18 May 2010

Of Spiders and Worts

It seems that there are suddenly a lot of garden blog posts about spiderworts these days. My addition to this collection was actually planned last week when photographs were taken. My Tradescantia virginiana were planted after last year's spring plant swap. A few blossoms were seen in the spring, and a few in the fall. They sat idle for much of the summer, although their vertical foliage was appealing.

Fast forward to this spring, when after the plants did some growin' over the winter, they emerged happy. About two dozen stems 18-inches high (50 cm) with lots of blossoms appeared. But what about the spiders, and what about the worts?

First, I am happy to report that spiderworts are native to this area, and mine appear to be close to the true native (many hybridized varieties exist). They are related to daylilies, iris, and grasses. The flowers appear from clusters of dozens of buds, opening for a day as daylilies do. They complete their show around mid-day until new ones emerge the following morning.

If a leaf tip is broken, the resulting silk thread is supposed to resemble a spider web. One midwest United States nickname for the plant is a 'cow-slobber.' When viewed from above, the plant is supposed to resemble a spider with tip leaves as long legs, and the three-petal flower the insect's body. The botanical name comes from John Tradescent, a gardener for King Charles I. He brought back seeds to England from Virginia in the 1600's, and their popularity increased. And 'wort' is the Saxon word for 'plant'.

For The Record:
  • Well drained soil, somewhat clay
  • Full sun
  • No fertilizer
  • No pests or disease

Garden Calendar:
  • Blooming: spiderworts, coreopsis, rose, tall phlox


NellJean said...
Spiderworts tend to become a thug in my garden. When they get ratty looking I cut them back to the ground to start over.

Nice blog; I found you because I was checking on Statcounter where the blogger or bot from India who downloads every pic I post on Dotty Plants had been before me, and it was your blog. The previous site is a different one every day. I can only get an ISP number and have not been able to find the site where it originates. My plant pics are not that good; it must be their personality.
Swimray said...
Thanks for stopping by.
Yeeow! Is that what I have to look forward to with spiderworts? Everywhere I have seen them growing, they are in the shade. My plants are in full sun - so maybe that will keep them behaved.
methodan said...
Good luck with the spiderwort in the sun, but beware: cut it back soon, before the seed ripens. The gooey summer trimmings that look so mulchable are full of seed. Vigorous seed that comes up everywhere you mulch.
jennahsgarden said...
I have a sweet kate and another one that I love. Mine get morning-midday sun and they do get gigantic and flop over. I just cut mine back almost to the ground yesterday.

Beware when you cut them, though! They have a sticky sap stuff inside that can make you itch like crazy if it gets on your skin. So wear gloves and be careful!

I just put mine in the composter and didn't know about the seed thing...hopefully I don't have a problem with that next year.
Swimray said...
Methodan and Jennah:
Thanks for sharing your advice and experience, as I am not very knowledgeable about this plant. I will certainly heed your warnings. These have done so well to date that I have been lulled into a false sense of security and complacency.