Virginia Spiderwort (Virginiana)

The Virginia Spiderwort (Virginiana) is generally described as a perennial forb/herb. This is native to the U.S. (United States) has its most active growth period in the spring . The Virginia Spiderwort (Virginiana) has green foliage and inconspicuous blue flowers, with a smattering of conspicuous black fruits or seeds. The greatest bloom is usually observed in the spring, with fruit and seed production starting in the spring and continuing until summer. Leaves are not retained year to year. The Virginia Spiderwort (Virginiana) has a short life span relative to most other plant species and a rapid growth rate. At maturity, the typical Virginia Spiderwort (Virginiana) will reach up to 1.1 foot high, with a maximum height at 20 years of 0 inches.

The Virginia Spiderwort (Virginiana) is not commonly available from nurseries, garden stores and other plant dealers and distributors. It can be propagated by bare root, seed. It has a moderate ability to spread through seed production and the seedlings have high vigor. Note that cold stratification is not required for seed germination and the plant cannot survive exposure to temperatures below -38°F. has medium tolerance to drought and restricted water conditions.

Uses of : Landscaping, Medicinal, Culinary, etc.

Ethnobotanic: The Cherokee and other Native American tribes used Virginia spiderwort for various food and medicinal purposes. The young leaves were eaten as salad greens or were mixed with other greens and then either fried or boiled until tender. The plant was mashed and rubbed onto insect bites to relieve pain and itching. A paste, made from the mashed roots, was used as a poultice to treat cancer. A tea made from the plant was used as a laxative and to treat stomachaches associated with overeating. Virginia spiderwort was one of the seven ingredients in a tea used to treat “female ailments or rupture.” It was also combined with several other ingredients in a medicine for kidney trouble.

General Characteristics

General: Spiderwort Family (Commelinaceae). Virginia spiderwort is a native, perennial forb. This plant was probably named for the delicate spider web-like filaments that surround the anthers of the flower or the threadlike secretion that emerges from the stem upon cutting. The lightly fragrant flowers (2 to 5.4 cm in diameter) grow in terminal clusters. The flower’s three broadly ovate petals are generally bright blue but are sometimes purple, violet, rose, and rarely white. Individual blossoms last for only one or two days, but new blossoms appear daily throughout the spring blooming period. The plants grow in erect clumps that range from 30 to 60 cm in height. The rounded stalks are either single or branched at the base. The roots are thick and fleshy. The plant spreads through underground stems or stolons to form large colonies. The smooth iris-like leaves are long (15 to 46 cm) and narrow (2.5 cm wide) with a prominent midrib.

Required Growing Conditions

For current distribution, please consult the Plant Profile page for this species on the PLANTS Web site.

Habitat: Virginia spiderwort can be found in moist prairies, fertile woodlands, open woods, meadows, hillsides, stony bluffs, stream banks, and along roadsides.

Cultivation and Care

Virginia spiderwort is a vigorous plant that likes moist soils but will adapt to drier, average garden soils. The plants are often seen in old-fashioned gardens and work well as part of a perennial border. They are recommended for bogs and naturally wet sites where the plants can form large clumps when grown in full sun. The plants will flower in both sun and shade. Plants may be propagated from seed but they are more easily started from cuttings or divisions. For cuttings, take a single-node stem cutting late in the season, just as the plants begin to bolt. Place the cutting in moist soil up to the base of the leaf. To propagate by division, divide the thick roots in the fall or early in the spring. Be careful to divide the leaves so that each section includes its own roots. Established plants will self-sow and stalks that lay on the ground will readily root from the nodes.

General Upkeep and Control

The foliage may be partially clipped back after blooming to control the size and untidy appearance of the plant. The plants will flower a second time in the late summer or fall if the stems are removed soon after the first flowering period. This vigorous grower can be somewhat controlled by dividing the plants every two to four years and by regularly removing the stalks that slump to the ground before they have the opportunity to take root. Large clumps may be divided by first lifting the root mass from the soil with a shovel. Then divide the clump into pieces that contain four to six shoots each with roots attached. Immediately plant and water the divisions.

Pests and Potential Problems Virginia spiderwort is relatively pest and disease free. Snails will eat the young shoots. TSCA" Eastern hemlock generally does not tolerate nutrient-poor soils, wet soils or poorly drained sites, prolonged drought, prolonged heat, sun scorch, windy and exposed sites, aerial pollution, or winter salt spray. Drought is probably the most serious damaging agent to the species, especially during the seedling stage. Damping-off fungi and root rots also are seriously damaging to young plants. Containerized plants are best for transplanting – move into sites that are cool, well-drained, and wind-protected, in partial sun to partial shade. Good drainage is essential for transplant success -- the porosity of the soil should be improved with peat moss or sand, with the root ball elevated about 2 to 4 above the surrounding soil grade.

A shallow root system makes trees highly susceptible to wind-throw when exposed through timber cutting or planted in open sites. Plants should be staked for the first two or three years following transplant, to prevent wind-throw. Saplings and small trees are highly susceptible to damage from fire because of the thin bark, and root injury often occurs from high intensity fires because of heavy litter concentration.

The most severe insect pest is the Asian hemlock woolly adelgid, a phloem-feeding insect that causes branch dieback and tree decline. Trees typically die after several years of adelgid infestation. "

Plant Basics
Growth Rate Rapid
General Type Forb/herb
Growth Period Spring
Growth Duration Perennial
Lifespan Short
Plant Nativity Native to U.S.
Commercial Availability No Known Source
Physical Characteristics
Bloom Period Spring
Displays Fall Colors No
Shape/Growth Form Single Stem
Drought Tolerance Medium
Shade Tolerance Intermediate
Height When Mature 1.1
Vegetative Spread None
Flower Color Blue
Flower Conspicuousness Yes
Fruit/Seed Abundance Low
Fruit/Seed Seasonality Spring Summer
Seed Spread Rate Moderate
Gardening Characteristics
Propagations (Ways to Grow) Bare Root, Seed
Moisture Requirements Medium
Cold Stratification Required No
Minimum Temperature -38
Soil Depth for Roots 4
Toxic to Nearby Plants No
Toxic to Livestock No
After-Harvest Regrowth Rate Slow
After-Harvest Resprout Ability No
Responds to Coppicing No
Growth Requirements
pH Range 4–8 pH
Precipitation Range 25–25 inches/yr
Planting Density 10912–19360 indiv./acre
Soil Textures Fine, Medium
Soil Depth for Roots 4
Minimum Frost-Free Days 100 day(s)
Salinity Tolerance None
CaCO3 Tolerance Low
Sustainability & Use
Leaf Retention No
Palatability Low
Fire Resistant No
Causes Livestock Bloating None

Source: USDA, NRCS, PLANTS Database,
National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA