Cleome's spidery flowers draw attention

Published on Thursday, 10 July 2014 00:01 - Written by Dee Bishop, In Our Garden

An old-fashioned granny plant, cleome (Cleome hasslerana) is a fascinating summer bloomer.

Reseeding in the gardens, cleome is welcomed as a tried and true annual flower that we all love. The interesting spidery-like flowers always draw visitors as well as pollinating insects. I took the photo after a recent rain, and love how the rain drops glisten on the bloom.

Cleome (pronounced clee oh mee) comes in deep pink, purple, light pink and white. All are beautiful heat-loving flowers that have grown in gardens for eons of time. Once you get them in your garden, you won’t have to plant them again, for they seed out without fail every year. Cleomes grow 4 or more feet tall, however a new variety called Sparkler only grows to 3 feet tall.

There are other cleomes that are tender perennials. They make a shrubby type plant with myriads of smaller flowers. The flowers open and as the stem grows taller, seed pods form as each flower fades and new ones come on for most of the summer. If they look raggedy — as they will after a few weeks — just cut them back some and they will branch out more and new blooms will come on right up into autumn.

If sometime you are out in the garden where cleomes are, you may think you smell a skunk. Unfortunately, if these guys are handled, they will give off a skunk-like odor. You really do not want to handle these blooms too much anyway because you will find some sharp prickly spines on their stems. It seems cleomes like to be seen and not touched. That is OK with me as long as they are happily blooming in my garden.

Cleomes need nothing more than a good sunny site and good garden soil that is kept reasonably moist, so most of us can find a place for a few of these lovely old beauties in our gardens.

Dee Bishop is a Smith County Master Gardener. She writes about plants growing within the Tyler Rose Garden.