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Plant of the Month - Cleome Hassleriana “Violet Queen”

Updated: Aug 28, 2023

Summer may have been greyer than we’d hoped so far – all the more reason for gardens to be bright and colourful whatever the weather! July’s Plant of the month is Cleome Hassleriana ‘Violet Queen’ and is great for adding colour and cheer to outdoor spaces.

Cleome hasseleriana are native to southern South America, where they are pollinated by bats (in Cambridge gardens the job is done by bees and butterflies!). Violet Queen is a fast-growing half-hardy annual that creates a big impact for little effort. Large, showy spikes of elegantly-shaped flowers spring from tall stems. Long stamens resembling spiders’ legs protrude from the ethereal flowers - it is these which give Cleome hasseleriana their alternative name of ‘spider flowers’.

The vibrant and fragrant lilac-purple blooms keep their vivid colour throughout their flowering season, which stretches from mid-summer until the first frost of autumn.

At up to 120cm high, this statuesque plant is ideal for adding vertical interest to modern borders or creating striking container displays. The blooms and the plants overall are very achitectural and bring a touch of the exotic into modern garden designs, working well with topical style foliage.

Violet Queen pairs wonderfully with verbena bonariensis and cosmos bipinnatus ‘Sonata White’ for a contemporary look. Foliage is dark green with palmate leaves and spreads to around 50cm, so even the most compact city gardens can accommodate this wonderful plant. Despite its height, Violet Queen doesn’t need staking thanks to its rigid stems. No pruning or dead heading is required (unless you want to prevent self-seeding, in which case remove the seed pods which appear after flowering). After the first frost, simply remove the entire plant to make space for next spring’s planting – be careful of thorns at the base of flowers while handling.

Cleome seeds can be sown in position at the beginning of May to provide a striking summer display or purchased as established plants for instant impact. They prefer full sun and a sheltered position, so are ideal for a sunny courtyard, They are otherwise unfussy and will thrive in any fertile, well-drained soil. Young plants should be watered until established, after which no maintenance is needed. This easy and delightful plant is drought-resistant and largely disease and pest-free (although can be vulnerable to aphids). Violet Queen will also attract bees and butterflies to your garden.

If you would like to discuss landscaping or garden design, please do get in touch.

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