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Plant cleome to get in the spirit
By Norman Winter
Central Mississippi Research & Extension Center
A recent 4-H event at one of the most highly rated golf courses in the country included the opportunity to see an impressive display of cleomes all around the clubhouse. The incredible new varieties I saw at the course are one of the reasons the old-fashioned cleomes are seeing a revival.
Cleomes, like the new Spirit series and my personal favorite, Senorita Rosalita, have the ability to give a long season of performance. With their spider-like structure, they offer tremendous landscape interest.
I like them in tropical gardens with bananas -- after all, they do come from South America. To be honest, they fit in cottage gardens as well as they do at top resort golf courses. They reach close to 4 feet in height, attract hummingbirds and butterflies, and offer both heat and drought tolerance.
They are unbeatable for serving as the tall thriller plant in mixed containers. One terrific combination I saw a year ago had a patriotic motif with Spirit Frost as the tall plant, then layered to the shorter Angelface Wedgwood Blue angelonia, and the Tukana scarlet verbena trailed over the edge.
Cleomes are known to have some thorns that can give you a little prick, and they also do some reseeding. If these two issues keep you from growing cleome, then by all means try Senorita Rosalita.
In our trials, I usually find that it is a little shorter than other cleomes, sets no seeds, has no thorns and blooms longer. Right now it is a series of one, available in a cheerful lavender pink. It has a list of awards that humbles most other plants and has proven adaptability across the entire country.
The Spirit series comes in five color varieties: Frost, Appleblossom, Damask, Merlot and Violeta.
Cleomes are usually planted from young transplants in warm spring soil. Select a site that is well drained and receives plenty of sunlight. Morning sun and afternoon shade will also work well. If the bed is poorly drained, add 2 to 3 inches of organic matter. These are large plants, so be sure to space transplants 15 to 18 inches apart.
Place landscape plants to the rear of the border in a bold group. They combine wonderfully with other flowers like petunias, phlox, salvias and vincas.
Cleomes are drought tolerant once established. In midsummer, give them a little fertilizer, like a 5-10-5. If you choose a variety that does form seedpods, you can keep reseeding in check by removing the pods as they form.
Using flowers with differing textures creates interest and excitement in the garden, and these cleomes certainly do their part. Plant some this weekend.
Released: May 29, 2008
Contact: Norman Winter, (601) 857-2284
Editor's Note: Ideal publication dates of Southern Gardening columns are within one month of their release. Editors should examine older columns carefully for any information that could be time sensitive.