Do you enjoy the use of ornamental grasses in landscaping your garden? Gardeners can add spiderwort to their flowerbeds as a border. This attractive plant has both ornamental and medicinal purposes, and it’s a wildflower found in many parts of the United States.
Although it’s officially a grassy plant, it also produces flowers in the summertime. The spiderwort has the resemblance of a bulb plant, due to the flower stalks growing taller than the foliage. However, the spiderwort blooms for far longer than typical bulbous plants.
When it reaches full maturity, the leaves of the spiderwort create a fountain-shape, resembling the structure of ornamental grass. It’s easy for gardeners to move the entire plant around the garden without worrying about stressing it or damaging the root system.
The spiderwort also does well in crowded flowerbeds, making it the ideal choice for country gardens that have extensively populated flowerbeds. The flowers of the spiderwort come in a variety of colors, ranging from a blush pink to a luscious lavender.
The common spiderwort plant is part of the Tradescantia genus. The spiderwort is one of an estimated 71-species in the family. There are dozens of plants that share a close relation to the spiderwort, including The Wandering Jew plant.
Depending on the environmental factors in your garden, and the species of spiderwort, the plants might grow anywhere from 6 to 36-inches in height. The flowers open in the early hours of the morning, and they only last a day. The blooms have various colors, depending on the species, with blue, pink, purple, or white flowers.
The spiderwort consists of three parts, making it a monocot. With the spiderwort, each of the flowers features three petals, and they tend to have fibrous, thick root systems as well.
If you break the stems of the spiderwort, you’ll notice a thick, white, sticky sap bleed from the stem. It’s important to note that the sap can cause skin irritation in some individuals. The stretch characteristics of the sap earned the spiderwort the moniker of the “slobber weed.”
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- Tradescantia ohiensis is a perennial that is commonly referred to as Ohio Spiderwort. In full sun, it will produce the most flowers, and in partial shade, the foliage will look its best and be dark green in color. The flowers are in clusters and are violet blue and have 3 petals and yellow tipped stamen, and they open in the morning and close in the afternoon.
- Ohio Spiderwort is an 18 - 36 inch tall perennial flowering plant growing in USDA zones 3 - 9.
- This perennial is native to the United States but mainly it is found east of the Rocky Mountains. It can be found in open woodlands, fields and meadows. Once it is established, it spreads by self-sowing. It is recommended to give Ohio Spiderwort seed a cold treatment to aid in the germination process.
- Either plant the seed directly outdoors in the late fall or moisten the seed in a paper towel, seal the seed and moist paper towel in a plastic bag and place it in the refrigerator for 90 days before planting outdoors in the spring after danger of frost has passed. Press the seed into the soil and cover with ¼ inch of soil.
- Sowing Rate: 1 ounce per 500 square feet. With a temperature of 65F, germination is usually within 21 days. Grow Spiderwort in full sun to partial shade and in most any type of soil. Space plants 8 - 18 inches apart. Deadhead spent blooms to encourage continued blooming. Approximately 8,000 seeds per ounce.
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The spiderwort isn’t a fussy plant, and it enjoys a variety of soil conditions. The spiderwort isn’t picky about being in the full sun or partial shade and tends to do well in either.
Spiderwort Container Plants
Although spiderworts do make fantastic container plants, you might notice that potted plants develop slightly different characteristics to those you plant in the ground. Some of the points you might see with potted spiderworts include the following.
- Fewer leaves
- Darker flowers
- Increases in blooming times
- Intolerant of heat
- The spiderwort prefers small pots to larger ones, as they don’t experience root binding.
Spiderwort in the Wild
Spiderwort grows readily in the wild all across America. If you pay attention, you’ll find it growing everywhere. Here are a few common locations where you can discover spiderwort plants growing as nature intended.
- On roadside verges
- Alongside ditches
- Next to streams
- On the outer perimeter of woods and forests
- Across certain prairies
Transplanting Tips for Your Spiderwort
All you need for a successful transplant is a bucket, shovel, and a patch of garden. Spiderwort is reasonably resistant to transplant shock, and you can expect the plant to recover quickly after the transplant.
When starting your transplant, dig around the entire plant, taking a wide berth. The roots of the plant fan out along the surface of the soil, so make sure you don’t chop any of them with your shovel. The roots don’t extend very deep into the ground, making it easy to dig up the plant.
If it’s going to be a few hours before you complete the transplant in your garden, add some water to the bottom of the bucket to keep the spiderwort alive until it lands in its new home.
