Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Perennial Plant Society's April 09 Monthly Meeting and Spiderwort

From In the Garden

Spiderwort, aka Tradescantia virginiana or species is a native perennial plant that works well in the shade garden. It has flowers that last only one day then fade away. I grow it here all through my gardens, and like it very much as it is an easy to grow reliable perennial. Once planted it returns each year and even self seeds around a bit. The one pictured above is a new addition to my gardens. It is 'Sweet Kate' spiderwort. A lovely plant with chartreuse foliage and a vivid blue flower that works well in any garden.

Spidewort was named for John Tradescant, a gardener for King Charles I of England. He and his son are credited with introducing many new plants to England, more info on that soon.

A really neat thing I found out about spiderwort is that if you break off a tip of a leaf, wait for a drop of sap to appear then touch the sap between two fingers and try to pull the sap apart. It resembles a spider's silky web. Perhaps that is where the common name spiderwort comes from. I found this information on this website. Do check it out for more neat information and try the sap trick.

Tonight's meeting of the Perennial Plant Society of Middle Tennessee features Cathy Green of Green and Hagstrom Inc. The title of her program is "Garden Ponds and Aquatic Plants". She will be speaking about the differences between water features; including koi and garden ponds and what type of plants work best in them. Spiderworts would well around any water feature in a natural setting. For more information on the program visit the PPS's website located here. All meetings are held at Cheekwood Botanical Gardens and begin at 7:00 pm. Hope to see you there....

in the garden....

I found some research online (several sources) that say spiderworts are ephemeral, then some sources that say the flowers are ephemeral (fading away when the sun comes out). I checked my Southern Living Garden book and it does not mention spiderworts being ephemeral, so I have backtracked on that fact. In my garden, the spiderworts do tend to fade away in late summer, but not completely. They return robustly the next spring.


  1. Hi Tina, had to come over to Congratulate you on Catherine's book! I bought this exact spiderwort last summer because I loved the foliage too! And I noticed the new growth last week is a pretty pinky/red shade..had to jog my memory as to what it was. Enjoyed my first visit here, thank you!
    Lynn (in NJ)

  2. Hi Tina, I too congratulate you on the water garden book win, now hearing a speaker about water gardens tonight, you will be set. I was surprised when you said these plants are ephemeral, they are the opposite of that here, growing huge in every nook and cranny. I have to yank them, cut them and curse them or there would be nothing else growing around ferngully. But they are not the pretty little Kate, but were growing here when we moved in. Still pretty blue and mauve flowers, just a little too rambunctious.

  3. I've been tempted by Sweet Kate, but have been concerned about them reverting, and being invasive. I didn't realize they were ephemerals. Although I haven't grown them, they seem to stick around in our area all season in clients' gardens, and bloom off and on all season long.

  4. Good Morning All,
    Tina, that is a beautiful blue color & against it's lime green stems & leaves makes it even more admirable. It's a lovely flower & sounds as though it would do good in my garden.

  5. oh yes, it is so lovely, I have the same at the garden, but it comes later...
    liebe Grüße von Kathrin

  6. Wish I was going with you tonight Tina--I'd love to hear the talk on ponds. Have fun! Maybe an upcoming post?? :)

  7. What a pretty little bloom, such a deep shade of blue! Have fun at the meeting. :)

  8. I just added tradescantia to my garden here when I planted it with anemones last week. I had it at a previous home and had to wait for the right spot in this garden to bring it back in.

    Have fun tonight!

  9. Hey, cool! I didn't know where its Latin name came from. I love spiderwort. Mine are only leaves at this point, maybe an inch tall out front and not above ground back out back (where it's shadier and where the ground was disturbed while creating a barrier around the bottom of my deck).

  10. Tina,
    I've always been afraid of spiderwort. It once took over a friend's entire garden. Is there type that is less invasive than others?

  11. I love your spiderwort. The colors are so vibrant. Your meeting tonight sounds like it will be very informative. Have fun.

  12. Congrats on the book win! I love Spiderwort and don't mind it's aggressive ways! I did notice that Kate's seedlings aren't always true...I haven't noticed her this season yet. I hope she hasn't reverted. I plan on seeing you tonight...will you be arriving early? I hope to have time to talk with you...save me a seat! Isn't that so fifth grade! But do save me a seat.


  13. A very bright, clear blue which is hard to find for a shady spot. And the pale foliage would stand out nicely.

  14. We have always considered Spiderwort a weed. I know that's not funny as I sit here and chuckle. It pops up all through the grass. We do have quite a bit of it on a hillside next to the house. Mine does fade in the hot sun, but it is in full sun.

