I Hate Spiderwort

Jul 21, 2023 | Gardens

As you can see from previous posts, most of the time I’m loving a plant. Not so much when it comes to spiderwort…

Name:   Perennial Tradescantia aka spiderwort   Including T. x andersoniana, T. occidentalis, and T. ohiensis

Type of Plant:  Perennial plants that are vigorous and native to the US. Narrow, strap-like leaves, and flowers in early summer for about 6 weeks. Most flowers are purple, blue or magenta in color. Some andersoniana varieties have yellow foliage.

Why I Hate This Plant:  I dislike the plant because it flops and is ugly immediately after flowering. Sometimes the blooms turn black after they close, so that even as new blooms open, the flowerhead looks bad. In order to make your garden look good from mid-summer on, you have to cut them to the ground, and then try to disguise the area by planting annuals around them.

A Word to the Wise:  Some varieties are also overly vigorous and hard to contain. Because it spreads and self-seeds, this is a plant that frequently shows up in plant sales as a “pass along plant.”  I’d call it a pass-along-problem.

This is how the spiderwort looks in mid-July, after it finishes blooming.

Frankly, the narrow leaf plantain weed (Plantago lanceolata) in this bed (bottom of the photo) is more attractive than the spiderwort.

This is a variety of spiderwort called Sweet Kate. Unfortunately the browning foliage and flowers and tendency toward leaf spot in humid climates makes this plant unattractive even when it’s in flower. 

If you must plant spiderwort, surround it with later-blooming, slightly larger plants that will hide it from early July on. Some of the shorter hardy Hibiscus, taller daylilies, chocolate Eupatorium or even groups of annual dahlias and zinnas would be good choices. 

Often when I post an “I Hate This Plant” I get comments from people who like the plant and try to change my mind. It’s fine if you like it….but having grown several varieties of spiderwort over the years, I stand firm in my opinion of this plant.



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