Tradescantia ‘Sweet Kate’

spiderwort Interesting Notes

When the stems of spiderworts are cut, a viscous stem secretion is released which becomes threadlike and silky upon hardening (like a spider’s web), hence the common name. Kemper Center for Home Gardening

I am not sure why I feel compelled to make excuses for some of the plants I describe, especially those with vaguely unsettling names that I worry might rebuff rather than entice you. I suppose I want you to love them as I do – all their idiosyncracies included – with an eye unbiased by name or reputation. Spiderwort is one of those words that wriggles and resonates from the depths of the unconscious with hints of dark basements and foul witches’ brew. However, in reality, nothing about these dayflowers suggests anything sinister, and my best guess is that the name referrs to the delicate weblike filaments that decorate the anthers of each 3-petalled flower like a feather boa in miniature. The lightly fragrant flowers pop out one or two at a time from the folds of a leaflike bract. They open broad and flat in the heat of the day, then wither and curl under to be replaced the next morning by a new batch of blooms. The foliage of spiderworts looks very similar to a daylily’s, especially when it is first emerging. (I remember confusing the two on tests in my perennial class in college.) The basal fans elongate in flowering to become leafy stems with alternate foliage arranged like sweet corn and blossoms appearing out of the topmost bract leaves. Bill Cullina

Tradescantia Sweet Kate

The sensational golden-yellow foliage is teamed with brilliant violet blue blooms – wow! The blooms last only a day but feat not, there is a steady supply of them.

Tradescantia ‘Sweet Kate’ is so easy and rewarding to grow. With very little effort you will have months of flowers from spring to autumn. The bright foliage forms a neat clump that will slowly expand. It is not invasive like many of its relatives.

Grow Tradescantia ‘Sweet Kate’ in a semi shade location that avoids afternoon sun. Ideally plant in humus rich, moist, well drained soils though it is tolerant of boggy and poor soils. Water to establish and keep moist in active growth. Cut back foliage that is damaged by frost to tidy.

Try teaming Tradescantia ‘Sweet Kate’ with deep green leaves of some Hosts a or for real contrast, purple foliage such as Coleus. This plant is also known as Tradescantia ‘Blue and Gold’.

Tradescantia is commonly known as Spiderwort. They are known as Spiderworts because when the leaves are cut they secrete a viscous liquid that sets hard and silky like a spiders web.

After the first flush has finished, you can cut the plant back to the ground and fertilise for a second autumn flush.

Spiderwort

Spiderwort

While a name like spiderwort may be misleading, this resilient perennial should have a home in everyone’s garden. With slender, graceful foliage and bright jewel-tone blossoms, spiderworts are easy to use in any garden design. These plants may not have the showiest blooms, but they certainly make up for it with quantity. They are also extremely forgiving, and have no problem multiplying.

genus name
  • Tradescantia
light
  • Part Sun,
  • Shade,
  • Sun
plant type
  • Perennial
height
  • Under 6 inches,
  • 6 to 12 inches,
  • 1 to 3 feet
width
  • 8 to 36 inches wide, depending on variety
flower color
  • Blue,
  • Purple,
  • White,
  • Pink
foliage color
  • Blue/Green,
  • Chartreuse/Gold
season features
  • Spring Bloom,
  • Fall Bloom,
  • Summer Bloom
problem solvers
  • Deer Resistant,
  • Groundcover,
  • Drought Tolerant
special features
  • Low Maintenance,
  • Good for Containers
zones
  • 4,
  • 5,
  • 6,
  • 7,
  • 8,
  • 9,
  • 10,
  • 11
propagation
  • Division,
  • Seed,
  • Stem Cuttings

Garden Plans For Spiderwort

Image zoom

Colorful Combinations

With their simple foliage and small flowers, spiderworts are great companions to many other plants. The flowers of spiderwort are generally three petals, which are born at the tips of foliage stems, and often in clusters. Usually just a few blooms in each cluster are open at once, and all of the blooms are only open for a single day. Luckily, there are generally many buds per stalk, and the bloomtime can last up to three months.

Spiderwort Care Must-Knows

Spiderworts are pretty simple plants that do not need a lot of special care. Native to the Western Hemisphere, there are a large variety of spiderworts on the market. With tropical and perennial options, there are many different spiderworts to choose from. Luckily, general care of these plants is fairly universal.

