Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Stinkin Cleome

I never would have grown cleome had a new gardening friend not pressed the seeds upon me. In my opinion, cleome look weedy. She, however, insisted that there was no better flower. I said, “What the hell,” and planted them with the rest of my annuals in March.

We both had very poor germination (the seeds were from Ed Hume), but I managed to raise three seedlings in a strawberry container. I don’t recommend strawberry containers for winter sowing, or even spring sowing. The many vents cause the soil to dry out rapidly. My poor cleome seedlings demonstrated their will to live, though, and hung on through the drought-like conditions. At last, I took pity upon them and planted them in the witch hazel bed.

Sometime after I planted them out, I heard that cleome is fragrant. The promise of scent had me watering and weeding my three seedlings, awaiting a flower. This week, the most vigorous plant bloomed. I buried my face in the wispy flowers and inhaled. Quite puzzled, I sniffed again. There was no doubt about it, cleome smells like skunk!

The plants are fragrant indeed. They have a light, musky, animal odor. I would not recommend cutting a bouquet of cleome for the dining table, or anywhere else in the house. While the effect of one plant is mild, I can only imagine the stink that a sweep of cleome would make.

A discussion of cleome’s fragrance on GardenWeb was quite enlightening. Apparently, the bruised foliage smells as bad, or worse, than the blooms. While some people don’t smell a thing (personal genetics, I suppose), others find the odor so offensive that they will not have cleome in their garden. I have the plants far enough away from any sitting areas (and the house) that the smell is not a problem. In fact, I think I’ll grow it again next year because, now that I’ve seen it in my garden, I don’t think it is weedy at all!

31 Comments:

Blogger Garden Obsession said...

Save them for cut flowers when someone you don't want to overstay their welcome uses your guest bedroom. :)

11:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Now that you've got at least one healthy plant, you'll never have to worry about having cleome in the future! I planted two in a pot the summer of 2004 and between saving some of the seeds myself and letting others naturally fall where they will, I have quite a patch in my garden.

And I can honestly say the smell doesn't bother me at all.

Keri

1:35 PM  
Blogger Carol said...

I like cleome for the back of the border, because it makes a nice back drop for other flowers, and blooms and blooms with no need to dead head. Plus, since they are in the back of the border, you don't get close enough to smell them!

4:24 PM  
Anonymous Hanna in Cleveland said...

Yeah reseeding can be a problem with those buggers. I like the way they look and the smell does not bother me much, but I treat them almost like weeds. No matter how many I pull out, a few will survive so that I can enjoy the blooms and start the whole process over for next year. :S

6:48 PM  
Blogger Christine said...

Cleome are native to this area, so it should do well for you. I didn't realize they smelled so bad, I never got close enough to one to tell!

4:49 AM  
Blogger OldRoses said...

I've grown cleome a couple of times but never noticed the smell. I'm growing them again this year. I'll have to pay more attention. When did you start your seeds? My cleome never bloom until late in the season. Perhaps because I direct sow in May?

12:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

7/23/06 6:53 PM EST - Help! I live in Maryland and came home today from a week's vacation to find my cleomes infested with some type of bug. It's not the Japanese Beetle which visits this area every year that I am familiar with. I think it may be from the beetle family. The shiny black and bright yellow shell is shaped like a coat/shield of armor. At the top of its shell, there is a bright yellow design like a 3-tine pitch fork. The bugs appear to be mating, too. I've never seen this variety before in Maryland. I haven't been able to google a picture of it on-line. Any information you can provide would be appreciated. Thank you.

4:03 PM  
Anonymous Lu said...

My cleome is sure being eaten by something..I thought it was spider mites...but, maybe it is the black and yellow bug anon writes about..
We are spraying weekly for spider mites..you may want to try that for my flowers do look better...we are curbing the assault, hopefully, we will get rid of it..
BTW Hummingbirds love the cleome..That is enough reason to have them...they are like weeds tho!

8:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

it smells like skunk marijuana, it looks almost like marijuana, has anybody tried to smoke it?

3:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ya i smoked a little hahaha, and it sure does have som eeffects just like weed!!!

4:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i am growing it and my plants are small right now but i was wondering if you dryed it out like marijuana does it have ne effect or get u high.???

2:28 PM  
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11:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love Cleome. I used to grow them in my garden, but since the "Great Storm of '05", I am starting over. Where can I get the seeds. I would like to plant as many different colors as possible. cafebenito@hotmail.com
Thanks.

8:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just planted cleome in my garden. Since it is high summer the stores are selling plants dirt (HA!) cheap, so a bought a flat of assorted flowers for 1.00, and there were 3 cleome plants included. As I planted them, I kept smelling the distinctive odor of skunk, but we have a large nature preserve behind our house, so I never dreamed the smell was coming from the plants! Joke's on me! Thanks for letting me know - I might have tried to use them as cut flowers in the house!

8:53 AM  
Blogger Diana said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

12:07 PM  
Anonymous Red Icculus said...

Not only do the leaves look like weed, they smell like it too. This is more typical for the darker flowers.

It's too bad, cleome is a beautiful plant.

4:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've not seen any 'stinking cleome' but my living room constantly my living room smells like skunky cannabis. And not cos I'm a giant pothead, there is a tree just outside my window, after months of sniff investigations we worked out its this tree! I have no idea what kind of tree it is, or how to identify it. It has orange flowers.Any idea?

2:28 PM  
Blogger macaroo388 said...

I just planted one, and while I noticed a faint, musky odor when I was bringing it home, it not that unpleasant to me; not like the Rue I planted one year and had to banish to the far reaches of the side garden. I did notice that the foliage looked a bit like Weed, but I can't say I'm tempted to try smoking it. I pretty much got that out of my system in the early 70's. :)

I'm glad to know it will self-seed. I love the way it stands out in a tight arrangement of lower-growing plants, and anything likely to attract hummingbirds is always welcome.

I thought they were supposed to be pretty pest-resistant, though. We don't use pesticides in the yard at all, so I hope the birds will be able to take care of any beetle-like munchers. Otherwise, it's just me, a pair of gloves and a can of water. I hate hand picking. Not as much as aphid squashing, but still...

Mac

9:52 AM  
Blogger macaroo388 said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

10:08 AM  
Blogger macaroo388 said...

To the person from Maryland with the beetle problem, it sounds like you have Harlequin beetles.

http://www.mobot.org/gardeninghelp/images/Pests/Pest1044.jpg

(Sorry...I deleted the original because I found a better picture link.)

Hope this helps.

Mac

10:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is my first year planting cleome. Mine grew quite large. I am worried that when they drop their seeds that I will have these things all over the place. If I want to collect the seeds myself (at least get as many as I can), when is the best time to do this? I don't want to collect them too early or too late for that matter.

Thanks!

4:43 PM  
Blogger jk said...

I bought 2 at a farmers market, then had to run some errands and couldn't believe the odor in my car when I returned, so the "pot smell" posts have been funny and helpful. I'm going to plant them away from windows and enjoy their showy bloom and their self-seeding.

6:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

OK, I love cleome and grow it every year without effort because it is a wonderful volunteer. For the first time in 31!!! years I have the same infestation as mentioned above -- black beetles that look kind of the size of ladybugs but have utterly devastated my plants within a matter of days. Nothing ever bothered my cleome before, which is one of the reasons I enjoyed growing it so much.

I tried the link, noted above, and that would not work for me, so I googled Harlequin beetle and got to a ladybug like critter which was clearly not my problem insect.

I have found the culprit. It is not the "harlequin beetle" but, despite looking just like a beetle, the "harlequin bug." (Looks more like a bug as an adult.) I One thing that may confuse people and confused me, was that the adults look different than the earlier nymph stage which I have covering my poor cleomes (I actually like the smell--but I find skunk almost pleasant also--it is genetic whether the skunk smell is horrid or not unpleasant to people). So if you see pictures on the web of adults, they may not look like what you have--yet!

