spiderwort flowers

Spiderwort Plant Care & Growing Guide

Spiderwort is a plant I covet as an outdoor plant and generally will keep as an indoor plant. It has beautiful, pointed leaves and pretty blue flowers in the spring, but is not native to where I live and shouldn’t be grown outdoors outside of its native range. Still, I admire and adore the plant. In this article, we’ll be discussing what there is to know about spiderwort and how to grow it successfully. It’s a pretty easy plant, so definitely not all that hard to grow! Let’s dive right in.

Growing Spiderwort

Spiderwort is a hardy, not terribly picky plant that’s pretty easy to grow, but we’ll increase our odds of growing it successfully if we know the basic facts of the plant.

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  • Latin name: Tradescantia
  • Other names: Spider-lily, cradle-lily, oyster-plant, flowering inch plant
  • Native to: Central and Eastern North America
  • Invasiveness: Highly invasive
  • Tenderness: Perennial
  • Sun: Full sun or shade
  • Water: Moist soil, water every few days
  • Soil: Well drained, acidic soil
  • Hardiness zone: USDA Hardiness Zones 4-9
  • Plant height: 6 inches to 3 feet
  • Plant spread: 8 to 36 inches
  • Bloom period: Spring
  • Container friendly: Yes
  • Fertilizer: Generally not needed
  • Toxicity: Mildly toxic, skin irritant
  • Deer resistant: Yes
  • Pest resistant: Somewhat

Spiderwort is a beautiful plant native to central and eastern North America that has a tendency to be invasive outside of its native range. If planted in hardiness zones 4-9, it’s a perennial. It will act as an annual in colder zones and likely won’t grow optimally in climates warmer than zone 9. It can tolerate a wide range of conditions and usually won’t need fertilizer if it’s planted outdoors. Spiderwort can survive just fine in full sun or shade. It is drought resistant, but does like routine watering.

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Depending on the variety of spiderwort you plant, it can grow anywhere from 6 inches to 3 feet tall and spread as far as 36 inches. It blooms in the spring and can be grown in a container. The plant can be mildly toxic and is known to be a skin irritant. Handle with care! Your spiderwort is deer resistant and at least somewhat pest resistant.

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Water

Spiderwort is a bit duplicitous when it comes to its watering preferences. It is a drought tolerant plant that can grow well with forgetful gardeners, but it enjoys being continuously moist – but not soggy. Watering twice per week will likely get you the best results.

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Sunlight

Spiderwort is a versatile plant when it comes to its light requirements. It can thrive in both full sun and shade. There are complications with growing in shade, particularly fungal rust infections that are caused by shade and excessive moisture. Be cognizant of watering frequency if you’re growing spiderwort in the shade.

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Soil

Spiderwort enjoys a well draining, slightly acidic soil with a pH of 5 to 6, although it can tolerate most soil acidity. The real key to growing this plant well is the well draining aspect of its soil. Spiderwort is susceptible to fungal rust infections if they remain too soggy, especially if they’re in a shaded area.

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Fertilizing

Spiderwort doesn’t generally need any kind of fertilizer if planted outdoors. If grown in pots indoors, you may find that it gets a boost from one to two doses of an indoor plant fertilizer per year. Even if you opt not to fertilize, the plant should do just fine.

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Invasiveness

Spiderwort is considered to be highly invasive outside of its native range, so plant with extreme care. This plant does well in pots, so consider growing in a container instead of planting in the ground.

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Growing Spiderwort in containers

Spiderwort grows pretty easily as an indoor plant in containers. As it grows, you may want to up-pot it into a larger container, but this isn’t really necessary. A basic, slightly acidic indoor plant potting soil will do just fine for the plant. It is drought resistant and can tolerate periods of dry conditions, but it’s best to water a couple times a week to keep the soil moist. When outdoors, you don’t need to use a fertilizer on your spiderwort, but indoor plants would benefit from a balanced indoor plant fertilizer once or twice per year.

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Common problems

Spiderwort is a hardy plant that doesn’t generally experience very many problems. The most common issue associated with this plant is fungal ‘rust’ infections caused by Puccinia fungi. It’s most common in plants that are mostly shaded and overwatered. If your plant begins developing rust, move to a sunnier location and reduce watering.

Propagating Spiderwort

Spiderwort is a very easy plant to propagate through cuttings and dividing. If you’re growing a hanging variety of spiderwort, you can simply cut off a few branches, dip them in water, and watch their new roots grow! If you’re growing a clumping variety of spiderwort, you can simply dig up the root ball and divide it to create new plants. It’s a very simple and straight forward process – definitely hard to get wrong.

Uses for Spiderwort

There are purported uses for the spiderwort plant. Some say that its roots can be used as a laxative and making a tea out of the plant can help to resolve stomach ailments and kidney problems. That said, there is little to no scientific backing to these claims, and when using plants as medicine, your mileage may vary. In general, we recommend avoiding using this plant in a medicinal capacity. Always consult your physician before embarking on experimental plant-based self medicating.

Thomas Nelson
Environmental Advocate
Thomas is an environmental advocate currently residing in the Pacific Northwest. In his spare time, he enjoys experiencing the outdoors, raising chickens and ducks, and reading about current environmental issues. Despite slight colorblindness, his favorite color is green.
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