Looking after your Spiderwort Plant

Spiderwort

Spider plants are wonderful garden perennials. They have grassy, dark green foliage and clusters of three-petaled flowers throughout the summer. Most spiderworts bloom in shades of blue and purple, though there are white and pink cultivars available, as well. Spiderwort flowers close in the afternoon, especially in hot-weather areas, leaving a grassy mound of foliage until the next morning when new flowers open.

Plant facts

  • Common name: Spiderwort
  • Botanical name: Tradescantia Andersoniana Group
  • Zones: 4 to 9
  • Size: To 2 feet tall
  • From: Areas of North America
  • Family: Commelinaceae (spiderwort family)

Growing conditions

  • Sun: Full sun to partial shade.
  • Soil: Moist, but well-drained soil is best. While the plants adapt to a wide range of soil conditions, they appreciate lots of organic matter in the soil.
  • Moisture: They’ll survive drought if not watered, but the foliage will turn brown and dry.

Care

  • Mulch: A layer of mulch around the base of the plant will help keep weeds at bay. Mulch also helps conserve moisture and keeps soil temperatures consistent.
  • Pruning: Cut the plants back in autumn after they freeze or in spring before they begin to grow.
  • Fertiliser: In average soil, they don’t require fertilisation.

Propagation

  • Division: Dig out a section with roots and plant that section elsewhere in the garden in spring (division is possible any time of the year; however, spring is easiest on the plant).

Problems

  • Slugs/Snails: Slugs and snails tend to eat at night, chewing up leaves. They leave slick, slimy trails behind the next morning. To deter them, try surrounding plants with a ring of horticultural grade diatomaceous earth or laying down a slug bait. Some people have found success with laying copper strips around plants, but this does not seem to work for everyone. If slugs are not particularly numerous, set out shallow containers of stale beer at ground level. Slugs, attracted to the beer, crawl into it and drown.

Garden notes

  • If spiderworts are exposed to drought, the foliage will turn brown and dry. Cutting the brown foliage back to about 6 inches tall will encourage a new surge of growth.
  • Spiderworts have a tendency to spread, especially in very rich soils, so some gardeners consider them a pest. Plant spiderworts where they have plenty of room to grow.

Selections

  • Tradescantia  ‘Bilberry Ice’: Bears bicolored blue and white flowers on 2-foot plants; blooms all summer. Zones 4 to 9.
  • Tradescantia ‘China Blue’: Bears blue flowers all summer on 2-foot plants. Zones 4 to 9.
  • Tradescantia  ‘Concord Grape’: Bears large violet-purple flowers on 2-foot plants. Zones 4 to 9.
  • Tradescantia  ‘Hawaiian Punch’: Bears rosy-violet blooms all summer on 2-foot plants. Zones 4 to 9.
  • Tradescantia  ‘Innocence’: Bears ivory-white flowers on 2-foot plants; blooms all summer. Zones 4 to 9.
  • Tradescantia ‘Isis’: Bears bright blue blooms on 2-foot plants through the summer. Zones 4 to 9.
  • Tradescantia ‘Osprey’: Bears white blooms blushed with pale blue on 2-foot plants; blooms through the summer. Zones 4 to 9.
  • Tradescantia  ‘Purple Profusion’: Bears lots of deep-purple flowers on 2-foot plants during the summer. Zones 4 to 9.
  • Tradescantia  ‘Red Cloud’: Bears pinkish-red flowers on 2-foot plants; blooms in summer. Zones 4 to 9.
  • Tradescantia  ‘Snowcap’: Dwarf cultivar grows to 18 inches tall and bears white flowers most of the summer. Zones 4 to 9.
  • Tradescantia  ‘Sweet Kate’: Bears deep blue flowers on 2-foot plants with golden-green foliage; blooms all summer. Zones 4 to 9.
  • Tradescantia  ‘Valour’: Bears violet-red blooms on 2-foot plants all summer long. Zones 4 to 9.
  • Tradescantia ‘Zwanenburg Blue’: Bears bluish flowers on 2-foot plants; blooms all summer. Zones 4 to

Jacaranda tree – beautiful shapes in the garden

Jacaranda tree

If you have to go to Argentina to end an illicit affair, just don’t go when the jacarandas are in bloom. Why? When these trees blossom, the world changes. They fill the skyline with surreal clouds of purple-blue, and then, as the flowers fall, they cover streets with a silky lavender lingerie. In tropical and subtropical cities around the world, jacarandas form shady, fragrant canopies. The large, fast-growing, vase-shaped trees have gray bark and fringed, delicate, mimosa-like leaves (hence the species name). Once you’ve seen a jacaranda in bloom, you’ll never forget. Even if you should. 

Common name: jacaranda tree, green ebony tree, fern tree

Botanical name: Jacaranda mimosifolia

Plant type: Deciduous tree

Zones: 9 to 15

Height: 25 to 50 feet

Family: Bignoniaceae

Growing conditions

• Sun: Full sun to light shade.

• Soil: Average, well-drained. Tolerates most types of soil.

• Moisture: Medium. Drought-tolerant. 

Care

Mulch: Three to six inches of organic mulch will help the soil retain moisture. Don’t mulch up against the tree trunk, as this encourages rot.

• Pruning: Prune to encourage a strong structure. It’s best to have one central trunk and no branches larger than half the diameter of the trunk. 

• Fertiliser: None needed.

