Cleome Hassleriana

I admit that at first I didn't think I liked Cleome, but it quickly made my dance card my preferred option whenever the conditions in my landscaping allowed it.

A vertical close-up picture of Cleome hassleriana, with tall stems and white, wispy flowers, pictured in the summer garden, on a soft focus background. There is green and white text in the middle and at the bottom of the frame.

It is an attractive plant with unique properties.

It is large but not too large, has unusual flowers without being noticeable, and requires very little (if any) maintenance during the growing season.

It will undoubtedly have some conversations with your neighbors who are unfamiliar with it. And with white, pink, or pastel purple flowers, it's a decorative addition to almost any garden.

Without further ado, let's examine what Cleome is all about and what you can do with it in your landscape.

You won't need much to get Cleome hassleriana up and running in your garden, other than the seeds or plants themselves and a sunny place to take off.

Let's get started right away so you can get started right away.

What is Cleome?

Cleome, sometimes referred to as the spider flower, spider plant or grandfather's mustache, usually reaches a height of up to two meters, although there are dwarf varieties.

It is grown annually in most U.S. growing areas, although it is perennial in perennials USDA hardiness zones 10 and 11.

A vertical picture of C. hassleriana in a mass planting with pink and white flowers.

It is a relatively unique plant because it blooms and blooms for so long – from early summer to the first frost.

The flowers grow in open clusters with loose, wispy clusters of small flowers at the end of the stem. The long stamens give it a "spider-like" appearance.

Ripe stems have an evil thorn at the base of each of the green leaves. After flowering, the dried flower heads attract birds and provide texture in the autumn garden.

A close-up of a delicate white C. hassleriana flower growing in the garden, surrounded with bees, shown on a soft focus background.

Cleome can often be mistaken for a similar looking plant known as damp weed (Polanisia dodecandra).

The clearest way to tell the difference between the two is through their seed pods. Cleome has seed pods that protrude straight or hang down, while when the weeds are wet, the seed pods face up.

Clammy Weed is from North America, while Cleome is from South America.

Cleome grows easily in conditions with lots of light and well-drained soil.

A close-up of bright pink and white Cleome flowers growing in the garden in bright sunshine on a soft focus background.

I got used to planting full sun Flowers partially under the sun to see how they react and were very lucky … except for C. hassleriana.

This plant really thrives – and produces the most common flowers – with as much sun as you can throw at it.

While it tolerates heavy soils, it is happiest in lighter soil conditions. The main ingredient here is that the soil should be organically rich.

A close-up of upright C. hassleriana with light pink flowers growing in the garden, with a concrete driveway in the background.

Cleome needs a minimum of fertilization. You could get away with it just add compost every year to the growing bed and finished with it.

I do not recommend using fast-acting fertilizers as this can lead to "leggy" growth.

It is more tolerant of drought conditions than many other yearbooks. Heck, despite its impressive height, it doesn't even have to be staked out because of a deep and strong taproot and sturdy stems.

As long as you have the sunny conditions and well-drained soil that are necessary for the flourishing, C. hassleriana will be happy to do this with minimal effort.

Cultivation and history

C. hassleriana is native to South America and is usually grown annually.

Although it was first introduced in the United States in the early 1800s, it only peaked in the Victorian era when it became an ordinary resident of greenhouses and farm gardens.

A close-up of the unopened flowers of C. hassleriana, shown in bright sunshine on a soft focus background.

Over time, Cleome lost its fame, but has recently seen a revival in popularity. It is a plant that I have rarely seen in gardens and in professional landscaping until recently.

My personal story with C. hassleriana is a little embarrassing.

It's no secret that the leaves of the plant look astonishingly similar, and when my foreman instructed me to cut back all herb material for autumn cleaning, I was a little shocked to find a Cleome stain in the garden.

A vertical close-up of the dark green foliage of the spider flower that looks similar to marijuana, shown in bright sunshine on a dark background.Cleome leaves look terribly similar to marijuana leaves.

The foreman saw my confused look and made sure I knew this was just a decorative annual plant.

