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Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Drought Resistant & Attracts Hummingbirds? Plant Spider Flowers

 Being we are into October, Halloween themes are on our minds. Since spiders fit into that thought, the idea for this post came as I was saving seed from one of my absolute favorite summertime annuals, the Spider Flower.

A cottage garden flower that is about as maintenance free as you can get is the Cleome, or better known as Spider Flower (Cleome hasslerana). It doesn't attract spiders. It got that nickname because of the spidery-like flowers with long, waving stamens.

After all the excitement to which we greet spring and the energy we put into our gardens and flowers it can be very defeating to witness the slow demise of our beloved plantings due to extreme heat and too little rainfall. By planting drought resistant bedding plants, you can relieve yourself of the tiresome chore of watering and babying your plants. Cleome is heat and drought tolerant.

Cleome grows in all zones and once it is planted and goes through a growing season, left on its own it will drop seeds and reappear the following spring. These plants reach a height of 6 feet and if spaced about a foot apart will have a beautiful span as it spreads its strong, waving stems. An attractive cottage flower, this annual looks great amidst shrubs, planted in mass, or as a background plant. Keep in mind that you may not want it near walkways or a doorway because it is pricky to brush up against and has a musky odor somewhat like Cannabis. The smell isn't one that you get by sticking your nose in and taking a whiff. It's more of a subtle scent that you may or may not smell in passing.

Start seeds indoors four weeks before the last frost or plant them directly outdoors in spring after danger of frost has passed. Germination takes about 10 days. The smaller the seed the closer to the surface it should be planted. The rule usually is to plant a seed at a depth of 3x its size. These tiny seeds need some light to germinate. Try to space the seeds about a foot apart. If planted too thickly and not thinned,  they will be small and spindly. Cleome tolerates heat and dry weather, and offers you a variety of shades in pink, somewhat purple and white color all summer long.
Staking is usually not necessary, and they are not bothered by pests and disease. Strong winds may bend or knock them over but overall they are very tough plants. If you need any more convincing,  they are a favorite of hummingbirds, which is something many us love to have come visit.

By September you'll notice the formation of seed pods. By early October these pods will begin to split and spill its pepper-like seed. You can just let them fall where they may or you can gather some to plant in another designated spot next spring. Those on the ground will lie dormant till then. The ones you gather should be stored in a dry, cool place.