Tradescantia bracteata
Common Name: prairie spiderwort 
Type: Herbaceous perennial
Family: Commelinaceae
Native Range: Central United States
Zone: 4 to 9
Height: 1.00 to 1.50 feet
Spread: 1.50 to 2.00 feet
Bloom Time: May to July
Bloom Description: Rose to purple
Sun: Full sun
Water: Dry to medium
Maintenance: Medium
Suggested Use: Ground Cover, Naturalize
Flower: Showy
Tolerate: Drought, Dry Soil, Shallow-Rocky Soil

Culture

Grow in average, dry to medium moisture, well-drained soil in full sun. 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. May self-seed and spread in the garden in ideal growing conditions.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Tradescantia bracteata, commonly called small spiderwort, is a compact, clump-forming herbaceous perennial which typically grows to 1.5' tall. Rose 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 July. Arching, iris-like, dark green leaves up to 1' long and 3/4" wide are folded lengthwise forming a groove. A Missouri native plant that is found in sunny locations on prairies, meadows, fields, roadsides and railroad right-of-ways.

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

Specific epithet means having bracts.

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, wild gardens or naturalized areas. Also effective in borders and rock gardens, but mid-summer foliage decline is a potential disincentive for a prominent placement therein.