I know that I am not alone when my neighbors look at my C. hassleriana, which is planted with raised eyebrows in the front yard.

"Does this guy really grow that in his front yard? How brazen! "their faces scream.

Sharing the true nature of this plant with curious people is always a fun conversation, and then we can all enjoy the fun double shots that others have when they come past my garden.

How to sow

It is an easy task to germinate C. hassleriana for the first time. It is even easier to allow them to sow themselves, and it is even easier to sow these plants yourself to produce more plants.

From seeds

The only conditions required to start C. hassleriana from seeds are the right amount of light and adequate soil conditions, as well as the right timing – if you are not at risk of frost.

A close-up of the delicate pink and white petals of C. hassleriana, spider flower growing in the garden, shown in the bright evening sunshine.

Prepare your planting site by digging the soil to loosen it, mix in some compost if you like, and rake it smooth.

Sow the seeds directly on the surface and cover them with a light layer of soil not more than 1 cm deep, as they need light to germinate.

Keep the floor moist but not wet. I will check the sown area daily and only give it something to drink when it starts to dry out.

Seeds germinate quickly in about a week. Dilute them so that you have a few inches between each plant. 6 to 8 inches works best to give the plants room to spread out.

Alternatively, you can Start the seeds indoors six weeks before the last frost date.

If you don't have a sufficiently sunny location where your seedlings can start indoors, you may want to start your seeds within eight weeks of the last frost date Use a growing light.

These seeds require fluctuating temperatures to germinate, with daytime temperatures of 75-85 ° F and nighttime temperatures of around 10 degrees lower.

Plant the plants where you want them when they are two to four inches tall and the risk of frost is over.

Harden your seedlings before planting by placing them outdoors for about an hour each day and gradually increasing the time over a week.

To plant out, dig a hole as deep and wide as the root ball and gently place the seedling in the ground, keeping a distance of six to eight inches from each other. Press down the floor and water well.

On self sowing

Cleome sows itself easily. In some of the farm gardens where I planted it three years ago, new seedlings appear every year, making transplanting or reseeding unnecessary. For me it is a nice giveaway.

But if you want or want to grow your flowers in tight conditions Keep your garden as tidy as possibleI would recommend removing the seed pods immediately after the flowers bloom.

I had never let Cleome get out of control, but under the right conditions it is possible. Alternatively, you can choose sterile hybrid varieties and eliminate the risk of self-seeding.

How I grow

Regular readers know that my favorite plants are those that I don't have to choke with attention, and Cleome is on my list. As already mentioned, a complete sun location with organically rich, well-drained soil is required.

A close-up of a bright pink C. hassleriana flower, shown in the bright sun on a soft focus background.

Apart from regularly watering young plants until they are established and removing seed heads when the gardener is so inclined, this plant needs almost no attention.

It does not have to be staked out, is dead itself and requires little or no fertilization.

Growth tips

  • Cleome tolerates drought, but is happiest with an occasional sip of water when the weather is dry for an extended period of time.
  • Plants do not need to be staked out at any point in their lifespan.
  • Make sure the plants are in a place where they receive at least six hours of sunlight a day and are well drained.
  • No special fertilization requirements, except to avoid fast-acting fertilizers.
  • For most varieties, look for small but sharp thorns along the stems.


The only major maintenance is to pull this plant out of the ground when it dies at the end of the season.

If you like a tidy garden, you can remove the plants in late autumn or early winter.

A close-up of a white spider flower growing in the garden, presented on a soft focus background.

However, I like to leave some winter interest in my gardens and tend to leave Cleome until the spring cleaning time.

You will see why the plant is nicknamed "spider flower" on a winter day when the flowers have long since disappeared, leaving only spindle-shaped growths that look very similar to the long legs of an arachnid.

Keep in mind that Cleome can have some irritating thorns in some places along the stem. So be careful where you grab it and put on gardening gloves for extra protection.

Varieties to choose from

There are a variety of different varieties, including the Queen ™ series and the more compact Senorita® series.