Spiderworts aren’t too picky when it comes to exposure. Many varieties are just as happy in part shade as they are in full sun. A few even prefer part shade, especially when protected from the hot afternoon sun. There are even some species that will do just fine in full shade.

Most spiderworts prefer to be planted in saturated, well-drained soil. Some species can handle drought much better than others and can even do fine in consistently drier soils. In very dry soils, especially in the summer, plants may go dormant, which can commonly happen in southern climates with hot summers. Foliage is generally the first thing to decline, becoming yellowed and limp. When this happens, plants can be cut back to the ground. Come fall and cooler temperatures, many species of spiderwort will happily begin again, sending up new shoots and sometimes new blooms.

See flowers that thrive in wet soils.

Potential Problems

Despite the ease of growth with spiderworts, there are a few things to note when you are planting them. Spiderworts are susceptible to leaf spot diseases, and once they begin to get it, plants start to decline. Luckily, this generally will not kill the plants, and as long as foliage is removed, the next re-sprouting should be clean. Spiderworts also tend to be aggressive seeders, which in some garden settings may become a nuisance. These seedlings can easily be removed, and by deadheading spent blooms, you can prevent aggressive seeding.

More Varietiesof Spiderwort

‘Bilberry Ice’ spiderwort

Tradescantia ‘Bilberry Ice’ offers white blooms with a lavender-purple blush at the center. It blooms in early summer and grows 2 feet tall. Zones 4-9

‘Sweet Kate’ spiderwort

Tradescantia ‘Sweet Kate’ has bright yellow foliage that emerges in late spring. The brilliant purple flowers are dramatic against the leaves. It grows to 15 inches tall. Zones 4-8

‘Innocence’ spiderwort

Tradescantia ‘Innocence’ bears pure white flowers in early to midsummer. It grows 2 feet tall and wide. Zones 4-9

Spiderwort

Tradescantia x andersoniana has broadly grassy leaves that clasp the fleshy stems. Clusters of buds top the stems opening sequentially to jewel-tone flowers, each lasting only a day. It grows 3 feet tall. Zones 5-9

Plant Spiderwort With:

One of the longest bloomers in the garden, coreopsis produces (usually) sunny yellow daisylike flowers that attract butterflies. Coreopsis, depending on the variety, also bears golden-yellow, pale yellow, pink, or bicolor flowers. It will bloom from early to midsummer or longer—as long as it’s deadheaded.

Lady’s mantle looks great in the garden and in a vase. Its scalloped leaves catch rain or dewdrops, making them look dusted with jewels. The chartreuse flowers appear in playful, frothy clusters above the foliage. Lady’s mantle is ideal for softening the edge of a shaded path or creating a groundcover in dappled shade.

Also known as red valerian for its rosy pink flowers, Jupiter’s beard is one of the longest-blooming perennials in the garden, provided you remove spent flower heads. Deadheading not only prolongs bloom, but also prevents self seeding. In some regions, Jupiter’s beard has escaped from gardens and become a nonnative wildflower.

These vigorous growers are beautiful additions to the garden. They vary form, including types that are tall, stately plants suitable for borders and others that are more like creeping groundcovers. Flowers are tight spikes of 1/2-inch to 1-inch cups carried alone or in whorls. Humus-rich, moisture-retentive soil is recommended; some varieties enjoy wet soil and ample water. Several sorts may become invasive and need to be controlled. Note: These are not the invasive purple loosestrife, which has been banned in many parts of the United States.

Sweet Kate Spiderwort

Sweet Kate gives you the original flower color on a smaller, neater plant.

The Story of the Spiderworts and John Tradescant. The Spiderworts common name is obvious; the blooms look somewhat like spiders. (Wort simply means plant or root in Latin.) But the botanical name is more interesting.

These flowers are named Tradescantia after two very interesting Englishmen, a father and son, of the Elizabethan Age. John Tradescant, the Elder was a royal gardener and became very famous for his travels and exotic plants he brought home from the Continent. His son traveled much further. Even though he died in 1662, only 42 years after the Pilgrims arrived, he managed three different trips to Virginia. He introduced the North American Tulip Tree and other plants to Europe, but he and his father are immortalized forever in these beautiful American wildflowers. There are several wild species of Tradescantias in eastern America, with flowers ranging from blue to pink to white. All have the distinctive three-petaled form, and all are plants of wet places. Most hybrids today are created from crossing T. virginiana, the common blue Spiderwort, with other species in the group.

