Monday, April 2, 2012

The Subtle Beauty of Spiderwort

It pops up like a weed every Spring, and many people treat it like one, trampling it, ripping it out or mowing it down. Spiderwort (Tradescantia ohiensis) deserves better.

Spiderwort is not too picky about its home. It grows everywhere from the rich, mucky edges of ponds to pure sand. It takes blazing sun to part shade, and it doesn't ask for much water. It spreads by rhizomes, so a single plant will, in fairly short order, give you an entire bed.

Most importantly, they produce lovely little blue flowers. Who doesn't love blue in the garden, as a contrast to all that pink and red and yellow? A bonus? Bees, which apparently have a great affinity for blue, like it too!

Also called Dayflower because its blossoms open in the morning and close by midday, Spiderwort is a true Florida native found along roadsides, ponds, the understory of shrubs and trees, and anywhere it can get a toehold in a residential landscape, including cracks in sidewalks and driveways! I admit that I too viewed it as an unsightly weed until a few years ago, when a friend gave me a huge bag of them harvested from her garden.

Spiderwort blooms from spring to early summer. If you cut it back close to the ground in mid-summer, it will rejuvenate and bloom again in the fall. It makes a nice groundcover or addition to a wildflower bed. It only grows to 1-2 feet in height and will be happy in whatever space you give it.

I have grown to love it for its easygoing nature, extreme drought tolerance and its subtle beauty. Not big, not flashy, just steady, reliable and no trouble at all.  

That's my kind of plant.


  1. My mother hated this "native" when I was a kid but, like you, I have grown to love it. A large patch of it covered with blue flowers is striking...and who couldn't love a plant that asks for so little.

  2. I agree, Susan! I saw a patch of spiderwort in my neighbor's back yard yesterday and I was so tempted to ask her if I could dig them up and rescue them before they get mowed down!

  3. These have a very dry look to them (I guess since it's so closely related to weeds) which is why I think most people just mow them away. I can see how some might see them as pretty, but to me they are just too...dry and bland looking! Good article none the less Nanette

  4. Yes, I know many people agree with you, Best Push Mowers. But the wonderful thing about gardening in Florida is having so many choices about the plants we can use. We all have different tastes (I must be the only Floridian who really doesn't like palms all that much!) and our climate ensures that we can all find plants we like. No need to include a plant we don't like with so many alternatives.

  5. I've learned to like spiderwort in my garden too, Nanette. I used to try to dig it up in the past. I'm learning to not just accept the native and natural look to my garden but to encourage it. Mine pop up where they want not especially where I would like them, but I just let them be. I'm glad to learn about cutting them back mid-summer :)

  6. They do have a mind of their own, NanaK! I have seen them growing in between paver blocks and through sidewalk cracks. They offer us a great lesson in persistence!

  7. I love this plant also. It grows wild in our backyard. I have heard they come in white and purple but I don't know if that is a hybrid or not.

  8. Hi crybrug, spiderwort has a way of deciding where it wants to grow and then it just keeps popping up there over and over! I am not familiar with a white variety, but perhaps other gardeners are and could offer info.

  9. I planted this all over my yard, when do the flowers come? It's edible and also a nuclear bellweather. I like it because it's no work and looks like a decorative grass.

    1. Spiderwort blooms from Spring through summer, but each bloom only lasts a day (that's why it's also called "dayflower."). If you cut the plants back when they get tall and floppy, they'll come right back better than ever. Good luck with your spiderwort!