Plant This: Senorita Rosalita cleome thrives in the heat

Of all the Proven Winners plants I’m trialing, ‘Senorita Rosalita’ cleome has impressed me the most. I’d never grown a cleome before, and I understand they can be rather prickly, smelly, and invasive. Not so with ‘Senorita Rosalita.’ She is thornless, non-stinky, and sterile. I’m actually disappointed about the latter because I’d love to get volunteers to spread around my garden next year.

Austin is in the midst of the summer to end all summers, from a gardener’s point of view anyway. Severe drought and heat have taken a toll on anything lush and flowery except toughies like yellow bells (Tecoma stans ) and pride of Barbados (dwarf poinciana). But just look at the Senorita. She’s four feet tall, bushy, unwilted, and covered in beautiful lavender-pink flowers, as she has been for months.

PW sent me two tiny plants in April. I planted them in a new bed (with good soil from Natural Gardener) along the deck—adjacent to what is now the pond circle—in sun with late-afternoon shade. I watered them well the first two months to get them established, and since June they’ve been watered twice a week. As we Austin gardeners have been complaining, this summer has been tormenting us with more than 30 days of 100+ degree heat, hot and humid nights, and no rain to speak of. Some of the other PW plants I’m trialing have shriveled up under such conditions, but the cleome is still stunning.

With lovely palmate leaves (kind of like cannabis leaves, actually) and flowers that won’t stop, ‘Senorita Rosalita’ cleome is a winner in my garden. This one may not be readily available in nurseries, so I suggest we all start asking our favorite suppliers to place orders for next spring.

Note: My Plant This posts are written primarily for gardeners in central Texas. The plants I recommend are ones I’ve grown myself and have direct experience with. I wish I could provide more information about how these plants might perform in other parts of the country, but gardening knowledge is local. Consider checking your local online gardening forums to see if a particular plant might work in your region.

All material © 2006-2009 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

25 Responses

  1. Sounds like a wonderful no fuss plant! I love plants like that! -Jackie

  2. That looks like a great plant to put on my ‘future garden’ list. Anything that can survive this heat and look that good, is one to note.
    Love the pond, too. Water is always so calming.

  3. Janet says:

    Wishing for non sterile Cleome is really tempting fate!! I have a patch that is about 8- 10 feet by 5 feet full of Cleome…and I planted nary a one. Senorita Rosalita is very pretty though!

  4. It sure sounds as if you’ve found a winner for your garden, Pam and she looks lovely in your photos. I’ve grown the regular pink, white and purple cleome in other gardens, so the thornless, non-stinky, sterile part sounded good, as did the unwilted, four-feet covered in flowers part. But then you said “Sun with afternoon shade” and that blew the whole thing.

    Most of the parts of my garden that get sun get Afternoon Sun -the worst kind- and it’s killing my garden. Poor Rosalita would probably fry with the rest!

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

    Ah, that afternoon sun. This is our first house that has a north-south orientation instead of east-west. It’s much easier on the plants as well as the occupants. —Pam

  5. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    I bet you would like the old fashioned cleome too. I like the way they seed around the garden and they are easy to pull out where you don’t want them. I haven’t noticed the smell before but my smeller isn’t the best.

  6. Those look great! I’ve got PW Spirit Violetta that is a shorter version. So far, so good. Love the color. Looks fabulous with agastache in the blue-pink range.


    It’s good to know about Spirit Violetta, Cameron. Is it deer-resistant in your garden? —Pam

  7. chuck b. says:

    She’s big too! Huge!

  8. Cindy, MCOK says:

    Que bonita! I’ll have to keep an eye out for her.

  9. You know how much I love her. I’ll be asking the nurseries to put her in their stock for spring. She is one of the best plants ever for warm weather climes.~~Dee

  10. Gail says:

    I searched all over the Nashville area for her but she’s not here! She sounds like the perfect plant~~sigh! maybe your success will mean she’ll show up more in southern nurseries! gail

  11. chrisf says:

    Wow! My cleome are all burnt to a crisp. I’m impressed.

  12. Mary says:

    I’m also trying a cleome in Austin this summer, also a Proven Winner, but mine is called Linda Armstrong. I have it planted in a big pot, and it gets sun from about noon until around 7. It hasn’t missed a beat, but I do have to water it every other day since it’s in a pot. I’ll definitely be looking for this variety again next year.

