Also known as Spider Flower, Cleome Hassleriana is a native of South America. Cleomes are particularly prized for their curious-looking and fragrant blossoms and are grown as an ornamental plant in gardens. The plant has escaped cultivation and can occasionally be seen growing wild. While it is an introduced species in the United States, it is not considered invasive.
The flowers are the most interesting feature of the cleome plant. They are very open and spindly with four large petals each and six extremely long stamens, up to three inches in length. These stamens are spidery looking, hence the name Spider Flower. They come in purple, pink or white.
A fast-growing annual plant, Cleome hassleriana prefers warm weather and requires a fairly long growing season. As the plant grows, it produces a rigid stem that will project from the base of the plant. Cleome will continue to bloom from early summer through to the first frost.
The stems of Cleome hassleriana are straight, reach upward from the base of the plant, and can grow from 3 to 6 feet tall and spread from 1 to 2 feet across in a season. The stems are usually light green in color and are covered with hairs. The plant also has five to seven palmate leaves that form at the base of the plant. The leaves are hairy and sticky. The flowering stem of the plant is covered with smaller leaves that spiral up to a flower head. The seed pod is about 6 inches long and contains several seeds.
Cleome hassleriana is an easy to grow plant. It prefers medium soils that are well draining. The plant prefers full sun, but will handle light shade well. Watering should be frequent until well established, after which the plant will tolerate some drought. Cleome is usually propagated from seeds.
Often used as an ornamental in the garden, Cleome Hassleriana is grown for its unique and colorful flowers, which are also sweetly fragrant. The plant can be used in flower beds, borders and along fences or planted in containers. The flowers also produce nectar, which can contribute to attracting hummingbirds, butterflies and honey bees.