How to Grow Cleome Plants in your Garden

Gardener's HQ Guide to Growing Spider Flower, Beeplant, and African Cabbage

Members of the Cleome plant genus are half hardy annual and perennials. Plants can reach from 90 cm to 1.2 m (1 to 4 feet) in height.

Some Common names for members of this genus include Spider Flower and African Cabbage. They bloom from summer to late in the autumn. When in bloom, they carry pink, white, or purple spiky flower heads.

The Cleome genus is also referred to as being the Spider Flower Genus. It includes about 170 species. These largely consist of Perennial plants, though there are also quite a few shrubs and annuals in the genus.

As it is a native to the subtropical regions of the world, it is also often grown as an annual by gardeners who live in more temperate regions.

Cleome by Twoblueday; Creative commons.

It is a very interesting genus of plants scientifically, as it seems to be an evolutionary step between the C3 and C4 photosynthesis classes.

It is speculated that three members of the Cleome genus (C. gynandra; C. oxalidea; and C. angustifolia ) were able to acquire the ability of C4 (NAD-malic enzyme) photosynthesis independently.

Cleome lutea
Cleome lutea by Matt Lavin.

Cleome hassleriana (Spider Flower Cleome) are grown for their attractive leaves (palmate). They also carry attractive racemes of four-petalled pink flowers.

The species Cleome gynandra (Shona cabbage, Wild Spinach) is native to Africa, and is often grown as a green vegetable.

Both the leaves and shoots have culinary uses in Africa. Where they are usually boiled and used in stews, while in Thailand they are fermented into a pickle.

It is also thought that Cleome gynandra may have some medicinal use, as its leaves are a strong antioxidant, which is though to play a role in the support of inflammation.

Commonly Grown Cleome Species Photographs and Plant Identification

Cleome hassleriana

Cleome hassleriana syn. Cleome houtteana syn. Tarenaya hassleriana

Cleome hassleriana
Cleome hassleriana (Spider Flower / Spider Plant / Pink Queen), photograph by Carl Lewis; CC.

Cleome spinosa

Cleome spinosa
Cleome spinosa (Spiny Spiderflower), photograph by 阿橋 HQ; CC.

Cleome serrulata

Cleome serrulata
Cleome serrulata (Rocky Mountain Beeplant / Stinking-clover / Beeweed / Skunk Weed), photograph by Matt Lavin; CC.

Cleome gynandra

Cleome gynandra
Cleome gynandra (Shona Cabbage / Cat's Whiskers / Spiderwisp), picture by Forest and Kim Starr; CC.

Cleome Growing and Care Guide

Common Names: Spider Flower, Beeplant, African Cabbage, Bladderpod, Spider Plant, Spider Legs, Grandfathers Whiskers, Stinking Clover, Wild Spinach.
Life Cycle: Half hardy annual. Half hardy perennial.
Height: 12 to 30 inches (30 to 75 cm).
Native: Worldwide tropic and subtropical areas.

Growing Region: Perrenial zones 9 to 11, Zones 4 and up as an annual. UK Hardiness: H2 or as an annual.
Flowers: Summer to autumn.
Flower Details: Pink, violet, yellow, white. Spiky. Fragrant (fragrance is species dependent and is often feint, many do not find it pleasent).
Foliage: Dark green, black, bronze. Herbaceous. Ovate. Small thorns on the stem.

Sow Outside: Surface. Autumn for the following growing season, or in spring once the the danger of frost has passed in the spring. Spacing 16 to 24 inches (40 to 60 cm).
Sow Inside: Stratify seeds by putting in compost, moist soil, within a bag, and place in the fridge for two weeks. Germination time: nine days to two weeks. Temperature 70°F (21°C). Start about four to eight weeks before expected last frost. Transplant outdoors about three weeks after the last chance of frost, when minimum temperature does not drop below 41°F (5°C).

Requirements: Full sunlight or light shade. Soil pH 6 to 6.5. Ordinary soil. Light feed during vegetative growth. Regular watering.
Family: Cleomaceae.
Miscellaneous: Great to grow where deers are a pest as they do not like the taste. Odorless ones can make a good cut flower.

How to Grow Spider flower and other Cleome

Cleome seeds grown outdoors should be sown on the surface in a partially shaded or sunny area of the garden.

They can grow in most soils. Ideally the soil should have a pH of 6 to 7.

When planning on growing spider flower seedlings indoors first, then the process should be started about one and a half months before you plan to put them out.

Germination takes about two weeks. Seeds should be imbibed by placing the seeds (within soil) in a black bag, then placing in the fridge for two weeks.

Seeds should then be sown out at a temperature of 21 to 24 Centigrade (70 to 75°F).

Seedlings of Cleome should be planted out with a spacing of about 50 to 60 cm (20 to 24 inches) following the last frost of spring.

Caring for Cleome

Plants of the Cleome genus are easy to look after. They should be fertilized and watered whilst growing.

Remove seed pods before they have chance to shatter.

Common Questions

How many members does the Cleome genus have?

The Cleome genus comprises around 170 species, displaying a wide variety of forms and colors.

Do members of Cleome make a good garden or landscaping plant?

Yes, Cleome, also known as Spider Flowers, are excellent for adding height and visual interest to gardens, and are particularly effective in borders and cottage gardens.

Which Cleome species are most frequently grown by gardeners?

The most frequently grown species is Cleome hassleriana (Spider Flower), appreciated for its showy, spider-like blooms and easy cultivation.

Are members of the Cleome plant genus fragrant?

Many Cleome species do have a unique scent, but it's not typically classified as fragrant or pleasing to all gardeners. Some even find it somewhat skunky.

What is the perfect location to grow Cleome?

Cleome prefer full sun with well-drained soil. They tolerate heat and humidity well and thrive in a variety of soil types.

Is Cleome invasive in the USA?

While not typically invasive, Cleome can self-seed prolifically under ideal conditions, leading to a potential increase in plant numbers.

How do I remove Cleome plants from my garden?

Remove Cleome by pulling them out manually, ensuring all roots are removed. Deadheading can prevent excessive self-seeding.


The Cleome genus is a group of flowering plants known for their unique and eye-catching flowers. With around 170 species, Cleome plants offer a multitude of colors and form. One of the most popular grown members of this plant genus is Cleome hassleriana, the Spider Flower. Cleome plants may be annuals or perennials, depending on the species. They are native to various regions, including South America and Africa. They make a great plant to grow if you wish to attract pollinators to your garden.

Cleome plants are relatively easy to grow. They are well-suited for sunny gardens that have a well-drained soil. They prefer warm temperatures and are able to tolerate drought conditions. Sow Cleome seeds directly in the garden after the last frost date or start indoors a few weeks in advance of that for an earlier bloom. These plants require regular watering, especially during dry periods. Remove spent flowers to encourage continuous blooming.

I hope that you enjoyed this guide on how to grow Cleome plants. You may also enjoy the following Gardener's HQ deer resistant plant growing guides: How to grow Ginkgo biloba, Iris plant, Hibiscus plant, and Puschkinia plants.