Growing the Spider Flower, Cleome

Growing the Spider Flower, Cleome
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Growing the Spider Flower or CleomeStories abound of gardeners who saved their first cleome seeds from plants of a friend or relative and were amazed that these tiny blacks seeds grew tall, graceful and unique plants so easily! Cleome is known as the spider flower, and blooms in white or shades of pink or purple. It can be direct seeded and will germinate in one to two weeks if the temperatures are around 70 degrees.

Simply press the seed into the soil where you want it to grow (it needs light to germinate) and space the plants about 12 inches apart. As they grow, pinch them out to help produce sturdy stems and a slightly shorter flower. Cleome reseeds, but remember that if you plant hybrid seed it won't be true to that color. Why not stick with the tall, old fashioned variety that has been grown in gardens since the 1800s?

Cleome will grow in most soils in full sun, and they are drought tolerant, but will do better if watered during dry spells. They aren't always a favorite of some gardeners because they do reseed if they are left on their own and could become a pest.

However, you can remedy this by deadheading the flowers and leaving just a few flowers on near the end of the summer and collecting the seeds and under most growing conditions. If you have a section of your landscaping devoted to a casual look, try planting cleome with other flowers that also attract butterflies such as Gay feather (Liatria), snapdragons, cosmos, and try mixing in some dill or bronze fennel.

I've seen cleome described as graceful, elegant and delicate. The beauty of there being SO many flowers to grow is that there is something for everyone! In many ways the blooms remind me of softer colored large honeysuckle blooms. Granted, they don't come close in fragrance, but they are pretty none the less!

Try partnering them with Bachelor Buttons or geraniums, with the cleomes in the back border. Cleomes should surely be part of every cottage garden. I think they add an almost whimsical look with their spidery blooms, especially in large numbers. By themselves, one or two plants at a time just don't do them justice, and you can't really appreciate them unless you give them a stage to show off, even if it is behind shorter dancing flowers to hide their bare feet.



About The Author

Brenda Hyde is a freelance writer living on ten acres in rural Michigan with her husband and three kids. She is a mom, grandma, gardener, cook and writer. She blogs on all of these topics at


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