Growing Wandering Jew plant "tradescantia zebrina" can be a bit tricky. However, with these simple tips you’ll be able to better care for your different types of Tradescantia Plant for a Gorgeous Indoor or Outdoor Display.
Welcome! I am so excited to help you learn more about growing and caring Wandering Jew plant !
The name the Wandering Jew (Tradescantia zebrina or tradescantia pallida) actually refers to several varieties of a vining plant that come in multiple colors and shapes.
The Purple Heart, The Purple Queen, The Purple or Green Wandering Jew, the Boat Lily and the Tricolor Boat Lily are all part of this family.
Here Are Quick Facts About Wandering Jews:
- Common names: purple queen, inch plant, flowering inch plant, purple secretia, purple-heart
- Scientific names: Tradescantia pallid, 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
Where to buy Buy Wandering Jew Plants Online ?
Purple Wandering Jew - 6" Hanging Pot - Easy To grow Indoor
What does a wandering Jew look like?
The one defining characteristic; the limbs have joints every inch or so that cause the stem to go in a slightly different direction than the previous section.
This causes it to look like it is ‘wandering’ all over the place, zigzagging here and there.
It is considered invasive as it can grow on almost any surface and will overtake another plant quickly.
Roots will sprout at every joint and even around the leaves, allowing it to take hold of whatever it comes in to contact with and pull itself along.
Growing about an inch or so a week, a small garden bed or mixed pot can become overrun in a very short time if it is left unchecked.
Even so, the Wandering Jew is still a beautiful and awesome plant to have around. It brings color and beauty to any home or garden bed and it is just so easy to grow and care for.
These plants are so wonderful that people used to pass them down through the generations, either the entire plant or pieces to everyone in the family who wanted it.
Different types of Tradescantia species
So before I give you the practical info, I want to clarify a few things. I am in the habit of referring to plants by their botanical names but I understand many people like to use common names. And that’s okay.
It is good to remember though, that not all Tradescantias are Wandering Jews.
Some Tradescantias are also known as “inch plants”, like the Tradescantia blossfeldiana. This common name came about because they creep along the ground, inch by inch.
Usually, each species will have their own common name. Sometimes more than one type of plant will share a common name. So common names can confuse.
Most of the time, Wandering Jew is the name used to describe Tradescantia fluminensis and Tradescantia zebrina.
In this article we will be referring to the T.fluminensis and T.fluminensis ‘Variegata’ as the Wandering Jew. As such all the info on care and growing will be specifically for this species. Having said that, many Tradescantia species share similar needs.
Other cultivars, like T.fluminensis “Quicksilver”, will have slight variations.This cultivar is more robust and the leaves are almost entirely ‘silver’ but they all have the same white flowers.
Different Varieties Wandering Jew Tradescantia Plant
- Tradescantia blossfediana or “Inch plant”
- Tradescantia albiflora
- Tradescantia albiflora ‘Variegata’
- Tradescantia albiflora ‘Tricolor’
- Tradescantia purpurea
- Tradescantia pallida or “Purple Heart Wandering Jew”
- Tradescantia sillamontana also called T. pexata (white velvet Wandering Jew)
How Do I Care For A Tradescantia Zebrina "Wandering Jew Plant" ?
Wandering Jews are only one of many “vintage” indoor plants making a comeback. Commonly called Wandering Jew, these Tradescantia species, with their trailing growth habit and purple/silver foliage are perfect for planting into hanging baskets or displaying, in a pot, on a shelf or mantelpiece.
The common name arose because cuttings would be passed from person to person, like wanderers.
Not only are they easy to propagate from slips (cuttings) and even easier to care for, they are also versatile when it comes to growing mediums, and can grow in water just as well as they do in soil.
They grow beautifully indoors, in bright filtered light and make an attractive display when added to outdoor features such as vertical gardens, or used as ground covers in landscaping.
These plants are great either as a houseplant or in a flower bed or bordering outside. Either place, there are a few main tips to remember to keep it thriving.
How To Water A Wandering Jew Plant?
