Bigger isn’t always better in gardening. Two new spider flowers prove the point. Their compact growth and continuous color make them two of the most impressive annuals Grumpy has admired this year.
Native to South America, spider flower (Cleome hasslerana) has been a Southern favorite for ages. It gets its name from long stamens resembling spider legs that protrude from its four-petaled flowers. Borne atop the stems, the new flowers stay tightly bound up until evening, when they pop open before your eyes. Often the new flowers are lavender or pink and fade to white the next day — a beautiful bicolor display. Others remain solid white, rose, or purple.
Adding to the web of intrigue are the long, slender green seed pods that form when old flowers fade. They’re stuffed with seeds and if you let them stay, you’ll have more seedlings next spring than New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has doughnuts. Abundant seeds make spider flower easy to pass along, as long as someone will take them.
Smaller Means Better
Besides seeding themselves everywhere, the old spider flowers had another problem. They grew 4 to 5 feet high and over the summer basically bloomed themselves to death. By August, you’d have little more than a gangly stalk festooned with seed pods with a couple of measly, little blooms on top. ‘Senorita Rosalita’ put a stop to that.
‘Senorita Rosalita’ is a dwarf hybrid that grows only 2 to 3 feet tall and sports deep pink, non-fading blooms. It’s seedless, so it blooms nonstop all summer until frost. And unlike the old-fashioned spider flowers, this one lacks thorns and sticky foliage. Hummingbirds and butterflies swarm to the blooms.
But what if you’d like a little cooler color with the same compact growth and long season of bloom? Slap me five — you just got it. Meet ‘Senorita Blanca.’
‘Senorita Blanca’ is nearly white. I’d call it blush. I photographed all these last week at the Lexington, Kentucky home of renowned garden designer, Jon Carloftis. Jon prefers a soft color palette in his garden. These two new spider flowers fill the bill.
Great in Containers Too
As good as ‘Senorita Rosalita’ and ‘Senorita Blanca’ look growing in the ground, they look even better in containers. Their bushy growth and continuous bloom make them naturals. But don’t take my word for it. Have a look.
How to Grow
Spider flower is easy. All it wants is lots of sun and well-drained soil. Few pests bother it. It takes heat and drought. Because these two newbie hybrids are seedless, you’ll have to start them from transplants from the garden center. For the old kinds, just save the seeds over winter and sow them about a half-inch deep where you want them to grow next spring.