How to Grow Cleome, a Cottage Garden Favorite

Updated on February 7, 2020
OldRoses profile image

Caren White is a Master Gardener and instructor at Home Gardeners School. She has been associated with Rutgers Gardens for over a decade.


Cleome, or Spider Flower, has been a cottage garden favorite for many years. If you have a butterfly garden or a hummingbird feeder, you will want to plant these beauties which attract both butterflies and hummingbirds.

What are Cleome?

Cleome (Cleome hassleriana) are native to the southern countries of South America. They are only hardy in zones 10 and 11 so they are grown as annuals in all regions of the US. In their native areas, they are pollinated by bats. Here in the US, they attract a number of different beneficial insects including butterflies and hummingbird moths.

Cleome are nick-named Spider Flower for good reason. Their flowers, which come in white, pink and purple, grow in an umbel shape like an umbrella with long stamens which stick out giving them a spiky look like the legs of a spider. Bloom-time is June. The plants will continue blooming until frost without deadheading. Instead, the flower stalk continues to grow, becoming longer and longer.

After flowering, they develop long, bean-like seed pods which you might want to pinch off because they self-sow prolifically and can easily become a nuisance. If you wish to collect the seed, wait until the pods have dried and turned yellow. If left on the plants, the ripe pods shatter, scattering their seeds all over your garden. If allowed to self-sow, over several generations the flowers will lose their distinctive colors and become a uniform pale pink. Personally, I don’t mind but some gardeners prefer their cleome to be the original colors that they planted. In that case, the seed pods should be removed before they ripen and scatter their seeds.

Cleome leaves grow in fan-shape groups like a hand with the fingers spread out. When they are not blooming, they are occasionally mistaken for marijuana plants.

Cleome stems have thorns so handle them carefully and don't plant near walkways.
Cleome stems have thorns so handle them carefully and don't plant near walkways. | Source

The stems develop thorns so it is recommended that you not grow them near paths or sidewalks. They also have a scent which some people find offensive so you might want to plant them away from windows and outdoor living areas. Personally, I have never found their scent to be offensive.

Depending on the variety, cleome can attain a height of 3’ to 5’ when full-grown. The heirloom Queen series are the tallest while the newer Sparkler series are shorter and can be grown in containers. The Queen series are an excellent back-of-the-border plants. The Sparkler series has a longer blooming period than the older Queen series. Despite its drawbacks, my favorite is the old-fashioned Queen series. They don't get lost among the tall cosmos and nicotiana that I also grow.

How to Grow Cleome

Cleome do best in full sun. When grown in partial shade, they become leggy and fall over. They grow well in average soil, needing little in the way of fertilizer. Too much fertilizer will result in leggy plants. They are an excellent addition to your xeriscape because they are drought tolerant. A thin layer of mulch, 1 to 2 inches, will help the soil to stay moist. Avoid over-watering your plants. They are also deer resistant for those of us who have a deer problem. Rabbits are not fond of them either if you have problems with rabbits.

The leaves are occasionally mistaken for marijuana leaves.
The leaves are occasionally mistaken for marijuana leaves. | Source

How to Grow Cleome From Seed

Cleome are usually grown from seed. The easiest way is to direct sow them in your garden after all danger of frost has passed. Alternatively, you can sow seeds in the fall for germination in the spring. The seeds need light to germinate, so sow them on the surface of the soil. Do not cover them. When the soil temperature reaches 70⁰F to 74⁰F, the seeds will germinate within 1 to 2 weeks. Thin your seedlings to 18 inches apart.

You can also start your seeds indoors 4 to 6 weeks before your last frost. Surface sow the seeds because they need light to germinate. Use a heat mat to keep the soil temperature at 70°F to 74°F. You can expect germination within 1 to 2 weeks. Plants started indoors can be set out into your garden after all danger of frost. Plant your seedlings 18 inches apart. Depending on when they were planted, you can expect flowers by mid- to late-June.

Cleome have all the characteristics of classic cottage garden flowers. They are easy to grow, attract butterflies, hummingbirds and beneficial insects and are virtually disease free. Their only true failing is their tendency to profusely self-sow in your garden.

© 2014 Caren White


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • OldRoses profile imageAUTHOR

      Caren White 

      6 years ago

      It was new to me too that they attract hummingbirds. Thanks for the vote and the pin.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image


      6 years ago from USA

      Beautiful and it's nice to know that it attracts hummingbirds. We have several feeders and enjoy watching them from afar. Voted up and pinning to my Garden board.

    • OldRoses profile imageAUTHOR

      Caren White 

      6 years ago

      I was disappointed that none germinated in my garden this year and then I realized that I had covered the seed! Thanks for reading and voting tobusiness.

    • tobusiness profile image

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 

      6 years ago from Lincolnshire, U.K

      Beautiful flower, I've been meaning to grow Cleome from seeds, thank you for the reminder. Voted up, beautiful and useful.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)