Tradescantia Types: Wandering Jew Varieties

The Wandering Jew plant varieties are popular among other houseplants, though they can also be grown outdoors.

They come from the Commelinaceae family and are part of the Tradescantia genus, with 75 different perennial plant species.

They are native to North, Latin, and South America, growing naturally in tropical environments.

Also called the inch plant, flowering inch plant, or spiderwort, wandering Jew plants are herbaceous perennial plants; however, certain varieties are considered invasive in some countries.

Some varieties are not natural and have been created through selective planting.

This has produced rare types and unusual variations like the variegated albiflora that range from light green to white to deep purple and pale white.

They are called inch plants because they grow and creep, inch by inch, along the ground.

They have multiple colored heart-shaped leaves and grow in a zigzag pattern, so it seems like the stems and leaves are “wandering all over.”

For other related posts on other houseplants, please see our page on other types of houseplants to grow.

Quick Facts About Wandering Jew Plants

  • Common names: purple queen, inch plant, flowering inch plant, purple secretia, purple-heart
  • Most common varieites: Tradescantia pallida, Tradescantia zebrina, Tradescantia fluminensis
  • Zone: 9 to 11
  • Origin: Mexico
  • Height: Can grow up to 6 feet
  • Watering Needs: Medium watering
  • Light: Bright and Indirect Sunlight, Shade to Partial Sun
  • Soil: Slightly moist

Wandering Jews are vine plants that either cascade or spread over ground cover in nature.

Anyone from green thumbs to black thumbs can safely plant these perennials in their gardens or pots indoors as they are hardy, low-maintenance plants. 

Thriving in warmer climates in the U.S., it’s best to plant your spiderwort in temperatures that range between 60-80℉.

If planted in your garden, you should ideally live in a USDA plant hardiness zone of 9-11, where your climate is moderately warm and humid.

These plants don’t do well in cold and freezing winters because most grow natively in tropical climates.

There are different species of the inch plant, and their care requirements are similar, but there are also differences worth knowing about. 

Wandering Jew Varieties (Tradescantia Types)

Let’s have a look at the nine different types of spiderwort plants: 

Tradescantia Blossfeldiana (or Tradescantia Cerinthoides)

Tradescantia-Cerinthoides

Varieties of Blossfeldiana:

  • Red hill 
  • Lilac

These varieties, originally from Argentina, are one of the few flowering plants on this list. They are popularly called flowering-inch plants.

They are creeping or ascending perennial indoor plants and boast short stems with lance-shaped leaves that are glossy and fleshy.

Most interestingly are the underside of these leaves: they are purple!

The flowers start blooming from March to July, and they form clusters with three triangular petals.

The red hill variety is also called the spider lily or oyster plant. Its flowers are purple, blue, white, or rose pink.

The lilac Tradescantia blossfeldiana’s foliage is striped and grows in green, lilac-pink, and white shades.

What’s unique about these two perennials is that they are great air purifiers and can be grown indoors or outdoors.

In addition, they make excellent and pretty ground covers outside, and as a houseplant, you can grow them in hanging baskets.

Both need indirect sun and regular watering to flourish.

Tradescantia Albiflora

Tradescantia-Albiflora

Varieties of Albiflora: 

  • Tradescantia albiflora ‘Variegata’
  • Tradescantia albiflora ‘Tricolor’
  • Tradescantia albiflora ‘Nanouk’

The albiflora has a pale to a bright green and white striped leaf that is elongated in shape.

The white stripes are dependent on the lighting quality where you grow the plant.

All variegated albiflora plants require special attention and bright light conditions to ensure they retain their striped appearance.

If the plant is in an ideal lighting setting, you can expect lush growth and leaves that alternate between pale and white to luminous green.

This can produce some plants’ tricolor appearance by creating pale white, light green, and striped leaves on one plant.

The nanouk variety is an excellent addition to other houseplants. It has light green with olive green and purple-toned leaves.

While the nanouk is not an original albiflora and was developed through particular breeding, it is a stunning addition to any home.

If your plant has a pest infestation of spider mites, shower it with fresh water. Next, apply a pest spray that contains Neem oil.

Alternatively, you can make your spider mites solution of half rubbing alcohol and half water.

Do this multiple times until you get rid of the spider mites and eggs.

Ensure all albiflora enjoy bright indirect light, sufficient water, and half-strength fertilizer, and they will thrive.

They also enjoy a humid environment, so you can mist the plant to provide the extra moisture.


Read further about Tradescantia Nanouk plants:


Tradescantia Fluminensis

Tradescantia-Fluminensis

Varieties of Tradescantia Fluminenis:

  • Variegata
  • Lavender

Also known as the small-leaf spiderwort, the fluminensis is a South American perennial herb.

It is multi-functional and can be planted indoors, in pots, and outdoors as a creeping groundcover.