Propagation

• By seed, grafting, or cutting.

Pests and diseases

• Mushroom root rot, leaf spots, and crown gall may be problems.

• Jacarandas are generally pest-free.

Garden notes

• Jacarandas make excellent street trees and shade trees. Be sure to give them enough room. They can grow wider than they are tall.

• The dramatic purple flowers also have a light fragrance, so plant the tree where you will catch the scent.

• Young trees, and trees grown in containers, often do not flower. In zones where jacaranda isn’t hardy, it’s sometimes grown in pots for its foliage.

• Don’t plant a jacaranda near a pool, because it drops too much litter. You’ll regularly find leaves, twigs, seeds, and flowers on the ground.

All in the family

• Another member of Bignoniaceae, or trumpet creeper family, is the catalpa tree. The northern catalpa (Catalpa speciosa) and the southern catalpa (C. bignonioides) are native to North America.

A look at Hostas

Being a good sport in the Hosta world

Hostas are easy to grow in the right conditions but it is impossible to grow them from seed true-to-type, and so they have to be propagated by division.

But if you had a mind for creating a name for yourself in horticulture the possibility of breeding a new variety of hosta with your name on it is waiting on your threshold. All the species and new varieties are excessively promiscuous and it is difficult to avoid them crossing with one another. It was in the United States that most of the innumerable varieties have been bred, some of them bearing the names of their breeders like the golden edged sport of Hosta sieboldiana ‘Elegans’, Hosta ‘Frances Williams’ by Mrs Frances Williams in the 1930s.

In the last 25 years, Gus Krossa has produced the classical upright giant Hosta ‘Krossa Regal’.In 1965 Hosta ‘Royal Standard’ was the first hosta to be patented by John Grullemans.

Although most hostas are appreciated for their foliage this was one that had exquisite fragrant white flowers. You can always spot one of hybridizer Tony Avent’s plants, not because of his name ascribed to the plants but the nutty names he gives them, like Hosta ‘Elvis Lives’, ‘Elephant Burgers’, ‘White Wall Tire’,‘Red Neck Heaven’, ‘Waving Wuffles’ and what he describes as the ugliest hosta ever bred, a spotty one called ‘Outhouse Delight’ .

Hosta ‘Elvis Lives’ in amongst some of the more popular American hybrids at the Tatton Park flower show this year.

Paul Aden, who was one of the founders of the American Hosta Society, was keen to exploit the advantages of tissue culture in its early days in order to get his introductions propagated as rapidly as possible in large quantities. Regarded by many as the doyen of hosta hybridisers, he has introduced such popular varieties as the large leafed Hosta ‘Sum and Substance’ and the blues Hosta ‘Blue Angel’ and ‘Love Pat’.

Hosta. ‘Love Pat’ and Hosta. ‘Pauls Glory’, fairly slug resistant varieties.

Some of the ‘Dwarf Hostas’ that are at present so popular for crevices and containers like Hosta ‘Some and Substance’

Hostas are held in low esteem in the UK

The Americans cannot understand it. They regard the UK as having the perfect climate for growing hostas and we don’t seem to like them. Here in British Isles they grow bigger, and in varieties like Hosta ‘Halcyon’, the flowers are more colourful and stay in bloom for longer.

It is cool enough to preserve the waxy glaucous bloom on the likes of Hosta sieboldiana ‘Elegans’, but the yellow varieties have a tendency to look sick rather than coloured.

Giving Hostas with yellow in them less of the shade and plenty of sun, particularly in the afternoon, will burnish up the hues a bit. However the quandary comes with varieties that have yellow and green in them like Hosta ‘On Stage’. The advice is to experiment with position to see what brings out the best colour by growing them in containers before you commit them to a position.

Hosta ‘Halcyon’, Hosta ‘Some and Substance, Aurea’ with Hosta ‘So Sweet’ that is grown for its attractive fragrant flowers both bred by Aden. This particular plant breaks the rule that white flowers are the only fragrant ones.

Hosta fortunei ‘Albopicta’ flourishes for much longer in the UK than the US and Hosta fortunei ‘Aureomarginata’ has better colour in its flowers in the UK

If hostas are in containers it is easier to preserve them against the only real problem that hostas have. This problem is such that it is probably one of the main reasons that the British become so dismayed with hostas. The day we first proudly place our newly acquired hosta becomes the precursor to the morning that we become starkly aware that we share this country with an enormous population of molluscs.

For inexperienced gardeners this can be utterly disheartening and turns many nature lovers into hardened killers of slugs and snails. You will usually find that the true hosta lover will quite uninhibitedly resort to every possible deterrent and pest control available and all at the same time.

Certain thick leaved varieties like ‘Sum and Substance’ or ‘Frances Williams’ are fairly slug resistant which is enough to supply the traditional herbaceous perennial border with the necessary foliage effects. In our garden we have the ultimate police force in operation in the form of a pair of Khaki Campbell ducks out on slug patrol every day.

Home for hostas

Hostas enjoy any moisture retentive soil, enriched with plenty of organic matter especially leaf-mould. Some shade is generally appreciated during the day especially by the variegated varieties. Don’t plant them in the pool, they may survive, but only just.

Plant at any frost-free time from October to March spacing plants at least half a metre apart to allow plenty of room to spread over time. Hostas only gain their full characteristics as a clump matures in its 4th or 5th year.