“Have grown this plant in my garden for four years. It’s absolutely beautiful when in bloom. It grows in partial shade on a mild slope in acidic sandy loam soil. I never water it, and it’s still lovely.”
–Laura (avid gardener, Palestine TX)
Full Sun or Partial Shade
Germination: 10-20 days.
Begin planting by digging holes approximately 5 inches deep and 12 inches apart in acidic soil that is moist, yet well drained. Spiderworts are a hardy flower, but ensure the growing areas receive water and partial shade during the growing process. You may also take clippings of the stems they can be easily replanted.
The history of the name “Spiderworts” is greatly disputed. Some people believe that its name comes from the way its flowers hang down like spiders. Others believe it is named for its medical potential since these plants have been used to treat spider bites. Regardless, the Common Spiderwort can be a joy to cultivate and a value to the natural ecosystem.
Tradescantia virginiana is three petaled and ranges from the colors blue-purple. A few rarer varieties can also be pink, white or red. The flowers remain open during the day and close at night. The Common Spiderwort has the ability to adjust and prosper in sunny or shady areas. The soil, however, must be kept moist at all times. The plant has grass-like leaves that can grow up to two-feet high. Common Spiderworts grow in clumps, so in addition to their medical uses, they make good use in borders, edging, woodland gardens and other horticultural applications. You can find Tradescantia Virginiana growing naturally from Maine to the Lower Peninsula of Michigan-South to Georgia. Common Spiderwort petals are edible and can be tossed into a salad. Many folk remedies include cooking the leaves in soups, and using the roots in teas. All parts of this plant are edible and bring medicinal benefits, although non-indigenous peoples too often overlook the medicinal value and privilege its superficial beauty. The Common Spiderwort made its way back to Europe from colonized land, in 1629 where it was cultivated as a garden flower. But before that, indigenous peoples of the Americas had been using the plant for many medicinal and cultural purposes.
By taking this seed packet you agree to participate in the project by planting and documenting the plants success or failure. We ask you to send photos to
Visit SolitaryGardens.org/SOR for more information on the project.
“A native of eastern Mexico, this (…)plant is drought tolerant and ideal for landscapes.”
-Norman Winter, Horitculuralist
The seed is the most cherished part of the plant. Seeds are travelers, progeny and potential. Seeds are built for survival over time and terrain. As a result, most of a plant’s energy is dedicated to making its seed.
This seed packet is part of a larger project, Solitary Garden’s Social Justice Seed Packets, an anti-oppression curriculum that allows us to engage with the history of mass incarceration and other social justice issues through the stories that plants inherently tell.
Through the act of gardening, we will demonstrate how ignoring the vitality of other beings impoverishes our own imaginations and collective well being. Unlearning systems of oppression, like growing a plant, requires daily attention and care. Love, hope, compassion, and social equity — like a garden — require nurturing in order to fully blossom. We hope this project begins to plant possibilities and water new ideas in order to collectively sow the world we wish to live in.
This edition of seed packets was compiled in collaboration with Professor Johanna Schuster-Craig’s Global Studies in the Arts and Humanities class (GSAH 201) and the assistance of Peter Carrington.
With the planting of a seed — literal or metaphorical — we set intentions for what we would like to grow. Think about your intentions for building a world through collaboration and co-liberation:
These contemplative questions are meant to inspire challenging conversations and growth. As you nurture your plant, we encourage you to nurture these ideas.
Indigenous peoples of the Americas appreciated the plant for its numerous medicinal gifts. The known relationships between plant and person were reciprocal in value and respect. European colonizers explicitly used Spiderwort ornamentally.
- How has the history of colonization taught us to ignore the full value of nature and created a relationship with plants that is transactional or performative?
- In what ways can you compare Spiderwort to people in modern society who are multi-skilled and proficient at performing essential work but not appreciated?
- How have you been complicit in performative displays of human and plant identity?