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Growing Native Spiderworts: Purple Flowers for Your Garden

So Many Ways to Add to Your Space.

soft green flower buds
Spiderwort Buds

Native spiderworts, perennial flowers, grow in sun, part shade and full shade and in a range of soils - super easy! They grow about three to four feet tall with very strappy foliage. There are cultivars of the straight species that grow a bit shorter with more upright foliage.

Purple to lavender flowers unfurl and close all day long. Blooms open in the morning, last only a day, sometimes just a part of the day, and fade away, to be followed by more blooms the next day. There are three common native species: Virginia spiderwort (Tradescantia virginiana), hairy stemmed spiderwort (Tradescantia hirsuiticaulus) and reflexed spiderwort (Tradescantia ohioenis).

Spiderworts typically bloom in mid to late May and early June in the central part of the Chesapeake watershed. Many gardeners cut back spiderwort after the first bloom to encourage a second bloom in late summer. Sometimes, or even often, spiderwort will bloom again later in summer without that cut back. Many gardeners cut spiderwort back just to manage the foliage which can be pretty floppy after the initial bloom. If you plant spiderwort as a filler, you may find there is no need for cutting back at all. There are many ways to add these flowers to your garden. Here are a few observed around our watershed!

Pockets in a Border

At Mt. Cuba Center, spiderwort is planted in groups, creating purple punctuation points in an English style border. The purple flowers contrast the many greens of the late May and early June garden, bridging the gap between spring and summer flushes of blooms.

Specimen Plant

purple flowers

The vibrant colors of this spiderwort really pop against the taupe colored wall. This single specimen in Ellie Altman's garden shows one spiderwort in just the right place can be all it takes.

En Masse

purple flowers with yellow foliage
Spiderwort 'Sweet Kate'

If you need to brighten a shady spot, a very large group of spiderworts will do it for you! This cultivar also has a more chartreuse leaf color adding even more color intensity. The cultivar spiderwort "Sweet Kate' (Tradescantia (Andersonia group) 'Sweet Kate') has a yellower leaf color and also is more compact with less flop.


Tucking spiderwort into bare spots is my favorite way to grow it. It adds color and any floppy foliage just blends in or is supported by surrounding plants. If you allow a plant or two to develop into large clumps, you will find you have spiderwort you can divide to fill in blanks around your garden. You may also end up with some unexpected combinations of colors and textures!

Do you have favorite ways of growing spiderwort? Please do share.

Happy Gardening.


We want you to be as excited about planting Chesapeake natives as we are. “Plant This or That” gives you a native alternative to popular plants. Other posts highlight really fabulous fauna native to the Chesapeake.

Nuts for Natives, avid gardener, Baltimore City admirer, Chesapeake Bay Watershed restoration enthusiast, and public service fan.

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