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Reliable, Colorful Spiderwort

by Shelly Nold

TRADESCANTIA VIRGINIANA, POPULARLY KNOWN as spiderwort or spider lily, is a reliable and interesting addition to the garden. It can grow in sun, part sun, or shade, but performs best in part shade. Moist but well-drained soils are important, because if the soil is wet, plants will be substantially less vigorous and generally will not bloom as well.

THE FOLIAGE IS ATTRACTIVE even without the flowers. Long, grasslike leaves can be up to 18 inches long. Flowers emerge by what is called a terminal umbel, or at the end of the growth. It can be helpful to divide the plants every three or four years, but this is dependent on the variety and environment.

SPIDERWORTS TYPICALLY BLOOM in late spring and summer for at least six to eight weeks, a long bloom time compared to many perennials. After blooming, the foliage may look a little tattered; if so, it can be cut back for the remainder of the summer. As the cool weather of late summer and fall returns, new growth and sporadic blooming will occur again.

FLOWERS RANGE IN COLOR depending on variety. Snowcap has a large white flower that can be 2 inches wide. Concord Grape has flowers that average 1 inch or less in diameter and are a distinctly grape-like purple. Bilberry Ice has small white flowers with a bluish haze, and Sweet Kate has deep sky-blue flowers and unusual chartreuse foliage.

THIS PERENNIAL CAN BE AT HOME in a wide range of gardens. Find a location that fits your style and the needs of the plant, and you will be rewarded year after year.

Shelly Nold is a horticulturist and owner of The Plant Kingdom. Send stories and ideas to her at The Plant Kingdom, 4101 Westport Road, Louisville, KY 40207.


by: Angie McManus

All of a sudden my 5-year-old mums are dying. Can you help me? They are all different mums.

Without any details or a sample I can only speculate, but chrysanthemums are subject to many insect and disease problems. Aphids and spider mites are the most common problem, but usually these insects are not detrimental to the plant but affect the flower.

Excess moisture and lack of winter hardiness are usually the reasons for plant failure. The most common chrysanthemums, or mums, are all hybrids, and depending on the cultivar they may or may not be hardy.

If these were plants you purchased during the fall when the garden centers are filled with them, they are probably not a hardy variety. They can potentially come back for a few years but are not a long-lived, reliable perennial.

Since you have many different cultivars, it may be more of a moisture issue causing them to decline. These plants require a well-drained soil; if they are growing in a space that does not drain well and your area has had a great deal of rainfall, this could certainly be a possibility. You can always take a sample to your County Cooperative Extension Service for analysis by a horticulture agent.

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