Someone above noted that cleome is in the brassica family which would explain this infestation. These bugs are a terrible pest of cabbage and the like--in fact the site below suggest a planting of kale, mustard, or turnips as a trap plant.

Here is a terrific site with pics of the egg, nymph and adult stages, and suggestions for controlling the infestation.
.http://creatures.ifas.ufl.edu/veg/leaf/harlequin_bug.htm

Good luck! (I have already made a big mistake by pulling some of my worst covered plants and throwing them in my compost pile, where the bugs now may have a chance now to overwinter as adults. Hopefully they will die beforehand or be eaten by some lucky predators.)

1:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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12:05 AM  
Blogger loki-dog said...

Cleome serrulata is native to the US, it's Rocky Mountain Bee Plant. Yours is likely Cleome hassleriana, the cultivated species from South America. Rocky Mountain Bee Plant is not as smelly, and actually is easier to grow. I use cut RMBP for cut flowers and it does have a sweet scent - almost overpowering at times (more in the morning and evening). The foiliage is smelly, so removing it is best. The cultivated one is more offensive, but again, remove the leaves. Other species are even more intense. Very much like skunk or rotten garlic.

Both, however, do much better with some cold stratification of the seeds. Even better is alternation of cold and warm temps for a few weeks. So you could put them in a baggy with moist perlite and stick them in the fridge for a few months, then plant (some may germinate in the fridge). Leave air in the bag and open and air out once in a while or only partially seal as they need oxygen. Or for quicker germination, put them in the fridge for a day or so, then take them out, repeatedly. They should start to germinate in a few weeks. Alternatively plant them in the Fall or really early in the spring outdoors so they get some frost. Mine get overtaken by weeds too easily so giving then a head start really works. They don't like transplanting very much, but will recover - so putting the newly germinated seeds right into the grownd will actually work better than putting them in pots.

8:51 AM  
Blogger Adi said...

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12:29 AM  
Blogger Adi said...

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7:02 AM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

I love a few things about cleome...one, they can be counted on to flower and look great, even with a drought, and two, the deer do NOT eat them!! The smell does not bother me, and really, I don't catch the scent at all unless I bruise the foliage and put it right up to my nose. I think they smell like really good pot. Not that I would know anything about that...

A good OR bad thing might be that they seed like crazy...begin setting seed pods right away, each one containing hundreds of tiny little seeds, ready to burst open and fill every conceivable space in your garden...so if you don't like them, don't plant them or the next year you will have hundreds, maybe even thousands.

3:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have an eldery lady that lives in my basement apartment and she had Clemoe planted in front of my house and one day my mother came over and said, "this plant really looks like pot" so she pulled it up and threw the plant into the woods lol. I called the police to see what the plant really was, and the cops had no idea if it was pot or not lol. Im a worry wart and I have a little boy and the last thing i needed was to be charged with growing pot in my front yard lol

11:11 AM  
Blogger KM said...

It doesn't small "flowery," but it certainly doesn't smell like skunk! It smells like a spicy plant!

And speaking as a country girl who has lived her adult life in a city...
Skunk is appalling when it's hit you or your dog. Disgusting! But a mild odor of skunk--or horse manure, for that matter--just reminds someone like me of country life and its forsaken charms.

3:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you don't want cleome all over just cut off the bean pods and save them for next years garden. Little black seeds are inside the pods. If you cut them all off they won't seed all over and you can plant them just where you want them. I always plant too many and just pull out the plants that are too close together and and just let a few develop at the back of my front gardens each year. I had the black and yellow beetles this year and just put seven dust on them and they went away by the next AM. They did not like the other plants. They were not dead on the ground either guess they just sent to some other cleome near here! Live in Tennessee.

4:07 PM  

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