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How to Grow Spider Flower — Cleome

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Cleome–commonly called spider flower–can add a tropical touch to flower beds and borders. This tall annual bears spiny stems of divided foliage and round clusters of small, spidery white, pink, or purple flowers with a light fragrance in summer.

Cleome is a shrubby annual that grows quickly to 4 feet tall (1.2m) or taller and just as wide. Grow Cleome in the background of other plants; it can be grown as a flowering summer hedge against walls or fences. It also grows well in containers.

Flowers can be cherry red, mauve, pink, purple, rose, ruby, and white. There are several named cultivars.

Cleome readily self-sows.

Cleome is a genus of 150 species of robust annuals and evergreen shrubs native to tropical and subtropical regions worldwide.

Spider flower, Cleome hassleriana, is a fast-growing annual
The spider flower, Cleome hassleriana, is a fast-growing annual

Get to know Cleome

  • Plant type: Annual
  • Growing Zones and range: Zones 2-11
  • Hardiness: Tender
  • Height and width: 3 to 5 feet (1-1.5m) tall; 4 to 5 feet (1.2-1.5m) wide
  • Foliage: Lower leaves divided, upper leaves undivided; leaves and stems feel clammy to the touch; strong but not unpleasant odor
  • Flowers: Spider-like, 4-petaled flowers with prominent stamens
  • Flower colors: Shades of pink, purple, white, and yellow
  • Bloom time: Midsummer to frost
  • Uses: Mass in large beds or as a temporary hedge, cottage, and meadow gardens
  • Botanical name: Cleome hassleriana
  • Common name: Spider flower
  • Family: Capparaceae
  • Origin: Plains and mountain valleys in tropical and subtropical regions worldwide

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Where to plant Cleome

  • Plant Cleome in full sun in Zones 2-5; plant in full sun to shade in Zones 6-11.
  • Grow Cleome in humus-rich, moist soil.

Cleome uses

  • Cleome is a colorful addition to the back of the border.
  • Cleome can make a quick-growing hedge; it blooms from summer until hard frost.
  • Plant shorter-growing annuals in front of Cleome.
  • Flowers can be cut for indoor bouquets.
Spider flower, Cleome
Spider flower, Cleome

When to plant Cleome

  • Plant seedlings in spring after all danger of frost has passed.

Planting and spacing Cleome

  • Space spider flowers at least 12 inches apart.

How to water and feed Cleome

  • Cleome wants ample water.
  • Fertilize Cleome lightly to prevent plants from growing too tall.
Cleome readily self-sows

Cleome care

  • Cleome has small thorns be careful when handling them.
  • Stake Cleome once they are 12 inches tall.
  • Cleome often reseeds and may need control.

Cleome pests and diseases

  • Cleome are commonly disease and pest-free.

Cleome propagation

  • Cleome is easily grown from seed.
  • Chill seeds overnight before planting in average soil.
  • Seeds germinate in 10 to 14 days at 64°F (18°C).

Cleome varieties to grow

  • Cleome hasslerana (C. spinosa): shrubby annual bears fluffy clusters of pink or white flowers with very long protruding stamens; can grow to 6 feet tall and 5 feet wide; thrives in heat and tolerates some drought; cultivar ‘Queen’ is a popular series and includes ‘Rose Queen’, ‘Ruby Queen’, and ‘Queen Mixed’, ‘Helen Campbell’ has white flowers.
  • C. lutea. Western wildflowers with yellow flowers and pale green leaves.

Cleome frequently asked questions

Q: What growing conditions does Cleome prefer?

A: Cleome grows well in average soil in full sun or minimal shade. It is very drought tolerant, although it will grow better if it is well watered. Space plants 1 to 3 feet apart.

Q: How can I propagate cleome?

A: Propagate cleome by seed. Sow after the last frost when the ground is warm. Cleomes may also be started indoors 4 to 6 weeks earlier at a temperature of 70F. Germination takes 10 to 14 days. Outdoors, cleome reseeds prolifically.

Q: What’s a good way to use cleome in the garden?

A: Plant cleome for its height. Place it at the back of borders or in the center of island beds. It can also be used as a space-defining hedge, although you may want to hide the bare stems. Cleome can be used for tall container plantings. It also makes a good cut flower.

Q: Do cleome need to be staked?

A: Usually not. Cleamoe has strong stems and does not need stalking. It is very attractive when allowed to sway in gentle breezes.

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Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. has more than 10 million visitors each year.

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