Ohio Spiderwort (Tradescantia ohiensis) is a nice spring to early summer perennial that has spiky, grass-like foliage with deep blue, three petaled flowers. It is usually considered a wildflower, native to the Midwest, East and North East United States. The plant is often purchased for garden flower beds. They are grown in zones 4 to 9. The flowers only last a day, but will bloom continuously for up to six weeks. The flowers close up in the heat of the afternoon, but stay open on cool or cloudy days.
There are different accounts as to how the native plant got its name. One story says, when the stem is cut it secrets a sticky substance that resembles a spiderweb. Another theory suggests the fine hair like filaments on the flower buds looks like a spider’s web especially when covered with morning dew.
By late summer the plant will begin to look a little ragged and will eventually go dormant. The plant easily self-seeds and the clumps will grow larger with time and may need to be divided every few years. Some gardeners cut back the foliage in mid-summer and sometimes the plant will flower again in the fall.
Spiderworts grow well in full sun in all kinds of soil. Recently I was surprised to see several clumps of the flower growing in the dry gritty soil along a train track. The flowers are pollinated by bumblebees and is a favorite food for rabbits, deer, and turtles.
In folklore American Indians would carry Spiderwort to attract a love interest!
There are various varieties of Tradescantia. I have a rose colored flowering spiderwort in my garden. There is a very striking variety with golden leaves and blue flowers. It is interesting the common houseplant, Wandering Jew is related and a type of Tradescantia.
Spiderworts might have a scary name, but they make a fine addition to your perennial flower beds!