How to Care for Tradescantia: Growing Wandering Jew Plants

Overview

Trailing vines of brilliant colors – what better way is there to describe the Wandering Jew Plant?

With uniquely striped leaves of pink, purple, green, white, and silver, this species of Tradescantia will look striking when placed in a brightly lit corner indoors.

When grown outdoors, it will add a vibrant contrast to other plants.

The popular name, Wandering Jew, is not just used to refer to a single plant species, but a range of them from the Tradescantia genus.

Some of the more popular Wandering Jew varieties are the Inch Plant, Flowering Inch Plant, or Purple Heart for its heart-shaped colored foliage.

Wandering Jews is a collective term of plants that are in the Tradescantia genus.

Some of the most popular types are the Tradescantia Zebrina, Tradescantia fluminensis, and Tradescantia palida.

Related post: Tradescantia Types: Wandering Jew Varieties

In this post, we will go over the basics on how to care for tradescantia plants.

Overview-Wandering-Jew-plants

How to Care for a Wandering Jew Plant

Wandering Jew Plants are relatively easy to care for.

Their low-maintenance and forgiving nature makes these houseplants excellent for novice plant parents and people who are away from home often and can’t tend to their plants daily.

Temperature

The Wandering Jew plants are tropical plants native to South America, particularly Mexico, and prefer warmer temperatures.

With an ideal temperature range between 60-80°F (15-27°C), Inch plants will grow the fastest in high humidity and heat.

They are hardy in USDA Hardiness Zones 9-12.

If you grow these plants outdoors and live in a climate cooler than zone 9, you will have to overwinter your Wandering Jew indoors or in a greenhouse for it to survive.

Wandering Jew Plants will stop growing when the temperatures fall below 55°F (12°C) and will not tolerate frost.

Average indoor temperatures, whether in summer or winter, are just perfect.

Wandering Jew Light Requirements

Wandering-Jew-Light

The proper light condition is one of the essential aspects of Wandering Jew plant care.

These trailing plants prefer bright, indirect light for at least 6 hours a day.

However, they should not be exposed to direct sunlight or the hot afternoon sun. This can easily scorch the gorgeous variegated foliage.

If it is placed somewhere with lower light levels, like shady garden areas, you will observe that the purple variegation starts to fade.

A Wandering Jew houseplant grown in low light will appear greener than one grown in sufficient light with vibrant purple variegation.

When grown as a houseplant, these plants will prefer east or west-facing windows.

Moreover, growing the Wandering Jew in hanging baskets enables the plant to capture the maximum light.

The blooming ability of the Wandering Jew plant depends on the intensity of light they receive.

The brighter it is, the more flowers you will get.

Watering

Wandering Jew plants are pretty easy-going when it comes to their water requirements.

Although they will thrive when you can keep them in moist soil, they will not mind if they are allowed to dry out occasionally in between watering sessions. 

The best watering technique for Inch Plants is to give them a hearty drink that allows the top 3 inches of the soil to be completely dry.

You might initially have to manually check for soil moisture before you water it each time; you will gradually develop the perfect schedule for when to water the plant in the duration of every season.

You are advised not to leave these plants too long without water, especially in the hotter months.

The high transpiration rates coupled with lacking soil moisture would lead to the foliage losing its color and possibly leaf drop.

Take special care not to overwater the Wandering Jew plant. Ensure that the water flows out of the drainage hole with each watering.

Overwatering coupled with poor drainage will lead to root rot.

Watering Wandering Jew Plants Outdoors

For the ones outside, Mother Nature will do most of the watering. 

During drier, hotter weather, you may need to manually water when the soil is dry more than ½ inch deep.

Cut back watering during colder months as the plant will hibernate.

Read Next: How To Grow Wandering Jew Plants Outside As Ground Cover

Soil

Wandering-Jew-Soil

The Wandering Jew is a resilient grower and can grow well in a wide range of soil types.

However, for optimum growth in pots, choose well-draining fresh potting soil rich in organic matter.

Regardless of the type of soil you choose, adequate drainage and aeration are fundamental to Wandering Jew plant care.

Heavy soils tend to get compacted. They get waterlogged often and make root growth difficult.

If you think the soil is too rich or clayey for your Spiderwort, consider adding more organic compost and perlite to make the soil lighter.

