Cleomes are magnificent annuals that decorate our gardens in the middle of summer, producing large pink, white or violet inflorescences.

Also called spider plant, cleome belongs to the same family as the caper bush.

Name: Cleome spinosa
Family: Cleomaceae (formerly Capparaceae)
Type: annual

Height: 32 inches to 5 feet (80 cm to 1.5 meters) depending on the variety
Exposure: full sun
Soil: rich and well drained

Flowering: June to October

Sowing and planting cleome:

Cleome is grown in temperate climates as an annual, because it cannot withstand temperatures below 17°F (-8°C).

  • Soak the seeds in water for 24 hours before sowing to trigger sprouting (10 to 15 days).

You’ll have to sow your cleome seeds every year, either directly in the ground from April onwards, or a bit earlier under cover followed by transplanting to the flower bed in May.

  • Transplanting to the ground is in April in warmer areas, and during May in cooler climates.
  • Space plants 16 to 24 inches (40 to 60 cm) apart, creating flower beds with at least ten young plants.
  • Cleome is ideal as a backdrop to flower beds, since it grows so tall.
  • Pinch the sprouts when planting to increase branching out.

You can sow in a tray as early as March and April which will let you transfer the strongest seedlings to a nursery pot before the final transplanting, when the climate is most suited to the plant’s growth.

  • Cleome requires soil that is rich and well-drained.
  • It likes being in warm spots under the sun.
  • It doesn’t appreciate places that are too windy and would make its stems collapse.

Caring for cleome:

Cleome handles drought quite well and doesn’t fear diseases which makes it an easy plant to care for.

Once well settled in, you’ll only have to water in case of prolonged dry spell or heat wave.

Staking the stems might be necessary if they start bending over.

Lastly, remove wilted flowers regularly in order to stir the plant into bearing more flowers.

Planting cleome in pots:

Cleome, when planted in pots, is more vulnerable to the dryness of the soil, and must be watered more often but in moderate amounts.

You can also stake the longest stems if they tend to collapse.

All there is to know about cleome:

Cleome is native to South America and Africa depending on the variety. Over 120 species are included in the genus, the most common of which is Cleome spinosa, the spider flower.

One usually appreciates cleomes for the large pink, white or purple fragrant flowers, and the palmate green-colored leaves that are also very ornamental.

This not-so-hardy plant is very easily grown and even reseeds itself from one year to the next.

Smart tip about cleome:

Whether in the ground or on a terrace, avoid drafts because cleome stems will fold and easily fall over.

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