Tradescantia ernestiana

Species Native to Missouri
Common Name: spiderwort 
Type: Herbaceous perennial
Family: Commelinaceae
Native Range: Central United States
Zone: 5 to 9
Height: 1.00 to 2.00 feet
Spread: 1.00 to 2.00 feet
Bloom Time: April to May
Bloom Description: Rose-red to blue to deep purple
Sun: Part shade to full shade
Water: Medium to wet
Maintenance: Medium
Suggested Use: Naturalize
Flower: Showy


Easily grown in average, medium to wet, well-drained soil in part shade to full shade. Plants generally prefer moist, acidic, humusy soils. Deadhead each flower cluster after all buds in the cluster have opened in order to extend the bloom period. As the heat of early summer sets in, foliage may decline considerably at which point plants may be cut back hard. Cutting back stems almost to the ground will promote both new foliage growth and an additional late summer to fall bloom. Divide clumps when they become overcrowded. Plants will naturalize over time.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Tradescantia ernestiana, sometimes commonly called woodland spiderwort, is a clump-forming perennial that is native to Missouri, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia. In Missouri it is typically found in moist woodland valleys, ravines and slopes in the southwestern corner of the state (Steyermark). It grows to 12-24” tall. Dayflower-like green foliage emerges in spring. Foliage lacks the white coating found on some other spiderworts. Three-petaled flowers (to 1.5” diameter), accented by contrasting yellow stamens, are borne in terminal clusters (umbels) atop stiff stems. Flower color varies from rose-red to blue to deep purple. Multiple flower buds form in each cluster, but individual flowers open up only a few at a time, each for only one day, blooming in succession in a relatively short April-May bloom period. This spiderwort is very similar in appearance to Tradescantia ozarkana (lighter flower color) and T. virginiana (narrower leaf blade).

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


No serious insect or disease problems. Young shoots are susceptible to damage from snails and caterpillars. Spiderwort foliage often sprawls in an unattractive manner by mid-summer.


Spring flowers and attractive foliage for shady areas. Rock gardens, borders, shade/woodland gardens, naturalized areas or moist areas along streams or ponds.