How to Grow and Care for Ohio Spiderwort (Tradescantia ohiensis)

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Tradescantia ohiensis, commonly known as Smooth Spiderwort, Bluejacket, or Ohio Spiderwort, is a clumping, herbaceous perennial native to central and eastern North America. It is a popular choice among gardeners due to its charming continuous blooms and easy care requirements.

In this guide, we will provide you with the essential informationabout this plant and also share some care tips to ensure its successful establishment and long-term health.

Reaching heights of 2 to 3 feet with a spread of 2 feet, this graceful plant is easily recognized by its blue-green, grass-like leaves. The leaves themselves are narrowly oblong to linear-lanceolate in shape, 4 to 11 inches in length and 0.4 to 1.2 inches wide, with tapering points.

Basal portions of the leaves are often narrowed while the upper leaves can sometimes be narrower than the sheaths they emerge from. The erect stems branch freely towards the top, holding leaves in a spiral pattern. Both the leaves and stems are hairless and smooth to the touch.

In its native habitat, Smooth Spiderwort can be found thriving in a variety of conditions. It grows well in open meadows, along roadsides, and at the edges of woodlands. It also tolerates wetter areas like stream banks, swamps, and low-lying floodplains. Across its range from Alabama and Arkansas up through the Midwest, it has proven itself adaptable to many landscapes.

Tradescantia ohiensis can also be grown outdoors across USDA plant hardiness zones 4 through 9. It looks lovely in shaded gardens or woodland borders, where it will spread to form an attractive groundcover. When planting outside, choose a spot with rich, loose, acidic soil that receives full sun to part shade.

When grown indoors in pots or containers, flowering may be more limited due to an limited sunlight, so the plant will primarily focus on vegetative growth through its leaves. As a houseplant, it does well in medium to low indirect light near a window.

Flowers and Bloom Time

The Ohio Spiderwort produces 3-petaled flowers from March through September, allowing for a long season of beauty in partial shade gardens. These delicate flowers are typically around 1 inch in size and appear in a range of shades from deep blue to rose, although an occasional white flower may also be seen.

Peak bloom periods occur in April through June, when the greatest number of colorful flowers can be observed. Individual blossoms are short-lived, opening in the morning and fading by evening. However, their profuse nature helps compensate for this, keeping the plant adorned with blooms for months on end.

Later in the season from July through September, occasional flowers may still be produced but not in the same volume. The foliage sometimes declines slightly in very hot summer weather, but cutting the plant back by about half its height in late summer can encourage a second bloom flush in the fall months.

A few weeks after blooming, the small light green capsules surrounded by the bracts will split open, allowing the seeds to disperse. Patient observers can collect these seeds most easily by gently tying a small bag around the unsplit capsule a few days before it opens when it has become dry and papery. The seeds can then be stored in sealed containers in the refrigerator until planting time.

Ohio Spiderwort care

With the right care, Spiderwort lends its delicate blooms to brighten homes and landscapes for many months each year. Here are the care requirements:

Light

Ohio Spiderwort displays great versatility when it comes to light requirements. It can can tolerate a wide range of light conditions, from full sun, partial shade, or full shade.

While it is able to tolerate some periods of light shade, keeping the plant in a location that receives at least a few hours of direct sunlight each day will optimize overall growth and ensure the most plentiful blooming.

To encourage the longest bloom period possible and maximize flower production, aim for partial shade. This helps prevent foliage from declining too early in the summer months.

If growth seems to slow under denser shade, try moving the plant to a slightly sunnier spot. As an additional tactic to encourage a secondary bloom, cut the stems back roughly 6 inches in late summer. This helps stimulate new growth and often results in a fresh flush of flowers extending the decorative display well into fall.

Water

Ohio Spiderwort is drought-tolerant but thrives best in moist soil. It is recommended to water the plant every few days, especially during hot summer months. Aim to keep the soil consistently moist but not waterlogged.

If you live in an area with frequent summer storms, natural rainfall should be sufficient to keep the plant hydrated.

Temperature and Humidity

Ohio Spiderwort can tolerate a range of temperatures and does not require any specific humidity levels. It can thrive from early spring to late summer in a range of hardiness zones.

The plant does well in humid climates but does not require additional humidity if it is not naturally present in your environment.

Soil

This plant is not picky about soil conditions and can grow well in almost any soil type and moisture level as long as drainage is adequate.It is best to plant it in loose, well-draining humusy loams that are medium in texture, blending sandy, silt and clay components and provide enough space between each plant for proper growth.

Despite flourishing in neutral to alkaline conditions such as calcareous or limestone-based soils, Spiderwort displays ease in lightly acidic ground as well. Its easygoing tendencies make it a fine choice for naturalizing in diverse yards and landscapes. Only constantly soggy, waterlogged locations pose risk of rot.

Fertilizer

Ohio Spiderwort does not require much fertilizer. A single application in early spring at the beginning of its growing period is usually sufficient. If desired, you can add compost to the soil for additional nutrients throughout the summer.

Pruning

Being a self-seeding perennial it can be somewhat weedy and aggressive in ideal growing conditions. While this assure its persistence in the landscape, it may become invasive if not kept in check.

To maintain the appearance of the plant and encourage late-season blooms, it is recommended to shear the plant back by one-third in mid-season. This not only prevent self-sowing and make the plant look more presentable, but also encourages growth.

When the clumps grow too large and overcrowded, it’s advisable to divide them to encourage fresher growth and prevent choking out other companion plants.

Ohio Spiderwort Propagation

Tradescantia ohiensis can be easily propagated through division in early spring or fall when the plant’s dormancy period begins. Simply dig up an established clump and separate it into smaller sections with a few roots and stems each.

Replant them at the same depth as the mother plant and keep well-watered until new growth appears. Regular division of mature clumps every few years is also recommended to maintain the plant’s healthy flowering habits.

Another method of ropagation is through seeds. The Ohio spiderwort also readily self-seeds if flowers are allowed to develop seeds. Sow seeds directly in the garden in late fall after several frosts has occurred to mimic nature. The seeds will then lay dormant over winter, sprouting vigorously once temperatures rise in spring.

For an earlier start, collect seeds and refrigerate them for about 3 months to simulate winter chilling before sowing indoors. Be sure to deadhead spent blooms to encourage additional flowering throughout the seasons as well.

Common Problems

Generally a robustly healthy plant, Tradescantia ohiensis is rarely troubled by any significant insect pests or diseases across its growing range. Occasionally, snails may be drawn to dine on young, tender shoots in damp conditions. Should infestations arise, physical removal of snails combined with barriers like diatomaceous earth around plants usually does the trick.

Browsing by deer and rabbits presents a possible minor nuisance as well. Repellents containing hot pepper wax or human hair help deter their nibbling. Otherwise, the plant readily recovers after such selective pruning.

As clumps expand each year, division every 2-3 seasons keeps Ohio Spiderwort maximally vigorous. Overly congested roots are prone to declining or becoming vulnerable to opportunistic pathogens. Late winter or early fall provide the gentlest time to divide and replant divisions to renew the entire colony.

A solely cosmetic issue arises as summer wears on – the stems may sprawl loosely, losing some shape. A quick trim in late July revives its structure. But overall, this adaptable perennial proves largely carefree aside from occasional pests normal to the gardening realm. With basic precautions, it thrives with little intervention needed on your part.

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