It is recommended that the Queen ™ series seeds be cold-layered before planting. Here are some of my favorites:

Cherry queen

The bold and bright "Cherry Queen" blooms with six to eight inch fragrant flowers on three to four foot stems.

A close-up of the bright cherry red spider flower C. hassleriana & # 39; Cherry Queen & # 39; growing in the garden.

"Cherry queen"

This open pollinated variety likes to sow itself and gives your edges a lively color from early summer to the first frost.

You can find seeds in a variety of pack sizes available from Eden Brothers.

Purple queen

This variety is another member of the Queen ™ series and produces 6 to 8 inch flowers in the colors dark pink to pastel purple.

A close-up of the bright pink flowers of C. hassleriana & # 39; Mauve Queen & # 39; growing in the garden in bright sunshine, shown on a soft focus background.

"Mauve Queen"

"Mauve Queen" sows itself and, like other members of the Queen ™ series, it is best to layer the seeds cold before planting.

Are seeds available from Eden Brothers in a variety of package sizes.

Queen mixed colors

If you can't decide which color you like best, try this colorful mix. This mixture of seeds contains "Cherry Queen", "Mauve Queen" and "White Queen".

A garden scene made from red, maroon, pink and white C. hassleriana flowers that fade to soft focus in the background. At the bottom right of the frame is a black circular logo with text.

Queen mixed

Seeds must be layered cold before sowing.

You can find Queen ™ Mixed in different package sizes from the True Leaf Market.

Senorita Rosalita

Senorita® "Rosalita" is a more compact variety that grows to a mature height of two to three feet. Delicate pink and white flowers contrast with the dark green foliage.

A close-up of the bright pink flower of C. hassleriana & # 39; Senorita Rosalita & # 39; growing in the garden, depicted in the bright sunshine on a soft focus background.

Senorita® Rosalita

The Senorita® series produces sterile flowers, so this variety does not sow itself. Due to its compact growth form, it is suitable for growing in containers.

Plants are available at Nature Hills Nursery.

white queen

Another top choice from the Queen ™ series, "White Queen", blooms – as the name suggests – with delicate white flowers.

A close-up of a white spider flower, C. hassleriana & # 39; White Queen & # 39; growing in the garden, with dark green foliage, shown on a soft focus background.

& # 39; White Queen & # 39;

Expect a mature height of three to four feet. This variety will sow itself easily.

Find seeds in different pack sizes available from Eden Brothers.

Dealing with pests and diseases

C. hassleriana has almost no pest or disease problems and is exceptionally robust for the few who can cause problems.


I have never seen Cleome damaged by herbivores. Perhaps it is the slight pungent smell, the thorns on the stem or another deterrent that Cleome has, but the risk of living things eating this plant is very low.


Insect pests are almost not an issue for C. hassleriana … almost.

In general, Cleome is rarely infested with pests, except for common generalists like aphids. I have never used treatment for insect problems and have never lost a group of plants.


Aphids visit most gardens regularly. You will either notice their presence when you notice masses of these insects or their tell-tale honeydew – a sticky, shiny substance left by the beetles on the leaves of the plant.

More information on how to free the aphid garden can be found here.

White flies

These little flying insects are rarely a problem in my experience, but since they are generalists, they should be listed here.

An insecticidal soap like the one mentioned above is enough to get rid of an infestation.

Spider mites

Spider mites on the spider flower? How poetic!

I have never had a problem with spider mites on Cleome in the garden, but if your plants grow in an area with poor air circulation, they can become a problem.

You will notice this problem when you see the telltale spider-like webbing around the plants and the yellowed leaves.

Once again, using the above insecticidal soap will save the day.

Cabbage moths

You might see cabbage moths on your plants, but this is rare in my experience. However, if you see the adult moths, you will likely also find cabbage worms, the larval form of this insect.

A treatment of the Biofungicde Bt, Bacillus thuringiensisshould do the trick to get rid of these pests.


As long as your plants have good air circulation, they should have no disease problems at all.

In the event that they do so, a Standard mushroom treatment will alleviate most problems. I have to reiterate that treating these plants for pests or diseases in general is not necessary for the benefit of the plants themselves.

