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Cleome Care – How to Plant, Grow and Help Them Thrive

By Patricia Telesco • Updated on 2024-03-07

You work hard on your outdoor oasis but are always on the lookout for something else to add to the whimsy. Cleome is a stunning option. In some ways, Cleome steals the spotlight, standing out with a unique, graceful appearance. You can’t ask for brighter floral colors, bursting out and looking much like a spider plant, only prettier. Once you know everything about Cleome care, they’ll reward you with faithful flowers.

Key Takeaways

  • Cleomes are a very dependable performer in your garden.
  • Once established, Cleomes are low-maintenance plants needing little watering.
  • Applying fertilizer once during the growing season helps produce vibrant flowers.

Charming Cleomes

These plants come in numerous colors, sizes, and shapes. Their spider-like design creates texture in your garden. Add to the visual impact, Cleome leaves look lacy, as if dressed for the ball. These flowers are tolerant of low temperatures and drought. That means you won’t have to water as often as you do with other plants.

Traditional Cleomes are pink or white, but exotic hybrids have taken the color range further. These plants can become invasive, but dead-heading them prevents that. While they’re pretty, you can snack on their leaves! Hum… flower garden or vegetable patch?

Pollinators Love Me!

Wherever you see Cleomes, you will also find butterflies and bees. Both the color and scent of the flowers attract them. If you’re lucky, you may see a hummingbird or two!

Outdoor Cleome Care

Cleome is also known as Spider Flower. It’s an unexpected touch of caprice in your garden. The flowers are tall atop tall, thin stems. You really can’t miss them in the landscape.

Outdoor Cleome Care

Image credit: © Michal

There are some keys to successful Cleome care. Make sure it gets full sun and that you plant it in well-draining soil where the moisture will be relatively consistent. If you provide these two things, you’ll have little in the way of maintenance thereafter.

If you want continuous blooms throughout the season, simply remove spent flowers. Pinch them off, leaving all the healthy leaves nearby intact. Fertilizers can also benefit Cleomes. Apply it monthly when they’re actively growing.

Simplicity and Speed: Gardeners appreciate Cleome’s easy cultivation. It’s a straightforward plant. Once you sow it, the flower grows quickly. It’s always nice to see the results of your handy work speedily. While Cleomes are annuals, you may find new plants growing in spring thanks to the seeds from the previous blossoms shed.

Outdoor Cleome Needs

Start with light. Your Cleome plants need six hours of direct sunlight daily. Without it, they don’t produce many flowers. If they’re in the shade, the plants grow leggy, looking for that light they crave.

Before you put Cleomes in your garden, amend the soil with rich organic matter like manure or compost. This helps the plant retain moisture without getting waterlogged. If you’re not sure that it needs water, put your finger into the first inch of soil near the base of the Cleome. If it’s dry, get out your watering bucket!

One of the best pieces of advice is getting to know your plants. Everything in your garden has needs, but when you know them, you can save time and effort. Cleomes are an elegant plant well worth adding to your landscape.

Let’s Shake On It

Cleome leaves are what’s called palmate. You see the word “palm” in there? Well, it’s for a good reason. The foliage on Cleome plants resembles open hands with little lobes (fingers).

Shopping for Outdoor Cleome Plants

Types of Cleome

Image credit: © tortoon

You have a world of Cleomes from which to choose, including compact varieties. Here are a few that might catch your eye:

Mountain Bee Plant, which boasts vibrant pink or purple flowers that attract bees and butterflies. The Cleome cultivars, such as the ‘Senorita Rosalita’ or ‘Sparkler Blush’, are more compact and offer a range of colors, including pink, purple, and white. These varieties are known for their long blooming season and their ability to thrive in various conditions. Whether you prefer the whimsical Spider Flower or the compact cultivars, Cleome plants add beauty and charm to any garden.