  15. I love Spiderwort. I wish it would go a bit more crazy. Mine seems very well mannered - so I have to divide it myself. Don't know the names cause one was from Olympia Farmers Market and one from a friend but one is fuchsia colored and one is purple. Will they take a lot of shade? I may have a new place to put some if they do. Yay!
    Congrats on your win Tina. I told Catherine we've got to quit spoiling you as we both gave links to your site yesterday! LOL Too funny!

  16. I've seen this plant featured on several posts recently and have considered adding it to my shade garden. I really like this blue! But is it invasive, as some people say?
    You and Gail have a good time at the meeting tonight! Ooh, I would love to build a pond here.

  17. I remember the first time I saw spiderwort, fushia colored. pretty little flower. It does seem to take over but mostly in full sun it seems. Have fun tonight, are you doing a pond?

  18. I have some spiderwort, I think the new foliage looks nice too. I'm going to try the sap trick.
    I wish I could come to the meeting tonight. Especially since it's on my favorite garden topic. I can't wait to hear about it and what plants she talks about. Have fun!

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  20. Spiderwort is totally out of control in my yard, and I never planted it. The flowers are pretty, but it is so difficult to remove. It took us hours and a pointy shovel to get it out of a bare-ish area we were turning into a new bed recently. I had a blog post about it a month or two ago -- the roots are very extensive and some were 5+ feet long!
    It grows like that in the lawn in the hot sun, and in bare places in the shade!!
    Maybe it just thrives in Mississippi neglect, heat and humidity, and is more well-mannered elsewhere!

  21. Very interesting about the sap.

    Have fun tonight girls and try not to miss the meeting! I always wanted a pond but at this stage of life I have given up on that.

  22. Good morning all!

    Lynn, Welcome and thanks on the congrats. I was shocked-totally! Glad you enjoyed your visit-we're happy to have you join it too!

    Frances, I found a few sources that say ephemeral. I was a bit surprised too. Then I thought that you know spiderwort kind of disappears in my garden in late summer. It does, but reappears each year. I don't have a huge problem with them self seeding but love them and would just pull them if they got out of hand. Your garden is just so good for that what with the J. Ferns self seeding (still drooling since mine have NOT showed) can you blame the spiderworts for taking over?:)

    Linda, This is only my first year with Sweet Kate. I had her once before and she died out:( When I visited a native nursery in NC (WE DU Natives) the owner complained it goes everywhere, yet 'Sweet Kate' is supposed to be a hybrid and not even produce seeds. We shall see. I hope she spreads herself around and sticks around this time! The rest of my spiderworts have never been a pest, but then again I am a diligent weeder and may pull them prior to realizing what they are. Kind of sad huh?

    Lola, It is native-so yes I think it would do great in your garden. No work at all.

    Kathrin, It is lovely! It'll be up soon and blooming.

    Linda, Ha! I wish I could fit in all the posts I'd like to do and could talk about. It would take a lifetime. But the info will be there. I hope it is a great program!

    Racquel, It is sweet and I will do my best to have fun tonight-especially since driving to Nashville takes away prime gardening time.

    Cameron, It's a neat plant!

    Monica, Yes I like the history behind these old plants. I am reading an excellent book on gardening history right now. A post in early June on it since the author is coming to Nashville. My Tennessee friends my be interested in hearing her. Can't wait! The Tradescants were pioneers in gardening.

    J & R, I have no idea if there are less invasive ones. Here they do not take over. Maybe it is too dry in the summer? Not sure. Now if it did take over I would not like it so much. It is hard enough weeding as it is!

    Mildred, The PPS is a fun and informative society. All self funded and we get some good speakers. I am looking forward to it.

    Gail, I will save you a seat this evening if I get there before you, you if you arrive before me too? It will be nice to see you. Glad you are going! I've seen where Sweet Kate comes true but it's a hybrid. Funny thing those.

    Marnie, I hope it spreads itself around and lights up my deep shade area. Nice blue for sure.

    Darla, I am thinking it is happier further south than here. Jamie and Randy said the same thing and they are in Alabama. It does not spread itself around so much here-not sure if I am glad or not.

    Linda, Yes! Mine is well mannered too! You two should surely quit spoiling me! No links necessary when mentioning me anytime by anyone but I do appreciate the gesture. I have read that if you have so many links and they break, it can affect the blog. I've never had a problem but maybe it's better not to do so much. I occasionally check my lists on the side for broken links and delete them right away. Rarely do links go down, and I don't think mine will-but one can never know. I know it is truly a way to honor others and I do so appreciate it from you both! I am really enjoying talking with you and getting to know you!

