A quinceanera is a celebration of a girl’s 15th birthday, with its cultural roots in Mexico and throughout Latin America. While I am not exactly sure of the birthday, it was 15 years ago that our girl of the plant world Senorita Rosalita cleome won her first award. Today she has won 237 of the top awards in the country and forever changed the world when it comes to using the cleome in the landscape.
Before the arrival of Senorita Rosalita gardeners were concerned about growing cleomes because they have thorns that can be quite painful. They also don’t like the fact that cleomes reseed – A LOT, thousands of seeds! Those two issues kept you many from growing cleome, but that all changed 15 years ago.
Senorita Rosalita is shorter than typical cleomes. It is sterile, which means it sets no seeds. It also does not have thorns, and it blooms all season long. With attributes like that, you would guess it would be an award winner. The list of awards that humbles most other plants, has proven its adaptability across the entire country. This includes the 2009 Mississippi Medallion Award Winner, my last year as an Extension Horticulture Specialist with MSU.
Cleomes are usually planted from young transplants in warm spring soil, which means we will soon be entering the prime planting season. 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. Be sure and apply a good layer of mulch after planting. This really helps prevent moisture loss to evaporation and deter weed growth, which competes for both water and nutrients. Cleomes are drought tolerant once established. In midsummer, give them a little fertilizer, like a 5-10-5, and you’ll help push them into the fall season
Senorita Rosalita is available in a cheerful lavender-pink color. It can be used in any style of garden and in a wide variety of plant combinations. In the landscape, place Senorita Rosalita cleome to the rear of the border in a bold group. Space them 20 to 24 inches apart. They combine wonderfully with other flowers like petunias, phlox, salvias and vincas. I’ve seen great combinations using them with yellow daylilies.
Their exotic spidery flower structure allows them to also work wonderfully well in tropical gardens with bananas and elephant ears; after all, they do come from South America. To be honest, they fit in cottage gardens just as well and would be exceptional in public areas like golf courses and parks. They reach close to 4 feet in height and attract hummingbirds and butterflies.