The Spider Flower is a spectacular tall annual plant with large globular flowers made up of individual florets having protruding whiskery stamens. Cleome is one of the best of the tall growing summer flowering plants available, growing to a height of up to 4 – 5 feet (1.5m) with an 18in (45cm) spread of the main plant. It grows to this height and spread in a relatively short time from sowing as seed, with flowering period starting from early to late summer and persisting until the autumn frosts.
Whilst the unusual flower heads are the undoubted attraction, the palmate foliage – not unlike maple leaves – are a boon and the long thorny, stems are normally clad top to bottom with the showy canopy of foliage.
Flower colour is basically deep pink whilst in bud, opening light pink and thereafter to white. This has a good effect of being bi-color flowers – always full of interest and one that will always be enquired about by those not in the know!
Cleome are best planted in a sunny place having free draining soil, though will also put on a good dazzling display in dappled shade. They are quite tolerant of drought and resent being planted in damp area – rarely needing any watering other than in the driest of weather.
The Spider Flowers attract a wide range of beneficial flying insects including varied butterflies – the ‘spider’ name being because of the appearance of the flower and not because it attracts arachnids! In contrast to that, they are normally repellant to rabbits and deer. Probably as a result of the thorny stems.
Cleome hassleriana - are best planted in an open position – reasonable sheltered from strong winds, though if planted in clumps rarely suffer any wind damage in spite of the delicate looking flowers.
They make ideal central features in a bed of summer plants and can also be used to great effect as additional colour and interest in perennial and shrub borders. Container planting is also an option – ideal for a colourful show on the patio – preferably in a low pot rather than a pedestal.
Cleome are normally grown from seed started early in spring with heated greenhouse or propagator. The seedlings soon develop into sizeable plants and are best potted into individual pots to grow on unhindered until planting out after all frosts have finished.
They can also be direct sown outside in a warm spot, but will flower later than if started under heat. In warm sheltered areas you may be lucky enough for them to self seed and germinate insitu the following spring.
The best way for a few plants is to buy from a garden centre though they do not normally hit the display beds until flowers appear.
There will be little need for any follow-up treatment such as feeding once established in their outdoor planting place.
There are no disease problems of which we are aware