We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.

Advertiser Disclosure

Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.

How We Make Money

We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently from our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What are Widow's Tears?

By C. Ausbrooks
Updated May 16, 2024
Our promise to you
HomeQuestionsAnswered is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At HomeQuestionsAnswered, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

Widow's tears (Tradescantia virginiana), more commonly known as Virginia spiderwort, spider lily or trinity flower, is an herbaceous perennial plant native to the central, eastern and southern United States. Commonly found growing in moist prairies, meadows and woodlands, the plant is a vigorous grower in the wild and in cultivation. Widow's tears also produces lightly fragrant, bright blue, purple, violet or white flowers. The blooms last no more than two days before fading, but new blossoms appear daily throughout the growing season.

The plant grows in an erect clump that reaches up to 36 inches (91.44 centimeters) in height, and produces rounded stalks that are single or branched at the base. Widow's tears has a spreading, although not invasive, growth habit. This makes it ideal for planting in areas that need informal cover, such as between shrubs and large ornamental plants, or under trees. The plant spreads through underground stems to form large colonies. The smooth strap-like leaves are similar to those of the iris, and provide interest in the garden when the flowers are no longer blooming.

Native American tribes, including the Cherokees, used widow's tears for numerous medicinal purposes, and as a food. They ate the plant's young leaves as salad greens, or boiled them with the tender leaves of other native plants. The entire plant was mashed and spread over insect bites and other superficial wounds to relieve itching, and a paste made from the plant's mashed roots was used as a treatment for cancer. Tea made from the plant's leaves and stems was once used to treat constipation, stomach ailments, reproductive problems, and kidney troubles. Today, the plant is most commonly used for ornamental purposes.

Widow's tears prefers a growing environment that receives partial shade to full sun, and consists of acidic, poor to average soil. It will adapt to drier areas if necessary, but thrives in moderately moist, well-drained soil. Because of its temperate native habitat, the plant can tolerate temperatures as low as -30 degrees Fahrenheit (-34.44 degrees Celsius). Although relatively pest- and disease-free, young snails sometimes eat the plant's young shoots.

A heavy bloomer, widow's tears produces flowers throughout the spring and summer months. It will sometimes flower again in fall if the stems are removed in late summer after the first blooming period declines. Established wild and garden plants will self-sow under ideal conditions, and any stalks that lay on the ground will readily take root. Dividing the plants every two to four years, and removing stalks from the ground before they have a chance to take root will help keep the vigorously growing plant contained.

HomeQuestionsAnswered is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

Discussion Comments

By bluedolphin — On May 23, 2014

I used to think that widow's tears was the other name for spiderwort. It is, but there is another group of plants in the same family that go by the name widow's tears. Widow's tears basically refers to plants within the family Commelinaceae. Spiderwort belongs to the genus Tradescantia within the Commelinaceae family. The other group of flowers that go by the same name are in the genus Commelina.

So when people are talking about plants in the Tradescantia genus, I think it's best to call them "spiderwort" instead of widow's tears to avoid confusion.

By fify — On May 22, 2014

@donasmrs-- That's a good question. I'm not sure if there is any folk tale associated with this name. I think the name comes from the characteristics of the plant. When the bract of a widow's tears flower is squeezed, it releases a drop of sap. This drop kind of looks like a tear drop. I think this is where the name comes from. The flower looks like it's crying, like a widow would. If there is a story associated with it though, I would love to know too.

By donasmrs — On May 22, 2014

Does anyone know why this plant is called "widow's tears?" Is it connected with any folk tale?

HomeQuestionsAnswered, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

HomeQuestionsAnswered, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.