More Information

SKU

AM014480

Item Package Size

Plant – 2″ Pot

Common Name

Sweet Kate Spiderwort

Botanical Name

Tradescantia Sweet Kate

Zones

4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9

Light Requirements

Full Sun, Half Sun / Half Shade

Flower Color

Purple

Flower Size

1-2″ flowers

Mature Height

10-14″ tall

Estimated Mature Spread

12-24″ wide

Growth Rate

Medium

Bloom Time

Early to late summer

Planting Depth

Crown of plant should rest just at or above the soil surface after watering in.

Ships As

Potted Plant

Foliage

Brilliant chartreuse foliage.

Soil Type

Loamy Soil, Moist/Wet Soil

Soil Moisture

Average, Moist / Wet

Advantages

Easy To Grow, Attract Butterflies, Deer Resistant, Native, Good For Containers

Ideal Region

Northeast, Southeast, Midwest, Pacific Northwest

Planting Time

Spring / Summer

Poisonous or Toxic to Animals

Poisonous if ingested. Skin irritant.

Ships to Hawaii, Alaska & Canada

No

Sweet Kate Spiderwort flowers

Sweet Kate Spiderwort flowers

(Photo courtesy of NetPS Plant Finder)

Sweet Kate Spiderwort in bloom

Sweet Kate Spiderwort in bloom

(Photo courtesy of NetPS Plant Finder)

Height: 18 inches

Spacing: 14 inches

Sunlight:

Hardiness Zone: 3a

Other Names: Widow’s Tears

Ornamental Features

Sweet Kate Spiderwort has masses of beautiful clusters of royal blue flowers at the ends of the stems from early to late summer, which are most effective when planted in groupings. Its attractive grassy leaves emerge gold in spring, turning chartreuse in color throughout the season. The fruit is not ornamentally significant.

Landscape Attributes

Sweet Kate Spiderwort is an herbaceous perennial with an upright spreading habit of growth. Its relatively fine texture sets it apart from other garden plants with less refined foliage.

This is a relatively low maintenance plant, and is best cleaned up in early spring before it resumes active growth for the season. It is a good choice for attracting butterflies to your yard, but is not particularly attractive to deer who tend to leave it alone in favor of tastier treats. It has no significant negative characteristics.

Sweet Kate Spiderwort is recommended for the following landscape applications;

  • Mass Planting
  • Border Edging
  • General Garden Use
  • Naturalizing And Woodland Gardens

Planting & Growing

Sweet Kate Spiderwort will grow to be about 18 inches tall at maturity, with a spread of 18 inches. When grown in masses or used as a bedding plant, individual plants should be spaced approximately 14 inches apart. It grows at a fast rate, and under ideal conditions can be expected to live for approximately 10 years. As this plant tends to go dormant in summer, it is best interplanted with late-season bloomers to hide the dying foliage.

This plant does best in partial shade to shade. It requires an evenly moist well-drained soil for optimal growth. It is not particular as to soil type or pH. It is highly tolerant of urban pollution and will even thrive in inner city environments. Consider applying a thick mulch around the root zone in winter to protect it in exposed locations or colder microclimates. This particular variety is an interspecific hybrid. It can be propagated by division; however, as a cultivated variety, be aware that it may be subject to certain restrictions or prohibitions on propagation.

Tradescantia x andersoniana ‘Sweet Kate’ (a.k.a. T. ‘Blue and Gold’)

WHY YOU SHOULD PLANT IT

Growing to about 45 cm high by 30 cm wide, ‘Sweet Kate’ is a cultivar of our wildly invasive native spiderwort. Unlike its parent, though, it doesn’t spread all over the place. You never need to deadhead the brilliant cobalt flowers, which open for a day before the next batch comes along, so it seems to bloom for weeks and weeks. Best of all is its magnificent golden foliage.

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WHERE TO PLANT IT

‘Sweet Kate’ tolerates semi-shade, though it does best with sun for at least four hours a day (but not blistering noontime sun, which will ruin it). It also needs moist soil and good drainage.

WHAT IT OFFERS

It’s a great companion plant, providing perfectly harmonious contrast to blue grasses, silvery pulmonarias ( P. ‘Majeste’) or heucheras in a deep bronze or magenta. Make it the centre of a container or put it in a mixed border.

SOURCE AND COST

Once rare, this plant can now be found at Loblaws, other big box stores and most good nurseries. One will set you back $10 to $15, depending on its size.

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