The Spider Flower
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Spider Flower (Cleome hasslerana) or Cleome is native to southeastern Brazil and Argentina making it a great plant for hot dry areas once it is established. This 3-4 foot erect plant has numerous, rose-purple, or white flowers with petals about 1” long and stamens 2-3” long. The spider-like effect of the flower is created by the abnormally long stamens. It blooms all summer long until the first hard frost and flowers continuously. A volunteer from seed popped up in the middle of a path in the Extension Master Gardener℠ Teaching Garden and everyone enjoyed it so they allowed it to stay.
Some cultivars to try include ‘Cherry Queen’, cherry-rose flowers, ‘Helen Campbell’ white flowers, ‘Pink Queen’, pink flowers, and ‘Rose Queen’, rose-pink flowers and more colorful than ‘Pink Queen’).
Cleome is a flower that my grandmother always had in her garden, so I grow it in my own garden because it brings back fond childhood memories for me. It should be grown in sun to partial shade. While it grows well in hot, dry conditions, it also responds well to abundant moisture. You can propagate cleome easily from seed. For best seed germination, utilize alternating temperatures of 85° days and 70° nights and cover seeds lightly. Cleome also readily self-seeds in the fall. Leave the seeds in your flower bed, and see what colors come up next spring — they may or may not be the same color as what you first planted! You may get more than you need from them self-seeding, but you can easily pull the ones you don’t want in the spring when they are small. I had volunteers from seed this year in my garden and they were various shades of pink to purple. Cleome is basically disease and insect free. Uses for cleome include backgrounds, cut flowers, even a temporary shrub. If you are not familiar with this annual and want to learn more about it, visit the NC Extension Plant Toolbox.