Home of the Practically Perfect Pink Phlox and other native plants for pollinators

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Into Every Wildflower Garden A Little Rain Must Fall

Practically Perfect Pink Phlox pilosa after the rain
We've had some rain~

A lot of rain. Not like last year, when we had well over 18 inches of rain and experienced a 1000 year flood. But, enough that the Cumberland River will crest 3 feet below flood stage. Enough, that if I had a cistern I would not need to use city water during the Summer drought. (Although, I will get to practice my Zen Watering techniques) Or, enough that the wildflowers are looking just a little bedraggled!

I love Spiderworts during the Spring!
Not all of them! Some thrive in wet soil. Some revel in wet soil. Some sing their best song in wet soil.

Bumblebees pollinate spiderwort and some mammals eat the foliage

Like Tradescantia virginiana, a Central/Nashville Basin native that causes some gardeners to declare:
"Friends don't let friends plant Spiderwort!" (Cindy, My Corner of Katy) There's a rumor going around that this fantastically gorgeous flower is considered a thug! Yes, a native plant thug~It happens! I prefer to think of it as colonizing! Which means their roots and rhizomes spread to make a large and dramatic impact in a garden.

Tradescantia 'Sweet Kate' is a hybrid I planted for the foliage color.
A large and dramatic impact in the garden. Does that sound thuggish?! Some people use the word invasive. I like to save that powerful word for exotics that are on the state noxious and invasive species list.

Instead, I refer to them as colonizers, aggressive natives, endemic thugs, highly competitive natives, or as one ecologist quipped to me, “competitive superior natives”. That made me chuckle. (source: authors article) Spiderwort is one of those plants that is thuggish SO successful at self propagation, that I am offended that any garden center expects me to pay for it! (False Dragonhead is another excellent colonizer that could be given away~I know we all can name another colonizing plant or three).
yellow stamens float above the exquisite spidery violet hairs
But, I still love the striking purplish blue flowers with its three petals, 6 yellow stamens and the most exquisite spidery violet hairs. * The flowers bloom in clusters and each flower lasts just one day. By mid July the narrow, strap like leaves start to look ratty....just cut them back and you'll be rewarded with fresh growth and possibly more bloom. Even though it prefers a moist soil, when grown in shade, it's drought tolerant. Tradescantia virginiana is native to the eastern half of the US and Canada. T occidentalis is native in the Central and Western states. T ozarkana is native to Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma. For a more complete listing of Tradescantia species go here.

The wildflower week of celebration continues! Please join in and add your url to Mr Linky~He's in the sidebar.


*..."these plants are being studied for their environmentally sensitive responses to radiation and other pollutants like pesticides. In the presence of radiation, the stamen of certain species of spiderwort are said to turn pink. Additionally, spiderwort has large chromosomes, making them ideal for specific types of genetic research." (source)

This post was written by Gail Eichelberger for my blog Clay and Limestone Copyright 2011.This work protected under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Please contact me for permission to copy, reproduce, scrape, etc.


  1. Oh I love spiderwort! I had some in my garden and sadly the deer came and ate them to the ground. They never came back up. I will definitely be getting some more!

  2. Love your play on words this morning. I personally have a love/hate relationship with spiderwort.

  3. Spiderwort is one of my favorites! I dug some from under a tree in my daughter's yard (she didn't know what it was) and it has made a very happy home in my garden. I posted a photo similar to yours a couple of weeks ago here http://ginnysgarden.blogspot.com/2011/04/macro-monday.html.

  4. I have been hesitant to plant spiderwort because of its aggressive tendencies, but it would fit right in with the other "competitive superior natives" in my butterfly garden--they're having a battle right now to see who will achieve garden domination:) But it is such a lovely plant; we have some in the Idea Garden that seems to behave pretty well.

    Sorry to hear about your rain; we have flooding of the creeks and small ditches here, too. I've been frustrated about not getting to plant because of all the rain, but then I saw the news this morning about the horrible storms that went south of you. I realized then things could be much worse--what a tragedy!

  5. My spiderwort is loving the rain..all 10 inches this month...it has not bloomed just the greenery coming up now but with the warm weather recently they will pop quick..I love the flower...

  6. Thank you for the link love, Gail! The Spiderworts have been lovely here, despite the unseasonable heat and continued drought. I've been motivated to try a new tactic with them and deadhead them more often so they can't reseed.

    I have a new nemesis, though. I'm hoping to post on that today!

  7. They are pretty flowers, but when I was working in an office, the stupid things would be melted by the time I got home, so I dug them all up and gave them to my neighbor. I haven't regretted it.

  8. I like spiderwort - in the fields, not in my garden!

  9. Well, I like your luscious pictures of the spiderwort flowers but...no, not in my garden. I will enjoy them here.

  10. I love spiderwort when it's blooming. I think there are cultivars that aren't so aggressive though. I have one that was included in a package of daylily roots which hasn't spread at all - just makes a bigger clump. Unfortunately, I have no idea what cultivar it might be since it was supposed to be a daylily.

  11. Aaah! The famous PPPP! Inspired by you, I bought a packet of Phlox seeds. Hope they germinate and I too get to grow some, if not the PPPP, at least Practically Imperfect non-pink or pink Phlox :D (PIN/PP)

  12. I have the variety Concord Grape growing in my garden, but I have never seen them growing wild. So far, Concord Grape hasn't demonstrated superior competitiveness

  13. I really like that spiderwort!

  14. Your pictures of the spiderwort are so beautiful. I just love this plant. I remember seeing a bunch of Zebra Swallowtails flitting around a wild patch along a roadside. I see them in my mind every time I see this flower.

  15. Gail, I have Tradescantia (both kinds you show), both given to me by blogging friend Janet and now that she no longer has it she thinks she might be happier without it. Some friend, huh?!?! This is really just an inside joke we're having and I do consider her a dear friend, and I even like the Spiderwort (so far!!). I told her that might change if it becomes unruly but it has remained well behaved at this point!! Anyway, I linked to your w.w. with a post of my own native plants. I am planting more and more and am finding it hard to keep up with them all;-)

  16. Gail, good for you for standing up for spiderwort. I've heard of several native plants called overly aggressive or noxious. There's a goldenrod that apparently no one should plant but I can't understand why anyone could think that way when it's native. Seems to me we need to relax a little and let plants be free to roam as nature intended.

  17. Hi Gail,
    I enjoyed reading your thoughts on spiderwort and seeing our lovely photos. I just dug a clump out of one of my three plants the other day, and decided this evening to plant it in the shade in my garden across the street. I told it I would try to get it watered, but if I didn't, it may not make it. Well, maybe it will be OK if I don't give it as much water as it would prefer. I think I'll remove some of my other two, also.

  18. Gail, Spiderwort isn't aggressive here, just nasty looking once it's out of bloom - the foliage looks like a limp bunch of green onions. Phlox pilosa is the on I'll go for, given the chance.

  19. I have a lot of Spiderwort but it's not aggressive ~ just seeds in a little bit. I think they are T. virginiana or hybrids thereof, and they're all clumpers, not spreaders, oddly enough.

    Your photos are beautiful!

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