Wandering Jew plants prefer acidic soil, and soil pH levels 5-6 are considered optimum.

You might consider using a soil additive such as peat moss or soil sulfur and other acidic soil elements to make the soil more suitable for growing Tradescantia.

Fertilizer

Wandering Jew plants are not particularly heavy feeders and will do well if planted in rich soil and not fertilized.

However, with moderate applications of fertilizers, your Tradescantia will reward you with even faster growth and more vibrant colors.

You can feed these tropical plants only during the growing season. Feed them with monthly or fortnightly moderate applications of dilute liquid fertilizer.

A balanced NPK formula is preferred so that the Wandering Jew plant grows vigorous foliage while it blooms simultaneously to maintain its lively variegation.

Repotting

Every 1 or 2 years, your Wandering Jew plant might become slightly rootbound in their pots due to their rampant growth speed, thus calling for a need to repot.

Repot the Tradescantia to a pot size one or two sizes bigger than the previous one.

Repotting must be done in spring or early summer to reduce the risk of a transplant shock.

Begin by lining the bottom of the new pot with some small pebbles or crocks. This will ensure the pot drains well.

Pour some fresh potting soil at the bottom of the pot so that when the root ball is placed over it, the top of the root ball is one or two inches below the top of the pot.

Next, remove the root ball from the old pot and set it into the new one you’ve prepared.

Adjust the soil so that the plant settles in perfectly, and then fill the space between the root ball and the rim of the pot with more potting soil.

Use a stick or chopstick to poke the soil down and remove any air spaces in the soil.

Water the plant well and add some more soil to the pot after some of it has shrunken down.

Place the repotted Wandering Jew plant in a warm and protected location.

Pruning

Growing a Wandering Jew indoors can sometimes get a bit out of hand because of their rapid growth.

The vines of a Wandering Jew plant can get long and leggy and may start sprawling all over the place if not tended to.

You can prune off the long stems that do not look very pleasing on your Wandering Jew plant.

The plant will respond well to pruning, especially when done in the growing season, with more vigorous bushy growth.

Moreover, pruning in early spring also boosts their blooming ability throughout the growing season.

Remove dead and damaged foliage as soon as you see them preserve the plant’s looks and energy.

You don’t have to feel bad about pruning because you can always use Wandering Jew cuttings to propagate new plants easily!

Propagation

Propagation-Wandering-Jew

Suppose you’ve just pruned your Wandering Jew Plant. There is no need to waste the lovely foliage.

Tradescantia plants are one of the easiest houseplants to propagate, and you can, too, without making much of an effort.

Take a 4-5 inch long cutting and remove the lower leaves, leaving only two or three at the top end.

The lower end of the Wandering Jew plant cuttings should have at least one leaf node – these are sites from which new roots will grow. 

You could plant the cuttings directly in moist potting soil or place them in water for a few weeks until the roots have developed.

You could also use a rooting hormone to boost the chances of success, although Wandering Jew plant cuttings will almost always root.

Keep the young plants in a warm and protected environment and the soil evenly moist until they are well-established.

Related post: How To Propagate Wandering Jew Plants

FAQ

Why is my Wandering Jew plant wilting?

Your Tradescantia may start to wilt if it is underwatered, overwatered, or placed in low light conditions.

These are the most common causes of wilting, but there can be more severe underlying causes, such as a pest infestation.

Is Wandering Jew an indoor or outdoor plant?

Growing Wandering Jew is possible both indoors and outdoors.

If growing outdoors, give them a location out of the direct sun. Indoors, they will like bright indirect light to grow well.

Is Wandering Jew Plant toxic to pets?

Wandering Jew Plant stems contain a toxic liquid that can be very toxic to cats and dogs if ingested.

You are advised to grow this plant out of your pet’s reach.

Related post: Wandering Jew Plant Toxicity: Are Wandering Jew Plants Poisonous to Pets?

Conclusion

Wandering Jew Plants are one of the easiest houseplants to care for.

Just give them enough light, and you will enjoy gorgeous deep purple to pink foliage adorning your living space.

If you are new to plant parenting, a Tradescantia could very well be your first successfully grown houseplant.

References

  • College of Sciences, Weed Database. (2021). Tradescantia, Massey University, University of New Zealand.
  • North Carolina State Cooperative Extension. Tradescantia zebrina, NC State University Extension, Gardener Plant Toolbox.

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