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Edible Garden Featured Plant: Cleome

By volunteer

Cleome hassleriana, known as cleome or spider flower, is a genus of 150 species of flowering plants in the family Cleomaceae. Only the annuals are commonly cultivated due to the plant’s attractive foliage and flowers and its ability to take the summer heat.

This self-seeding annual, originating from southern Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Argentina, blooms heavily in early summer and continues to bloom throughout the season. The spider-like flowers can be white, pink, or purple and often attract hummingbirds. Flowers, produced along stalks that can grow up to five feet tall depending on the cultivar, start blooming at the bottom of the stalk and progress upward during the season. Slender seed capsules follow the blossoms. Flowers and dry seed capsules are useful in arrangements.

Cleome can be grown from transplants but also be direct seeded in spring after the soil has warmed. The plants prefer light, fertile, preferably sandy, free-draining soil in full sun but can also take some dry shade. Once established, Cleome is fairly drought tolerant, but the plants will benefit from regular watering and fertilizing.

Cleome is a useful plant in a cottage, cutting, or drought tolerant garden and is a good attractant for pollinators like bats, bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, and moths. It also resists the challenges of deer and rabbits.

Tony Jevans and Cliff Keller

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