Are Spiderworts Worth It?
Ohio Spiderwort (Tradescantia ohiensis) is another blue bloom of June. The flowers are very attractive (I love all blue flowers), at least while they’re open.
The thing is, they only stay open in the cool of the morning. It’s like they’re only a part-time flower. Around the time most of us take a morning coffee break, it’s quittin’ time for the Spiderworts.
There are other flowers that bloom only in the morning. Morning Glories (Ipomoea tricolor), for example. But Morning Glory flowers are showy and gorgeous, while Spiderwort flowers are understated even if attractive. Also, I’ve found that Morning Glories often bloom into the early afternoon, at least later in the season.
There are also flowers that bloom only in the evening, of course. This seems a bit more acceptable from the point of view of the gardener. In the mornings we are rushing off to work, but in summer evenings we are more likely to have time to peruse the garden.
Ohio Spiderworts are tall and rather leggy, but I think all Spiderworts look a bit unkempt, with those leaves sticking out at awkward angles from just below the terminal flower buds. Depending on my mood, I can find this charming or not.
Also, Spiderwort is an unfortunate common name, though it’s actually not as bad as it sounds. “Wort” is just a Middle English word for plant, and has nothing to do with warts. (Could a spider have tiny warts?) Some say the name comes from the leaves’ resemblance to spider legs, others that it comes from the silky threads made by the dried sap.
So what do you think? Are Spiderworts worth having in the garden?
I like them. Nice color. They last a long time. They spread aggresively but are easy to take out, so they pop up in useful places. And there’s this — people who live near a nuclear power plant would do well to have some in their yard. Wikipedia: “when exposed to sources of ionizing radiation such as gamma rays, the cells mutate and change color to pink; they are one of the few tissues known to serve as an effective bioassay for ambient radiation levels.”
Well, I didn’t know that about radiation and Spiderworts. But what if their flowers are already pink?
I used to have one but got rid of it when I saw how much untidy foliage it had compared to the few flowers. Your plant has far more flowers on it than mine ever had!
That’s interesting, I wonder why.
Yes!! Here in central Texas they’re one of the first bloomers, and have a long bloom period with masses of pollinator-attracting blooms. Your lovely photos confirm the garden-worthiness of these natives.
Which species do you grow in Texas? I have the feeling T. ohiensis and T. virginiana would wither in your summer heat.
Can I grow them in the UK?
You can certainly grow the very similar (identical?) Tradescantia virginiana in the UK
As Roger says, they do grow in the UK. The difference between T. virginiana and T. ohiensis is that ohiensis is taller and is clump forming; T. virginiana spreads by runners.
I’m afraid I pulled mine out! A neighbour gave me them, so I felt a bit guilty, but as you say, they are very untidy and the flowers are gone by the time I get time in the garden… So, in my opinion, a waste of time!
The blue is a lovely shade but to be worthy of being a garden plant it needs good foliage or form too so perhaps you’re right and it doesn’t earn its place.
I think they are worthy. They grow in troublesome spots, wet or dry. They are easy to control. If they spread you can chunk them out or cut them back. The bees love em. Yes, I think worthy. Maybe when you retire you will appreciate them. 🙂
This comment and others convinced me to add them to my wildflower meadow, which still has a few bare spots where seeds didn’t take. Anything the bees like, I like. I also love that they will turn pink in the presence of radiation! How interesting is that?
Tradescantia virginiana looks good in my wild flower meadow – shame its not native in the UK
Very, especially if you live near a nuclear reactor.
So maybe I should hold on to them until retirement and then decide.
I am not a big fan.
Love that blue! I don’t have any in my garden, but the comments suggest the plant is a mixed bag. Keep us posted about whether you decide to keep spiderwort in your garden.
They are a beautiful blue and though I had them in prior gardens, I did not put them in this garden for all the reasons you mention.
I like spiderworts–the blue is gorgeous and as others have said, they pop up in places where they are welcome.
Amazing what you learn here: the first comment (Linc) and spiderworts and nuclear power plants!
I didn’t know that either.
In my 15 by 75 patch of prairie they are exceptionally nice — I wouldn’t be without them. Grassy companions mollify their sprawly habit. But in a small garden??? There are probably better choices. Nuclear power plant info is very reassuring.
Maybe we should we put signs out near Spiderworts that say: “In the event these flowers turn pink, please move away from the nearest nuclear power plant.”