    Rose, In some gardens it is a bit rambunctious but I think maybe still worth growing. In mine it is well mannered. I enjoy its robustness in spring and pretty flowers in many colors. I can't guarantee it won't take over but I think it is easy to pull. Yes! We'd love to have you!

    Dawn, I would think the spiderwort would grow well up there in the native woods. A good flower. It also grows well in the deep south. Cool! My only pond is my bathtub pond. I have to figure out what to do with it since the fish were dinner for some critter. I just like going to learn about many different things and enjoy the camaraderie. I have to say no to another pond-too much work!

    Catherine, Let me know how the sap trick works. Get the girls involved. I'll be doing it too. I should have done it before posting this.

    Ginger, Thank you so much for that info on the spiderwort! It is helpful and always, always appreciated here, but only really adds to the puzzle about the plant. It seems as though it does well in the deep south and even in Frances' garden here in Tennessee, and in Maine, but well behaved in my garden in Tennessee. Weird. I would not want to dig out long roots like that though! And welcome to our little blog here!

  23. Mom, Yes-I have to try it out but for now the cat has an appointment. Gotta run!

  24. I've always been tempted by spiderwort, especially with the bright golden leaves. I'll have to see if I can find this variety.
    The garden ponds program you're going to sounds like a good one, I wish I had one in my area. Or maybe I do, and just don't pay close enough attention, that's always a possibility :)

  25. It grows every where in my grandmothers garden as well...I always assumed it was a weed. A very nice weed at that. It was all throughout the grass, no where near a flower bed!!!

    Check out my post Where In the World is Bilbo?

  26. Megan, This society was started by some ardent gardeners I believe. It is self sustaining by having a plant sale each year. We have nationally known speakers who are very good. You may have one like ours-it is worth it to check it out.

    Dirt Princess, Yes, seems spiderwort is mighty weedy down south. Urgh! Well behaved here-so far (five years). I did check your post out last evening, I'll check again though. I don't mind doing it. My email is on my profile or ramseytina5@gmail.com

  27. Aaaah - you reminded me, thank you! I had a mauve tradescantia last year and loved it, but our dog did too only in a different way. I will look out for another. Lovely to hear of their being native to your area!

  28. I have Sweet Kate and it is one of my favorite perennials. I can see where someone may call it an ephemeral as it appears in spring
    and disappears when the worst of the heat gets here. However, it does make return in the fall. I wish this cultivar was a little more weedy in my yard, I would like more, but it is very well behaved.

  29. Emily, Sorry about your spiderwort-silly ole dog! Yes, it is native to America and I introduced to England a long time ago. Fascinating history with gardening.

    Les, Thank you so much! Glad to have a plant professional weigh in on the spiderworts. They behave very well here-all except the mauve ones that are in pots. Isn't that funny? They have filled large pots up; which are also planted with daylilies. All the foliage combines and mixes well. By the time the daylilies bloom, the spiderworts will be gone, faded away to almost nothing. I am beginning to wonder if my soil is not well drained enough since they seem to do better in the dry pot than in the garden. Hmmmm. Might be why they behave well for us both as many of the others who said these seed around a lot have better drained soil.

  30. I love spiderworts. Beautiful and such workhorses too. I think mine often bloom until frost, but they are in moist spots. Perhaps that makes a difference.

  31. A few years ago I decided my spiderwort was in the wrong place, so I pulled it up and gave it away. Now I'm wondering why I didn't just move it?!Oh well.

    Glad you like the raised bottle bed and of course you can link to it. I put a few bottles in the ground in the fall and watched them carefully for breakage over the winter (which had lots of freezing and thaws) Every bottle remained intact!

  32. Hi Sweet Bay and JGH, Sounds like you both have good experiences with spiderworts. I too like them.

    JGH, Added it in. I love it!

  33. I had some spiderworts for a while--I think they were houseplants gone wild. Very easy to take care of, and the flowers were a great bonus.

  34. Now that's an incredibly blue flower. Wow.

  35. Hi Tina, I have Sweet Kate and she is ever so much better behaved than the common Tradescantia. I have her with hostas and a Japanese fern and a gree Tradescantia. Thinking about taking the green one out.

  36. Congrats on the book win! I have always wanted a little water pond in the yard so if we ever make it back to TN, I may be borrowing your book! :-) Spiderwart is a cute plant and may add a nice feature to my shade garden...