    I’m glad to know about other heat-happy cleomes for Austin, Mary. ‘Linda Armstrong’ sounds like one to look for. —Pam

  13. Diana says:

    Pam — She’s really something and how amazing that she’s withstanding this heat. She grew like wildfire, too — like the Esperanza and the Lantana do, so she may be on my list for next year, to change things up a bit. Don’t tell them, since they are the true performers in this heat, but I get kind of tired of those two!

    I know what you mean, Diana. Lantana and yellow bells are super performers for our climate, but that also means they’re over-planted, and I get a little tired of them too. Then again, lantana in particular is so wonderful to have in the fall. —Pam

  14. Jake says:

    It is always nice to have a plant that will bloom and thrive in a lot of heat.


  15. Chookie says:

    Cleomes do well in Sydney, too. The senorita looks great!

  16. Chris G says:

    As always love your pics and commentary. My garden and I are also weary from the heat. I’ll have to do some searching for the cleome.

  17. Phillip says:

    That one is stunning. I’m only familiar with the big tall ones that spread everywhere. I’ve been hearing about your weather – I hope you get some relief soon.

  18. Pam, thanks for the heads up about a heat tolerant and gorgeous plant. Is it a perennial, or will I need to plant it every year? Wonder how long it will last this fall? Great post! Wonder how it will do in Blackland Prairie clay?

    The website says it’s a perennial in zones 8 and higher, so I hope that it’ll come back next year. —Pam

  19. nancy says:

    My Senorita is doing great in the big pot I planted her in this spring.Not grown as tall as yours. Full blazing sun all day. Next year I’m going to try some in the ground in different places. Good to know she’ll take some afternoon shade too, it gives me more options. I hope this one is a winner. I am disappointed this year in the Proven Winner Diamond Frost Euphorbia I planted last year. It was a great plant the first year and it survived the winter just fine, but blooms and leaves haven’t been as lush this year.

    The ‘Diamond Frost’ I overwintered in the ground came back just fine, but it too doesn’t look quite as full and lush as the new ones I planted. Maybe Austin isn’t quite warm enough over the winter for a full spring recovery? —Pam

  20. Aubie says:

    Hello Everyone, I also planted this beautiful plant. Mine is on the edge of full all day sun and shade.I started keeping a drip hose in the center of the plant and she is gorgeous. She is about 5ft.The only thing she leans over some. does anyone know if she should be cut back this winter?


    Hi, Aubie. I haven’t grow this cleome (or any cleome) before, but I do plan to cut mine to the ground this winter. It’s considered an annual in all but the warmest zones, but I’m hopeful it will come back in my zone 8b. —Pam

  21. rosemary says:

    The old familiar Cleome is tall and skinny and only produces a few flowers near the top. Your second photo of Cleome Senorita Rosalita looks delightfully full and floriferous, almost like a flowering spirea shrub. Please tell me if your picture is of a single plant or several planted together. Many thanks.

    There are two cleomes planted side-by-side, Rosemary. —Pam

  22. […] all over town this spring, and I made sure to grab two for myself in the buying frenzy. Last year I trialed this Proven Winners annual (perennial in zones 8-10, but it didn’t survive our hard freezes), and it performed […]

  23. […] been touting the delights of ‘Senorita Rosalita’ cleome since trialing two in my back garden last year. Through terrible drought and heat, those cleomes grew bushy and full […]

  24. […] flowering summer-long in afternoon sun in the front garden. Fair warning, your results may vary. I first recommended this Proven Winners annual in 2009, when I received it as a free trial plant. It grew bushy and full and flowered all summer. […]

  25. Jim says:

    Bought 2 a couple weeks ago. They look beautiful. However, one plant’s leaves are starting to yellow. Does anyone know the cause and how to reverse? Could it be too much water? I live in the Chicago area and the rains have been relentless lately.

    Jim, I can’t speculate on what’s wrong with your plant since you garden in such a different climate from Austin’s. But I have had variable results with my ‘Senorita Rosalita’s in my own garden since I wrote this post. Please see my most recent post about this cleome for follow-up information and more links. —Pam