Tradescantia subaspera

Species Native to Missouri
Common Name: zigzag spiderwort 
Type: Herbaceous perennial
Family: Commelinaceae
Native Range: United States
Zone: 5 to 9
Height: 2.00 to 2.50 feet
Spread: 2.00 to 2.50 feet
Bloom Time: May to August
Bloom Description: Pale to dark blue, occasionally white
Sun: Part shade to full shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Medium
Suggested Use: Naturalize
Flower: Showy

Culture

Grow in average, medium moisture, well-drained soil in part shade to full shade. Prefers moist, acidic soils. Tolerant of poor soils. Divide clumps when they become overcrowded. Foliage declines after flowering and should then be cut back almost to the ground to encourage new growth and a possible fall bloom. Can self-seed and spread in ideal growing conditions.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Tradescantia subaspera, commonly called spiderwort, is a clump-forming herbaceous perennial which grows up to 3' tall. Distinctive zigzag stems and broader leaves distinguish this plant from the very similar Tradescantia virginiana. Violet-blue to purple, three-petaled flowers (.75-1.5" diameter) accented by contrasting yellow stamens open up, a few at a time, each for only one day, from terminal clusters (umbels) containing numerous flower buds. Flowers bloom in succession from late May into early August. Arching, iris-like, dark green leaves up to 10" long and 2" wide are folded lengthwise forming a groove. A Missouri native plant that is commonly found in rich woods in the east-central part of the State.

Genus name honors John Tradescant (1570-1638) and his son John Tradescant (1608-1662), botanists and successive gardeners to Charles I of England.

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.

Problems

No serious insect or disease problems. Young shoots are susceptible to snail damage. Foliage sprawls in an unattractive manner by mid-summer.

Garden Uses

An interesting and long-blooming perennial for native plant gardens, woodland or shade gardens, wild gardens or naturalized areas. Also can be grown in borders, but mid-summer foliage decline is a potential disincentive for this placement.