In a Vase, on Monday – Cleome

Technically Cleome hassleriana and commonly called a Spider Flower, this sprang up between flagstones in my side patio garden early in the spring. I had grown them three or four years ago and a seed must have found its way to the surface to germinate. Cleome, native to South America, must have huge deep roots since I didn’t provide it a drop of water yet it grew to be taller than me. It’s a striking flower, with stems and leaves slightly sticky so wear gloves when handling. If you’d like to read more about it, I chanced upon this most excellent article published by the University of Wisconsin Extension service.

Here’s the plant at the end of August, more than six feet tall, widely branching, flowers continuing to develop at the top of each branch.

The same plant, last week. It had grown so top heavy it was falling over, blocking the entrance to the patio:

Here it is again on Sunday, after I trimmed off all the side branches to use as cut flowers. It quickly rebounded so that it’s now nearly completely upright again.

Those funky spikey things sticking out are the seed heads. Each one has a gazillion tiny seeds. I was thinking they’d turn brown when ripe and I’d save a few, but it looks like they’ve already started to scatter. This is what they look like:

Finally, my vase for today. I cut the stems short and used a wide mouthed Blue Mountain Pottery vase – perfect for these large flowers.

Many thanks to Cathy at Rambling in the Garden for hosting IAVOM and giving gardeners around the world an opportunity to share their vases of cut flowers!


    1. Thank you so much Angie! They are slightly scented, but not much, really. I also like how different they look – I can picture them under the sea, like anemones drifting in the current…


  1. Oh how lovely they look in that gorgeous vase with the notched edge – what a great combination! I managed to grow cleome one year, but have failed at every other other attempt. I know I stratified the seed, but reading the article I am not sure if I left the seeds uncovered…perhaps I will try again

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    1. I’ve made that mistake many times – I should just remember, the smaller the seed the shallower it gets planted, if at all…so strange to think such a minuscule seed will produce such a giant plant!


  2. You know, my main objection to these is that the one time they performed well was in conjunction with Gaura. Each of them was happy, but together, they looked like a weedy mess. I never gave them another chance. I really should. I do believe that they would be happy here. In fact, some might remain in one of the showier gardens. I do not dislike gaura completely. I just dislike how weedy it can get as it naturalizes. It is actually useful for some unrefined areas here. The cleome would be better in more refined areas, which we refer to as froufrou. If I were to select it, I would actually select a variety that is not white (which would be awkward for me) so that it would contrast (?) a bit with the white phlox. (I do not do design, so I do not know if I am saying that properly.) I think that a pastel color would be more prominent with the white phlox, and the white phlox would be more prominent with a pastel color. I should determine if some of it remains in one of the landscapes, and if so, just allow it to go to seed, or otherwise propagate it, even if it is white.

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    1. Gaura and Cleome have a similar shape/form, with Gaura being a bit twiggy looking, so I understand you thinking that together, they look a mess.

      The thing to remember about Cleome is thst it flowers FOREVER once it gets going. At least half of that main stalk in my photo, ie about three feet, is spent flowers, with more buds continuing to develop at the tip. So maybe plant white Cleome with a succession of contrasting coloured other perennials?

      For me, I can see three or five of these giants scattered here and there ( I have a large garden area) OR perhaps just a patch of only Cleome…the truck with either option will be providing conditions similar to this year’s…to try for the same huge size…

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  3. Oh, I do not intend to allow it to mix with gaura again. The gaura works well in another wilder landscape nearby where the cleome might still live in another more refined garden. If the cleome is still there, and proliferates, it will stay confined to that situation. Even if it is not there, the horticulturist who selected the froufrou material for that garden will likely eventually get more, particularly since it has become more popular here, and he happens to like it. That happens to be where phlox appeared a few years ago, and stayed, since it looks so good there.

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