“What’s that unusual plant?” is a question that almost always indicates someone has just spied the cleomes blooming in my garden. I enjoy watching their eyes widen when I tell them they are “spider flowers.” Cleome’s common name captures how the whiskery blooms seem to explode from the top of the stems. I can always count on these fanciful flowers to add an element of surprise to my garden.
If you want an easy source of big, beautiful swaths of color, cleomes are a fast way to get there. A few years ago, most cleomes were found growing in the back of the border to accommodate their tall and lanky (5-6 feet) height. But these days, there are several new varieties that are more compact in form. These newcomers are sporting a host of fresh colors creating a renewed interest in these old fashioned annuals.
Coming in about a foot or two shorter and with more branches than their taller cousins, the Spirit™ series of cleomes require little to no staking. That’s a real time saver for me. I’ve planted the pure white Spirit™ Frost, as well as several of the cool pastels in the series. This year I’m trying the Spirit™ Appleblossom. The airy flower clusters are abundant, long-lasting, and large - 6 to 8 inches in diameter. They seem undaunted by hot, dry summer days.
One of the newest cleomes to make its debut is Senorita Rosalita®. Along with a memorable name, this annual is out to prove that less is more. While many of the other cleomes share a list of common traits: spiny stems, foliage with a pungent aroma and flowers that ripen into seedpods that freely reseed themselves; Senorita Rosalita® (2-3 feet), is odorless with sterile flowers that don’t produce seeds, and has no thorns; all qualities that add to its appeal for many gardeners. Senorita Rosalita’s purple-lavender blossoms are smaller than most cleome and unlike other varieties, are produced all along the stem, not just at the top.
And for a truly diminutive cleome, there’s ‘Linde Armstrong’ with rosy pink flowers atop 12-18 inch plants. This cleome is also thornless and noted for its heat and drought tolerance.
Cleome – Planting and Care
• Cleomes are at their finest growing in a full sun (6 hours) location, in fertile, well-draining soil, but are tolerant of a wide range of soil types.
• Plant in spring after all danger of frost has passed. Space 1 to 2 feet apart in groups of 5 or more.
• Keep soil moist, especially in hot weather to help them get established.
• Stake tall varieties (4-6’) and those located in windy or shady sites to prevent flopping.
• Fertilize every six to eight weeks, or work in a slow-release fertilizer (or plenty of compost) at planting time.
• Remove spent blossoms to encourage the plants to rebloom. Regular deadheading also prevents reseeding.
• Cleomes will flower from summer through frost. For a fresh set of plants, reseed in August.
|The plants featured in this article are from Proven Winners®. Visit www.provenwinners.com to purchase this plant online or find a retailer in your area.|