Overwatering or forgetting to water at all are the two main killers of houseplants. The Wandering Jew is no different.
Inside or out, it likes moist soil, but it doesn’t want to drown. Allow the soil to dry out between watering but ensure that the humidity is fairly high (30 to 40%) Water regularly.
To increase humidity you can place the pot on a pebbled saucer and apply mist-spray to the leaves as needed. Again, this will depend on the season and region you stay in.
Over watering will produce scraggly stems and weaken the plant. New growth will be sparse and the beauty of the foliage will be lost.
As mentioned above, regular watering and high humidity will insure the plant stays lush and full.
My favorite method for watering my houseplants that are not finicky is to set them in my bathtub and turn on the shower hose.
I soak them all really good and then let them sit for a bit until they stop dripping from the bottoms.
How To Plant Wandering Jew 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.
Light Requirements For Wandering Jew
Wandering Jews thrive in bright, filtered light or indirect sunlight. Too much shade or insufficient light will cause the leaves to lose their variegated effect and the new growth comes out in pale green only.
If only artificial light is provided they need 8-10 hours of it daily.
Wandering Jews love bright indirect light. It helps them keep their bright colors which will fade otherwise. An east or west facing window is perfect to catch the early morning or late afternoon sun.
If you are not getting enough natural light, then you may need to help your Wandering Jew with a cheap grow light.
When growing outside, you will want to pay attention to the amount of direct sunlight that hits the plants location.
Too much and the leaves will burn, turning yellow or brown
While this may seem picky, these plants really need a lot of bright, indirect sunlight.They can handle some direct sun, either a couple of hours early morning or late evening is best.
These plants can handle cooler temperatures, around 45-50 degrees for short periods. Being similar to succulents, they cannot handle lower temperatures as the moisture in their parts will turn to ice and kill the plant.
Ideal temperatures would be between 10°- 13°C (50° - 55°F) at night and 20°- 22°C (68°- 72°F) in the dayTemperatures above 80 can cause the stems to dry out and the leaves to burn. However, they should be okay as long as watered well and kept out of the direct sunlight.
Right Potting Soil Mix For Wandering Jew Indoors
Make sure the soil must have good drainage. This can be met by adding 1/3 coarse sand or perlite to the mix.
Proprietary soil mixes usually contain a blend of composted bark, sand and soil. They are blended to suit various needs.
You can use a general potting mix for most indoor plants, including Tradescantia species.
According to Southern Living, waterlogged soil probably has too much clay and can be broken down to drain better with gypsum, sand or organic matter such as compost.
Fertilizing Wandering Jew Plant
These plants do just fine without any added fertilizer, however, if you want to add some, make sure to dilute it to around 50% or weaker.
Add straight to the soil and not the leaves or stems to avoid nutrient burning.
Foliage and Growth Habit
The almost transparent leaves are thin (up to 2.5cm/ 1 inch) and broadly striped with green and white bands of varying thickness.Sometimes a hint of purple flashes through when the light catches it in a certain way.
The highly variegated and pointed leaves can get up to 7 cm/ 3 inches long. The leaves trail when planted in pots and hanging baskets.
When planted in the ground they will creep along creating a mass of decorative foliage. The actual flowers are white but insignificant.This plant is liked for its foliage rather than its blooms.
Do They Need Any Pruning?
If you leave it unattended, the Wandering Jew will grow to extraordinary lengths, covering everything in their path. However, keeping them in check is actually very easy.
To shorten, take each stem and just snip it at a joint. Voila! Now you can create new plants with the cut pieces by just sticking them in fresh soil or a cup of water. Remove the lower leaves first though.
A tip for a fuller, healthier looking plant: Snip some of the longer legs a bit more often to encourage a fuller crown. You can also stick some of the stems in the center to grow and help speed the process along.
What Kinds Of Problems And Issues Do They Have?
As with any plant there is, some people and animals may get minor skin irritations from the sap the plant creates. This is fairly rare, but it does happen.
If such an issue should occur, remove the plant from the area immediately and contact your local poison control center.