  • Helen Campbell: A dramatic white cultivar that received the RHS Award of Garden Merit in 1993. It grows about 4 feet high by 2 feet wide and produces a light scent.
  • Linde Armstrong: If you’re looking for a smaller Cleome, the Linde Armstrong grows to be only 1 foot by 1 foot. It is an Athens Select flower, pretty in pink.
  • Mauve Queen: A 36-660 inch tall plant that hummingbirds love. The flowers are a crisp mauve-pink that not only adorns your garden but makes great blossoms for arrangements.
  • Rocky Mountain Beeplant: A fast-growing Cleome that exhibits drought tolerance. They self-seed as the flowers drop. Native Americans used them as pot plants. Growing 26 inches tall, it would mesh beautifully with cosmos.
  • Señorita Rosalita: This Cleome has no scent but lovely lavender flowers dotting the stem and the top. If you prefer pink, look for Senorita Mi Amor.
  • Sparkler: This series of hybrids grow to about 4 feet tall, and they’re bushy. It “sparkles” with pink and white flowers traditionally, but other colors are rose and lavender. It received a 2002 All-America Selections award.
  • Spirit Series: These hybrids are compact (2-3 feet tall). They branch and have interesting blossoms. Some, like Appleblossom, are pink, fading to white, for example.
  • Violet Queen: This Cleome has a long blossoming season. It’s a loaded plant with violet flowers that do not fade. Mature height 36”-48”.
  • White Queen: Wow! A 6-8 inch flower head. You cannot miss it in any garden. Flowers in early summer, growing 4-6 feet tall.
Cleome Series

There are several series of Cleome plants. Queen Series is among the oldest. All plants in this group grow 3-5 feet tall and 1-2 feet wide. Great for self-seeding. These flowers have a powerful aroma. Two examples are the Cherry Queen (literally cherry colored) and the Rose Queen, bearing pinky-rose flowers.

The first hybrid cleome series is the Sparkler. It’s a heavy-blooming blossom that germinates easily. The plant reaches about 3 feet tall and 2 feet wide. These have a bushy appearance and suit container planting. As with the Queen Series, the name of the flower indicates the color (like Blush and Lavender).

The Spirit Series grows to a compact size of 4 feet by 18 inches. It has thorns, so be careful, as well as sticky foliage.

Watering Techniques

Cleome plants have specific watering needs that should be understood for successful growth. Proper watering is crucial to their overall health and vitality. Several factors affect the watering requirements of Cleome plants, including the type of soil, weather conditions, and plant maturity.

Develop an ideal watering schedule to maintain healthy Cleome plants. When watering Cleome plants, it is best to water them at the base to prevent moisture-related diseases and promote healthy root development. Using the right amount of water is also important to avoid water stress or drowning the plants.

Watering Cleome plants in the morning allows them to take in the water before the heat of the day while avoiding evening watering helps prevent the development of fungal diseases. Advanced watering techniques for Cleome plants include mulching to help retain moisture.

Cleome Symbolism: Cleomes represent a change in fortune for the better. Their appearance at wedding celebrations brings positivity. If you give a Cleome to a lover, you are asking them to run away with you. In dreams, Cleome is a message from your ancestors to get back in touch with your roots.

Cleome Potting and Repotting

Cleome potting and repotting is an important step in ensuring healthy growth and blooms for your plants. The first step is selecting the right container – this should be deep enough for the roots of the plant to grow without becoming too cramped or overcrowded while also being wide enough for them to spread out. In terms of soil, you want a mixture that won’t compact too much when watered but will still retain moisture – compost-enriched potting soil with perlite or vermiculite is usually ideal.

Once you have prepared your container and soil, place your cleome plant inside gently and fill up with more soil until about two inches from the top of the pot – watering afterward will help settle any air pockets around its root system.

Repotting cleomes requires similar steps–however, when choosing a new container, it’s important to select one that is just slightly larger than its current size. You should also take extra care when transferring your cleome from an old pot into its new home — try not to disturb its root structure too much. Fill the container up with more soil until two inches from the top before giving it plenty of water–allowing it time afterward for recovery.

Snacking on Cleomes

Cleome is certainly lovely, but it’s also useful. The seeds of this plant are edible, being rich in protein and healthy fat. They taste slightly nutty. The leaves, flowers, and young stems can also go into the proverbial soup pot. They’re loaded with vitamins A, E, and C. The leaves are mustardy and suitable for stews.

One recipe calls for gathering young shoots and boiling them for an hour. Next, fry them with a little oil, onions, green pepper, and salt. You now have a side dish!

Outdoor Cleome Care: Pruning and Maintenance

Pruning your cleome plants can give them a much-needed boost in health and appearance. There are several key benefits associated with properly pruned cleome plants that you should be aware of. Improving air circulation is one of them – without good aeration around the plant, diseases, and pests have an easier time thriving in overcrowded or shaded areas. Additionally, pruning allows more sunlight to reach the plant so that all its leaves can benefit from photosynthesis.