The only exception could be if a single C. hassleriana plant is heavily infected with pests or diseases and, as a host, poses a threat to other plants in the garden.

In this case, the treatment can benefit the general health of your garden.


I rarely encounter Cleome mildew, but it can happen and the treatment is the same for every other plant affected.

Unfortunately, if your plant is affected by rust – a fungal problem that leaves telltale rust-colored stains on the leaves and leaves – no treatment is available.

Remove and destroy the plant to prevent it from spreading further in the garden.

Best use

Plant your C. hassleriana in the edges of your garden for the best effect.

I worked on a plot of land with a tiered boxwood border with short 18-inch boxwoods behind which was a low-growing sarcococcus (about eight inches high) and a massive boxwood behind it that was at least five feet high.

A garden scene with a border filled with pink and white C. hassleriana, with trees in soft focus in the background.

It would have been a boring planting, except for the seasonal flowers that we also planted in the sarcoccan bed.

White Tulips in the springand Cleome for additional interest throughout the summer season. These flowers provided a perfect accent that brought the entire planting together without stealing the show.

If you have the space for it, a Cleome mass planting is something else. You can let the plants sow freely every year and they will reappear next spring.

A garden scene with C. hassleriana in a mass planting to the left of the frame, with bright red, pink and white flowers, a ground path in the middle of the frame and bright orange flowers on the right. Trees are shown in the background in the blur.

I placed C. hassleriana in my front yard to add random prickles to simple flowers that add some interest and variety to the rest of my mix of plants.

In my opinion, these yearbooks are best suited as a full border accent or as a small exclamation point in the garden, which are planted at random to present themselves a little without becoming a gaudy main attraction.

Brief instructions on growth instructions

Plant type: Flowering annually (zones 2-11), perennial in zones 10-11 Flower / foliage color: Pink, purple, white / green
At home: South America Tolerance: drought
Hardiness (USDA zone): 2-11 Soil type: Organically rich
Flowering time / season: summer Soil pH: 6.0-7.0 (ideal) tolerates most pH
Exposure: Full sun Soil drainage: Well permeable
Distance: 6 inches Attracts: Bees, butterflies, hummingbirds
Planting depth: Surface sow (seed), depth of the root ball (transplant) Uses: Border, mixed planting, cut flowers
Height: 1-5 feet Assignment: Ranunculales
Spread: 6-8 inches Family: Cleomaceae
Water requirements: Moderate Genus: Cleome
Maintenance: Low Species: Hassleriana
Pests & diseases: Aphids, cabbage moths, spider mites, whiteflies; Powdery mildew, rust Aphids, cabbage moths, spider mites, whiteflies; Powdery mildew, rust Aphids, cabbage moths, spider mites, whiteflies; Powdery mildew, rust

Easy to grow, so grow!

I have a preference for easy-care flowers and C. hassleriana is at the top of this list. This is a plant that is easy to start with seeds, grows in full sun, tolerates drought conditions and has minimal pest problems.

A close-up of a bright pink and white Cleome flower growing in the garden, shown on a soft focus background.

It's a perfect plant for gardeners who like a stately and tidy garden, and it's also a prime choice for those with a laissez-fair approach.

Do you grow Cleome at home? Do you have a suggestion, question or tip that we have not included here? Leave us a comment!

If you are looking for other flowering plants To expand your garden beds, read the following instructions:

© Ask the experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. For more information, please see our Terms of Use. Product photos about Eden Brothers, Nature Hills Nursery and True Leaf Market. Uncredited photos: Shutterstock. With additional writing and editing by Allison Sidhu and Clare Groom.

About Matt Suwak

Matt Suwak was raised by the bear, bobcat and coyote of rural Pennsylvania. This upbringing keeps him permanently outdoors, where most of his personal time is invested in gardening, bird watching, and hiking. He currently lives in Philadelphia and works under the sun as a landscape designer and gardener and as a writer in the moonlight. An incessant question of why? offers him countless opportunities to think about the (im) importance of the big and the small. He regards popular proverbs as priceless treasures and is almost exclusively fueled by beer and hot sauce.