I like them. I don’t know what variety I have, but I have one that’s native (volunteer) in the garden. It is lovely when it’s blooming. ‘Course I just realized I’m not a tidy gardener. (As is the gardener so is the garden!)
I’m not really a tidy gardener, either, but I don’t like to be reminded of it.
I deem them worthy. I was delighted to see them survive their first planting last summer and provide their lovely blue flowers when almost everything else seemed to be lost in a sea of green. My backyard however is a small but sprawling wildlife habitat with a mind of its own.
I have found them to be terribly invasive here, and I know several gardeners who only curse (loudly) at their unwanted presence in their gardens.
Well they can be aggressive (invasive is reserving for non-natives), they have a place in my yard and garden. I’m moving them around into areas where I am making a more naturallzed look. Mixing with sedges, golden alexanders, liatris, heath aster, various violets and anemone, along with some grasses. All of these plants are short enough to meet boulevard requirements and tolerate part sun / part shade.
Meant to say “While” they are agressive. Oops.
I’m glad it is working for you.
Which species do you use? One of the shorter ones?
I think T. virginiana is the more invasive species, T. ohiensis just forms big clumps.
I adore mine as they have seeded all over so maybe I don’t notice them fading in the heat…..I only see their abundant cheery faces. And I am a morning person who does not venture into the garden much when it is hot in the afternoon so they are perfect for me.
Welcome back, Donna! As to the Spiderworts, maybe I need to become more of a morning person.
The common name once was Cow Slobber (break a stem to find out why), so Spiderwort is just fine with me. I am retired and love to watch the pollinators on it when drinking my coffee. After it blooms I cut back the untidy foliage and it send up new foliage for the rest of the summer.
Cow Slobber – what a great common name! Yes, I need to remember to cut it back next month.
I never noticed the flowers were only open in the morning! I have never planted a spider wort but we have many…they are weeds here in Houston. Weeds I can live with in my messy cottage garden……and they have blue flowers, sigh!
Blue flowers are precious, even on weeds.
Ours (Tradescantia virginiana) stay open in the afternoon but not every day, and they do sometimes close on cloudy days. They seem to have a mind of their own when it comes to opening or not.
They grow “wild” here and I like them.
I am not a big fan! The flowers are lovely, yes, but I don’t want them in my garden!
I think we all have to pick and choose our plants. I’ve decided that some old daylilies that are less than spectacular will be removed this year.
If a plant isn’t making you happy, best to try something else.
I made it a point to drink my morning tea in the garden specifically so I could get in some quality time with our blooming spiderwort. I have decided, based on no research at all, that the name refers to how the middle of the flower looks like a spider’s multiple eyes.
I remember you telling me about going out early to drink tea and enjoy the flowers, that was actually the inspiration for this post.
I’ve been very careful to keep them out but ‘Sweet Kate’ won me over and so far has been very well behaved…. we’ll see.
I’ve heard ‘Sweet Kate’ is a very good cultivar.
What Lisa said, totally. I don’t have any here in my home garden because I think they prefer a little more sun, but they grow wild up at the cottage in Marquette County. I do like them. I could see adding them to a spot where you want them to fill in and choke out non-native invasives. The flowers are actually quite beautiful. They’re still open in the mid- to late morning on the days when I volunteer at the Arboretum. Definitely worthy.
They certainly get my vote, I think they are just charming.xxx
I have some that are blooming right now. 🙂
I love the electric blue color, and once the plant becomes heat stressed, i cut it back so it sends up new foliage. I have the clumping variety, so doesnt seem aggressive.
Mine is a clumper also. It’s not very aggressive, although the clumps can grow very large if i don’t intervene.
I have tried several times to become fonder of Tradescantia than I am (which is, on a scale of 1 to 10, about a 4.5 when in flower.) The closest I came was with ‘Bilberry Ice’ which is white, brushed lilac-pink; that one reached a 6 in flower. ‘Pink Chablis’ was pink with a white wavy edge, and probably the only one I seriously didn’t mind giving permanent garden room to. But still boring out of flower, LOL
I love these flowers (I mostly have varieties of T. virginiana), which is good because they love to grow in my sandy soil. In my cool climate, they often stay open for most or all of the day and they bloom almost all summer long.
Well, that is an advantage for your mild summers.
I think they are very worthy! I think they have lots of character!!
Good to know they have a fan!
I love the blue flowers I also have the pink flowers on my roadside is white ones also which I am going to get a start of to go with my other ones just cut them back and they will bloom again
Mine don’t seem to bloom again, even when I cut them back.