Cleome Pruning and Maintenance

Image credit: © last19

It also helps promote healthy fresh shoots, adding volume and controlling its size. Pruning your cleome plants keeps them looking vibrant and tidy for years to come. Make sure not to over-prune as this will damage your cleome plants. Use sharp tools when pruning your plants – dull tools will tear at delicate stems rather than cutting cleanly.

The ideal time for pruning is in early spring before fresh growth begins. Late winter can also be an appropriate time, but pruning during summer or fall should be avoided as it may cause a lack of flowers or weak stems.

It’s Healthy: The dried leaves from Cleome plants can treat and prevent scurvy. The fresh leaves can become supplements, and the roots treat fevers.

Spider Flower Blooming and Resting Periods

In USDA Hardiness Zones 10-11, the Spider Flower can grow as a perennial. Cleome flowers typically have a long blooming period, lasting from late spring to early summer. During this time, it’s important to give them regular watering and pruning in order for them to reach their full potential. When the plants enter their resting period, usually during the winter months, it’s best to give them a break from watering and pruning so they can conserve their energy for the next growing season. Depending on the variety of Cleome plants you have, the exact duration of its blooming and resting periods may vary slightly.

A Garden Helper

You can use Cleome plants in your garden to deter rabbits and deer. Place them near other plants that are attractive like lavender and rose.

Common Pests & Plant Diseases of the Spider Flower

Healthy cleome plants are a delight to behold, with their vibrant colors and unique structure. However, if you’re not paying close attention to the health of your cleome plants, they can quickly become overwhelmed by pests and diseases.

When it comes to identifying pests and diseases that affect cleome plants, there are certain signs of damage to look out for. The most common sign is holes in the leaves, which a variety of pets may cause. If you suspect pests, check for other signs such as discolored or wilted leaves, webbing on the plant’s foliage or stems, and/or unusual droppings on the soil.

If you notice any sudden changes in the health of your cleome plant, such as yellowing leaves or wilting even when well-watered, this could show that it is suffering from a disease. Common symptoms of diseases include spots on the foliage or stem, stunted growth and/or leaf drop.

Happy Puppy: Cleomes are perfectly safe for pets.

Troubleshooting Common Outdoor Cleome Plant Problems

One problem that can occur with cleomes is sunburn damage. This occurs when too much direct sunlight hits the leaves, causing them to become dry and brittle. To prevent this, make sure your cleomes are in a spot where they receive some shade during the day – but not too much!

It’s also important to assess your watering needs for your cleome plants. Over-watering leads to root rot, while under-watering results in droopy foliage and browned edges on leaves. Test the soil before watering and adjust your frequency and quantity accordingly, typically once per week should suffice for optimal growth.

Finally, nutrient deficiencies will present themselves as yellow spots on leaves or slow growth rates due to a lack of essential minerals like nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, magnesium, etc. To ensure optimal nutrition for your cleomes use a balanced fertilizer every few weeks and check soil pH levels regularly – ideally between 6.2 and 6.5 for optimal growth results.

Frequently Asked Questions About Cleome Care and Keeping

Does cleome like sun or shade?

Provide cleomes with full sun. A little shade is ok because it will reduce the chance of burnt leaves. Too much shade makes the stems grow too long, seeking after light, and they fall over.

Is cleome an annual or perennial?

With the exceptions of USDA Hardiness Zones 10-11, Cleomes are annual plants. But you may get a pleasant surprise. New cleomes may sprout from the seeds of the previous plant.

Is cleome a hardy annual?

Yes. Spider Flowers look fancy, but they’re not demanding. Despite its exotic looks, this sun-loving half-hardy annual is straightforward to grow from seed. Just remember that once the frosts come, your plant will begin to die off.

Does cleome transplant well?

When you are getting close to the last frost, you can start seeds indoors under a grow light. Transplant them when they reach 6” tall. The only limitation is that directly seeded plants seem to grow better than transplants.

What is the lifespan of a spider flower?

One full growing season. Once cut for arrangements, they only last a few days.

Is cleome easy to grow?

Very. Ordinary garden soil is fine for cleomes. Just keep an eye on their water levels.


When you want extra color and charm in your garden, Cleomes are a go-to plant. They have visually impressive flowers sure to catch the eye of passers-by. Novices can grow Cleomes because they don’t need a lot of fussing. You’ll find that growing and caring for cleome plants is quite easy and enjoyable.

Final Thoughts on Cleome Care

When I look at cleomes it seems the flowers are both bold and beautiful. They captivate the eye and make an amazing statement when dotted throughout your garden. Their blooms are vibrant and have such a unique structure that you will want them in your space every year.

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