Fluminensis is an easy keeper and handles full sun (but not too much sun), little water, and negligent care.

Stems are crowned with shiny oval-shaped leaves and the tips of stems flower with small clusters of white flowers.

The variegata plant’s leaves come in various colors, from pale yellow and cream to different shades of white.

However, the white leaves won’t stay white for long as they will gain more pigmentation.

Remove the entire white leaves to allow the other variegated patterns to grow, and also immediately remove the whole green leaves.

Allowing your variegata to grow with whole green leaves means that these leaves can take over the plant, and you won’t have your variety of leaves.

The lavender spiderwort comes in pretty lavender, but if you allow this plant to grow in low light, it will grow green leaves.

The herb produces fruits that yield a three-chambered seed pod.


For more information on Tradescantia Fluminenis plants, read more:


Tradescantia Ohiensis

Tradescantia-Ohiensis

The Ohio spiderwort, also called bluejacket, belongs in the wandering Jew family; however, it doesn’t seem so from its appearance.

This plant’s leaves resemble grass because they are arching and long and form up to eight nodes, which form a groove or channel.

The leaves are commonly a dark bluish-green

Its three-petaled flowers are purple-blue flowers that grow in clumps and clusters at the top of the stem and generally bloom from May to early July.

Like the Virginiana wandering Jew, they close at midday due to the heat and shrivel up, becoming a jelly-like fluid.

It is native to Missouri and eastern and central North America and can grow up to 2-3 feet in height, and its foliage spread can grow to be 2.5 feet.

While it is drought-tolerant, the perennial prefers moist soil, but make sure it is well-draining soil and provides full sun with some shade or filtered light.

Tradescantia Pallida (Tradescantia Purpurea) 

Tradescantia-Pallida

Varieties of Tradescantia Pallida:

  • Purple Heart
  • Pale Puma

The purple heart, or purple queen, variety is iconic among the spiderwort family. This popular outdoor groundcover is native to the rugged landscape of Mexico.

The leaves are narrow with pointed tips, and each deep purple leaf is mounted on a long stem.

Pink to pink-white flowers have three petals, and they bloom where two leaves meet at the ends of the stems, creating a crown effect.

There are no seeds or fruits since this hardy plant reproduces with leaf, stem, or root cuttings.

You will find this variety as garden plants because they are great for ground cover.


For more information on Tradescantia Pallida plants, read more:


Tradescantia Spathacea

Tradescantia-Spathacea

Other names of Tradescantia Spathacea:

  • Oyster plant 
  • Rhoeo Oyster
  • Moses in a Basket

From southern Mexico, the Spathacea is a sub-succulent plant, ideal for indoor or outdoor planting.

It is popular due to its lush foliage that is light reflecting at dusk.

The leaves are purple-bottomed, and they grow in a spiral manner from a central point, where a tall rosette is formed.

The upper surfaces of the leaves are striped green and white.

The small white flower is rooted at the base of the leaves. The spathacea is easy to grow, making it a popular house plant.


For more information on Tradescantia Spathacea plants, read more:


Tradescantia Sillamontana (or Tradescantia Pexata)

Tradescantia-Sillamontana

Varieties of Sillamontana:

  • White Velvet Wandering Jew Plant
  • Cobweb Spiderwort

This variety has some interesting common names, including the hairy wandering Jew and the white velvet.

The fuzzy leaves of the Tradescantia sillamontana are round-shaped, thickly padded into typical succulent slices that are covered with a protective layer of silvery hair.

This creates an ornamental plant that contrasts its hairy leaves with soft magenta-pink flowers.

In summer, blooms appear among the leaves at the stem tips.

The Sillamontana is an excellent groundcover in warmer climates with mild winters, and it roots well among shady trees, though it can withstand full sunlight.

As such, morning sun is best. Ensure the ground is kept moist and damp to promote good growth.


For more information on Tradescantia Sillamontana plants, read more about them:


Tradescantia Virginiana

Tradescantia-Virginiana

Also known as the common spiderwort or spider lily. The Tradescantia virginiana is native to the eastern parts of North America.

This herbaceous perennial grows to be 3 feet tall. The narrow leaves are lance-shaped and pointed.

They are also a bright, dark green with parallel veins that you can see. All along the stem, the leaves grow densely.

Their flowers have three petals in blue or violet purple that grow up to 2 inches across.

The flowers only open in the morning, and once they are open, you can see the yellow stamens that form in a terminal cluster.

The flowers close by mid-day, and after the flowering season ends in July, they wilt. The three-petaled flowers become a jelly-like fluid after flowering.

This wandering jew variety also needs moist but well-draining soil to grow. It also grows best when there is full or partial shade.


