Cleome hassleriana

Cleome hassleriana

A member of the Capparidaceae plant family and sometimes known as the spider flower, this is a statuesque annual for summer flowers, which hails from subtropical South America (ht 1 - 1.5m). Above bold, palmate leaves, rounded heads of whiskery pink, white or lavender blooms like friendly flower people are held on increasingly long necks as summer progresses, attracting butterflies into the garden! They provide a superb background mass of colour and exotic form over an extended period in borders with other tropical-style plants such as Salvia, Dahlia and Canna.

Cleome hassleriana, left, with Salvia Indigo Spires, right

They like a sunny spot and will grow in quite ordinary soil as long as it is well drained, and they don't need a lot of water. If you tip-prune them when the seedlings are small, a more branched plant will result, with multiple blooms. Cleome will self-seed from year to year. Young seedlings can be successfully transplanted if you are careful and keep them well watered for a few weeks. Beware of the spiny stems of this plant.

PS In recent times I have got a bit tired of this plant and am experimenting with the hybrid perennial form.

Best grown from seed/

Flowers in January, February, March, December.