Perry's Perennial Pages

Tradescantia 'Sweet Kate'

    Perennial of the Month-- July 2004 

(tra-dess-caní tee-ah) (pronunciation at link, turn up volume if too low)

Common name: Golden Spiderwort

Family: Commelinaceae, Spiderwort

Height x width: 12" x 15"

Growth rate; habit: moderate, upright spreading, more upright than many spiderworts

Foliage: alternate, linear-lanceolate, folded lenghtwise along a groove, to 1" wide and 12" long, bright golden yellow, fleshy; may fade slightly greener in late summer

Flowers: bluish purple with yellow stamens, in terminal clusters (umbels) on stiff upright stems; open for a day, but with many in a cluster opening over a 3 week period up to 8 weeks in ideal locations and seasons; flower parts in 3ís; 1-2" across; early to mid-summer

Hardiness: USDA zones 4-9

Soil: well-drained, may not tolerate wet to boggy or may flower less

Light: full sun, flowers less in part shade and less vigorous

Pests and problems: botrytis blight or several insects, but seldom a problem; snails or caterpillar damage possible to young shoots; leaves may scorch in hot climates without afternoon shade or sufficient moisture

Landscape habit, uses: borders, moist areas, specimen or accent in smaller numbers; goes well with other plant with golden foliage such as Vinca 'Illumination' or Lamium 'Golden Anniversary' below, Phlox 'Becky Towe', or in mass of other green-leaved spiderworts for contrast, or echo yellow flowers of Lady's Mantle, or contrast with mass of purple coralbells; around base of Ligularia; or behind primroses

Other interest:  genus native to Americas, named for famous 17th century English botanist Tradescant who first obtained the plants from Virginia, hence the scientific name; may also be called "dayflower" due to blooms open for a day; a UK hybrid from Kent, it may be seen as 'Blue and Gold' but RHS lists them as separate; in Vermont tends to be most golden compared with others such as ChedGlow; in warmer climates may rebloom; common name from fact cut stems exude a viscous sap which becomes thread-like, as in a spider's web; in the Andersonia group in this genus

Other culture: if foliage declines, cut back to the ground to encourage new growth; this may also encourage rebloom; remove seedlings as usually are green with no coloring

Propagation: divide clumps if needed in spring as growth emerges, or early fall

Sources: many specialty nurseries, including those online

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