For more information on Tradescantia Virginiana plants, read more about them:


Tradescantia Zebrina (or Tradescantia Pendula)

Tradescantia-Pendula

Varieties of Zebrina Pendula:

  • Burgundy
  • Silver Plus
  • Red Gem

The Tradescantia zebrina, also called the purple zebrina, is native to Mexico and Guatemala. As a popular trailing houseplant, it grows fast.

If you don’t have much luck getting plants to grow, this one will be your best friend.

It is drought, heat, exposure, and humidity-resistant and adapts well to most environments.

With either drooping or creeping stems, the ovate leaves also have two longitudinal stripes, and the lower leaf surface is magenta.

The burgundy zebrina has dark purple leaves with lighter purple or burgundy stripes.

The silver plus zebrina variety, also known as the silver banded inch plant, has blue-green leaves, and its stripes are silver.

The leaf color of the red gem depends on how much sunlight it gets, but in general, it has vibrant red leaves.

It needs moist, well-draining soil, partial shade or filtered light, and regular water for optimal growth.

FAQ

How do I care for my Tradescantia?

As evergreen herbaceous plants, your Tradescantia family of plants grow best in temperature of 60-80℉. They are not frost-hardy, so if you live in colder climates, it’s best to keep your plants indoors. Other best care tips include using an all-purpose soil mixed with a moisture retainer and ensuring they get indirect light and water.

Does Tradescantia like the full sun?

Your wandering Jew plant likes bright light and a good amount of it, too, as well as partial shade. If your plant gets insufficient light, then the markings on its leaves will fade. Direct sunlight isn’t ideal as it can burn the plant leaves. Only the purple queen Tradescantia loves full sun.

Can Tradescantia Plants Survive Cold Weather?

Wandering Jew plants can endure cold temperatures for brief periods of time, but if the situation persists for an extended amount of time, the plants will begin to die. It is important to exercise caution when temperatures fall between 45 and 50 degrees Fahrenheit throughout the winter months. A covered area such as a greenhouse or cold frame is a good idea to keep the temperature around your plants above 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

How often do you water a Tradescantia?

Tradescantia thrives in damp environments. Never allow your plants to get very dry, particularly during the winter. A consistent watering regimen is the most effective way to keep the soil properly hydrated. Water until the water seeps through the bottom of the container, taking care to ensure that your plant does not remain in the water for an extended period.

How do you grow Tradescantia in water?

Tradescantia is one of the easiest houseplants to propagate, and it’s an excellent option for water propagation techniques. Water propagation is essentially nothing more than removing a piece of a stem cutting or leaf-cutting and placing it in a container of water; it is best done in a clear container so that the roots can be observed as they develop.

Conclusion: Tradescantia Plants

The Tradescantia has many lovely wandering Jew varieties: Tradescantia albiflora, Tradescantia virginiana, Tradescantia spathacea, Tradescantia zebrina, and more are being created with new cultivation and cross-propagation methods.

Soon, entirely new types and colors of spiderworts will grace our homes.

Keeping the spiderwort family in your home is not difficult.

Most of the plants in the genus are hardy and environmentally resilient enough to cope in dry places like Mexico and South America.

With some elementary fertilizing and potting, you can quickly grow your spiderwort plants at home. You can prune them back in the early fall.

Vegetative root cuttings are even available online for growing your own Tradescantia spathacea or Tradescantia sillamontana.

Remember, it’ll take a few weeks for the root cuttings to develop fully.

From bushy spiraling growths to lean vine formations and bright pink flowers growing on the ends of leaves, you can also create a masterpiece with clusters of white flowers that grow along the stems and between the leaves.

The spiderwort can make anyone seem like a master gardener by keeping a few variegated plants in their home, stunning visitors with a few tricolors, or a gray beard Jew ground cover at the front door.

References

  • Mahr, S. (n.d.). Tradescantia zebrina. University of Wisconsin-Madison, Wisconsin Horticulture, Division of Extension. URL: https://hort.extension.wisc.edu/articles/tradescantia-zebrina/
  • Cooperative Extension Service. (2016). Plant of the Week: Tradescantia pallida, Purple Heart. University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, Agricultural Experiment Station. URL: https://www.uaex.uada.edu/yard-garden/resource-library/plant-week/Tradescantia-pallida-Purple-Heart-10-21-2016.aspx
  • Reznicek, A., Voss, E., & Walters, B. (2011). Tradescantia virginiana L. Michigan Flora Online. University of Michigan. URL: https://michiganflora.net/species.aspx?id=826
  • Hawke, R. (2010). A Comparative Study of Tradescantia Cultivars. Chicago Botanic Garden, Plant Evaluation Notes, Issue 34. URL: https://www.chicagobotanic.org/downloads/planteval_notes/no34_tradescantia.pdf
  • US Forest Service. (2012). Plant Hardiness Zones. United States Department of Agriculture. URL: https://www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/Native_Plant_Materials/Native_Gardening/hardinesszones.shtml
  • About/mentions: Tradescantia, houseplants, gardening

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