Spiderwort: A Guide to This Hardy Perennial Plant

Introduction to Spiderwort

Spiderwort, known scientifically as Tradescantia, is a genus of 75 species of herbaceous perennial plants that grace gardens with their charming blooms and attractive foliage. This plant, a member of the Commelinaceae family, is native to the Americas, ranging from Canada to Argentina. Gardeners appreciate Spiderwort for its easy care, hardiness, and adaptability, making it an excellent addition to various garden settings. It’s a versatile plant that can prosper in borders, woodland gardens, and even in containers.

Identifying Spiderwort

Spiderworts are distinguished by their tri-petal flowers which come in an array of colors, such as blue, purple, pink, or occasionally white. Each blossom lasts for just a day, but the plants continue to produce flowers for an extended period, often from late spring into midsummer. The foliage can be just as attractive as the flowers, with leaves that can be glossy green, variegated, or even tinged with purple. Spiderworts typically grow to be between 1 to 2 feet in height and can spread through rhizomes or self-seeding if conditions are right.

Popular Spiderwort Varieties

Among the many species, there are a few standout varieties that are especially popular in gardens, such as Tradescantia x andersoniana, which is a hybrid variety that offers larger flowers and a robust growth habit. ‘Sweet Kate’ is a well-known cultivar with stunning gold foliage and deep blue flowers. Another is ‘Concord Grape’, which boasts purple flowers and is prized for its rich coloration.

Care and Maintenance

Spiderwort is renowned for its hardiness and can thrive under a wide range of conditions. This section will guide you through the essentials of spiderwort care to ensure your plants flourish.

Planting and Soil Conditions

For optimal growth, plant Spiderworts in well-drained soil rich in organic matter. While they prefer moist soil, they are surprisingly tolerant of different soil types, including clay. However, good drainage is crucial to prevent root rot. These plants can grow in either full sun or partial shade, though in hotter climates, they benefit from some afternoon shade to protect them from scorching. When planting, set the plants at the same depth they were in the pot, spacing them about 12 to 18 inches apart to allow for growth and circulation.

Watering and Feeding

Spiderwort does well with consistent moisture, especially during the growing season. Water the plants regularly, but avoid overwatering, as this can lead to problems with root rot. A layer of organic mulch can help conserve moisture and keep weeds at bay. As for feeding, an application of a balanced, slow-release fertilizer in early spring can promote healthy growth and abundant blooms.

Pruning and Managing Growth

After the initial wave of flowering, Spiderwort plants may start to look a bit tattered. Cutting the plants back after flowering can encourage a second bloom and help maintain a neat appearance. Deadheading individual spent flowers can also prolong blooming. If plants spread too much or become leggy, divide them in early spring or fall to rejuvenate and control their spread.

Pest and Disease Management

Spiderwort is generally pest and disease-resistant. However, aphids and spider mites can occasionally be a problem, particularly in dry conditions. Use a strong spray of water or insecticidal soaps to control these pests. Diseases such as rust or leaf spot can affect the leaves, especially in humid weather. Good air circulation, proper spacing, and avoiding overhead watering can reduce the risk of these issues.

Environmental Benefits and Uses

Beyond its ornamental value, Spiderworts possess several environmental benefits. These plants are excellent at attracting pollinators, including bees and butterflies, which are vital for a healthy garden ecosystem. The flowers also have forage value for wildlife.

In addition to their ecological roles, Spiderworts have been used in folk medicine and are edible in small quantities, with the flowers making a colorful addition to salads. However, always be cautious and consult resources before consuming any plant parts.


Spiderwort is an excellent choice for gardeners seeking a hardy, low-maintenance plant that offers extended blooms and a natural charm. Its adaptability to various soil types and lighting conditions, coupled with minimal care requirements and environmental benefits, make it a valuable addition to any perennial garden. By following the basic care instructions provided, including the right planting conditions, moisture management, and maintenance practices, you can enjoy the beauty and benefits of Spiderwort in your landscape for years to come.

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