Tradescantia (Spiderwort)

Unidentified spiderwort (Tradescantia sp.)

Tradescantia or spiderwort is one of the first plants I remember from very early childhood. At the time I did not know its name nor that it was a native plant, but I found the deep purple of its flower so beautiful. Upon discovering that the color transferred easily, I used tradescantia to stain one of the white front-porch columns and was genuinely surprised when my mother put me to work scrubbing it off.

My mother did not garden, but her older cousin did and she became a garden mentor to me. This special gardener introduced me to many plants and was always generous in supplying me with a variety of pass-along plants for my garden, including of course, spiderwort. The color range includes lavender, blue, violet, purple and even white.

Tradescantia does well in sun or shade, but the flowers may close by midday especially in hot sun. Spiderwort is very drought tolerant and self-seeds easily. The plants attract butterflies and this morning were appealing to quite many bees.

Plants have drifted throughout the garden over the years. I always intend to rein them back, but before I can get around to it, they open and form pretty combinations with Aquilegia canadensis (Eastern red columbine) or provide a needed backdrop to other emerging perennials. I think, “Well let’s just leave them for now.” Spiderworts tend to die back during the hottest part of summer. Before I know it, fall comes around again and the spiderworts give another burst of color to the garden. And so they stay.

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