How to Grow Cleome — Spider Flower

Spider flower Cleome

Cleome–commonly called spider flower–can add a tropical touch to flower beds and borders. This tall annual bears spiny stems of divided foliage and round clusters of small, spidery white, pink, or purple flowers with a light fragrance in summer.

Cleome is a shrubby annual that grows quickly to 4 feet tall (1.2m) or taller and just as wide. Grow Cleome in the background of other plants; it can be grown as a flowering summer hedge against walls or fences. It also grows well in containers.

Flowers can be cherry-red, mauve, pink, purple, rose, ruby, and white. There are several named cultivars.

Cleome readily self sows.

Cleome is a genus of 150 species of robust annuals and evergreen shrubs native to tropical and subtropical regions worldwide.

Spider flower, Cleome hassleriana, is a fast-growing annual
Spider flower, Cleome hassleriana, is a fast-growing annual

Get to Know Cleome

  • Plant type: Annual
  • Growing Zones and range: Zones 2-11
  • Hardiness: Tender
  • Height and width: 3 to 5 feet (1-1.5m) tall; 4 to 5 feet (1.2-1.5m) wide
  • Foliage: Lower leaves divided, upper leaves undivided; leaves and stems feel clammy to the touch; strong but not unpleasant odor
  • Flowers: Spider-like, 4-petaled flwoers with prominent stamens
  • Flower colors: Shades of pink, purple, white, and yellow
  • Bloom time: Midsummer to frost
  • Uses: Mass in large beds or as a temporary hedge, cottage, and meadow gardens
  • Botanical name: Cleome hassleriana
  • Common name: Spider flower
  • Family: Capparaceae
  • Origin: Plains and mountain valley in tropical and subtropical regions worldwide

Where to Plant Cleome

  • Plant Cleome in full sun in Zones 2-5; plant in full sun to shade in Zones 6-11.
  • Grow Cleome in humus-rich, moist soil.

Cleome Uses

  • Cleome is a colorful addition to the back of borders.
  • Cleome can make a quick-growing hedge; it blooms from summer until hard frost.
  • Plant shorter-growing annuals in front of Cleome.
  • Flower can be cut for indoor bouquets.
Spider flower, Cleome
Spider flower, Cleome

When to Plant Cleome

  • Plant seedlings in spring after all danger of frost has passed.

Planting and Spacing Cleome

  • Space spider flower at least 12 inches apart.

How to Water and Feed Cleome

  • Cleome wants ample water.
  • Fertilize Cleome lightly to prevent plants from growing too tall.
Cleome readily self sows

Cleome Care

  • Cleome has small thorns be careful when handling them.
  • Stake Cleome once they are 12 inches tall.
  • Cleome often reseed and may need control.

Cleome Pests and Diseases

  • Cleome are commonly disease and pest-free.

Cleome Propagation

  • Cleome is easily grown from seed.
  • Chill seeds overnight before planting in average soil.
  • Seeds germinate in 10 to 14 days at 64°F (18°C).

Cleome Varieties to Grow

  • Cleome hasslerana (C. spinosa): shrubby annual bears fluffy clusters of pink or white flowers with very long protruding stamens; can grow to 6 feet tall and 5 feet wide; thrives in heat and tolerates some drought; cultivar ‘Queen’ is a popular series and includes ‘Rose Queen’, ‘Ruby Queen’, and ‘Queen Mixed’, ‘Helen Campbell’ has white flowers.
  • C. lutea. Western wildflower wit yellow flowers and pale green leaves.

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