Dig a hole in your flowerbed that’s big enough to accommodate the root system of the spiderwort. Place the spiderwort in the hole, and then backfill it with excavated soil until the roots are just under the surface of the soil.
There’s no need to add any additional compost or fertilizer to the soil during or after the transplant process. Spiderwort do well in all types of soil, so you can expect it to recover quickly from the stress of the transplant.
To achieve a better look, transplant spiderwort that is already in full bloom or those that have buds that are ready to flower. The plant will continue to blossom, even after the transplant. However, it’s important to note that your results may vary, depending on the time of the year you do the transplant, and your location in the United States.
Gardeners must ensure that they thoroughly water the spiderwort after transplanting. Let the soil dry out and then water the spiderwort as per your regular garden watering schedule. Transplants thrive if the gardener does the task in late September or early October.
Gardeners can create a fuller display in their yard by clumping several spiderwort plants together. Spiderwort has no issue with overcrowding in the flowerbed, and they don’t act invasively, strangling the life out of other plants nearby.
Pros & Cons of Growing Spiderwort in Your Garden
Spiderwort is an attractive plant for the garden. However, there are pros and cons involved with planting this perennial. Check out this list of advantages and disadvantages to planting spiderwort in your garden.
Advantages of Planting Spiderwort
- Eye-pleasing flowers
- It’s a bushy shrub that fills up bare areas in the garden or flowerbed
- The height of the plant makes it an excellent choice for layering
- Easy maintenance and care
- Grows well in any soil type
- Easy to transplant
Drawbacks of Planting Spiderwort
- Somewhat invasive
- Takes on the look of grass if it’s not flowering
- When the blooms start to wilt, the plant can look unattractive
- Might be a tall plant for some gardens
- Slugs cause problems
- Fragile flower stems that might fall over during heavy rains or high wind conditions
Prolonging the Blooming Time of Your Spiderwort
Those gardeners wishing to get an extra bloom out of their spiderworts can deadhead the plants after the blooms die off. Deadheading causes the plant to start producing buds and flowers again, and you should get another flowering round before the end of the growing season.
Caring for Your Spiderwort
Spiderwort enjoys moist soil, especially in containers.
Cut your plants back after the flowering season ends, allowing for overwintering of the plant. Cutting them back also prevents the seeding of the plant as well.
Gardeners can cut back the stems to around 8 to 12-inches, and divide the plants every three years.
Growing Spiderwort Indoors
Gardeners can grow spiderwort indoors, provided that they present the plant with favorable growing conditions.
Provide the spiderwort with a loam-based potting soil, or soilless mix, and keep the pot in a room in the house that has bright, filtered light. Gardeners must also pinch off the tips of the plant to encourage growth.
Allow the spiderwort to spend the sunny days of the year outside, and water moderately during the growing season.
Pests and Diseases Affecting Spiderwort
Spiderwort is relatively resistant to disease. However, there are a few pests that gardeners need to look out for during the growing season. The most significant threat to your spiderwort comes from snails and slugs.
Young plants are most at risk from slug infestations because the slugs enjoy the moist soil conditions around the plant. If you find any snails or slugs around your plants, throw them out of the garden before they cause any more damage to your spiderwort.
Spiderwort is a deer-resistant plant, and rabbits don’t enjoy eating it either.
Suggested Spiderwort Varieties
- Tradescantia “the Amethyst Kiss” – Featuring purple-blue blooms that look spectacular in the sunlight
- Tradescantia “the Concord Grape” – Purple-pink flowers with a blue tint in the leaves
- Tradescantia “the Red Grape” – Rose-colored blooms with a touch of silver in the foliage
- Tradescantia “the Sweet Kate” – Yellow leaves with blue flowers
Spiderwort in Folk Medicine
It might surprise you to learn that the leaves, stems, and flowers of the spiderwort plant are edible. You can eat the young green leaves of the plant, or boil down the older leaves to make them suitable to eat.
Native Americans rely on the spiderwort plant as a natural remedy for the treatment of a variety of different ailments. The Seminole Tribe regard the spiderwort as a natural male virility treatment. Native Americans would also feed spiderwort to cattle to increase virility ion the herd.
Spiderwort also provides an excellent natural remedy for the following ailments.
- A poultice for treating spider bites
- Spiderwort has laxative qualities
- Treatment for cancer and stomach ulcers
- Fast-acting relief from all types of insect bites
- Relief from discomfort during menstruation
- Effective natural treatment for kidney issues
- A potent natural remedy for a sore stomach