deep violet blue), ‘Red Cloud’ (rosey red), ‘Snowcap” (pure white), ‘J. C. Weguelin’ (light blue), ‘Isis’ (oxford blue), ‘Purple Dome’ (deep purple).

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