It is also not recommended to allow pets to chew on the leaves or stems, just to be safe. But forewarning, these plants tend to make very comfy cat beds and if you have these lovable pets around, they will most likely think you got it just for them.Other than that, the biggest problems this plant gets is root rot and gnats. To be honest, these two issues tend to come hand in hand from overwatering.
As with most houseplants, if you notice tiny gnats flying around the plant, it is getting too much water or not draining well enough. This can also cause root rot.
Allow it to dry out longer between watering, especially in the winter when its dormant.You may need to add some sand or other material to the soil for better drainage.If soil becomes old and regular feeding is abandoned a number of problems could arise. The plant could become susceptible to a host of other problems like:
For a more natural approach try a product like Mom’s Garden Secret, which combats insects and fungal outbreaks thanks to the cedar oil base.
How to fix?
Spider mites can also become a problem is the soil is kept too dry. If you see them, just water the soil more often and try to raise the humidity in the area.
You can easily increase the humidity level around by using a mini humidifier around your wandering jew plant.
For more problematic infestations, you may need to remove the plant from the area and spray with an organic insecticide to get rid of them.
Can You Train The Wandering Jew?
Talk about the wonders of the Wandering Jew! This plant comes in such deep purples and bright pinks that it adds a beautiful splash of color anywhere.
It looks great on its own, just hanging around the pot or strung up obelisks or trellis’. However, it is possible to train it to go where you want instead of just letting it freely roam.
Since the stems get so long, it is easy to wrap them around objects. Any object you like. They will hug around wood, metal, plastic, even porcelain or stone.
Use bread ties loosely tied around the stem and whatever you are wanting it to climb. Don’t make them tight as they will cut the flesh.
Tip: if it still appears the ties are cutting into the plant, slide a small piece of paper towel in between the plant and the tie.)
You can also use them in mixed plant pots.Certain types work better for this purpose than others; it mostly depends on the look you are going for.
The Purple Heart , Purple Queen plants or tradescantia zebrina are excellent for borders or to add a splash of color in smaller areas as they tend to stick upwards.
The Green or Purple Wanderers are excellent for hanging pots. Plant them around the edges with shorter, fuller plants in the center.African violets, miniature Elephant Ears, Hosta’s, Persian Shields, any type of colorful foliage will work wonders.
Let's Review The Quick Facts
- Wandering Jews can make excellent houseplants or outdoor decoration, or they can be a gardener’s worse nightmare.
- Keep them well watered but don’t drown them.
- They thrive in bright indirect sunlight; however, a grow will make a great substitute.
- Keep them in temperatures around 45-85 degrees for healthier plants.
- The best soil to use has added compost or organic material.
- They don’t require extra fertilizer, but it can be used at 50% strength.
- Pruning and propagating go hand in hand as every piece trimmed can grow a whole new plant.
- They have few issues and only minor pests that are usually easy to prevent or get rid of.
- Training them to grow where you want is simple, just wrap the stems around whatever object you like.
Where Can I Find Wandering Jews?
Like all things do, they went out of fashion for a while, and as such have become more difficult to find. Back in the day it was easy to get offshoots and slips from neighbors and relatives.
Fortunately many nurseries and garden centers stock them. You will find them available in hanging baskets for indoors and in grow bags and seeding trays for transplanting into the garden.
If your local nursery or garden shop does not stock them, they are available online. You can buy cuttings or already established plants.
Actually, I was quite impressed with the variety of indoor plants available online. And I strongly suggest to anyone wanting an instant indoor collection to take a look at what’s available.
If you have $100 or more to spend you can end up with a fantastic variety of easy-to-care-for indoor beauties. Often these indoor plants can be planted out into the garden when they get too big for their containers.
Q. Why Does My Wandering Jew Keep Getting Brown Leaves On The Stems Underneath?
A. This could be a couple of things.
1. You may be underwatering it. If more than 1 ½ inches of the top soil are dry, you need to water it more often.
2. It could be not getting enough bright light, or the light isn't penetrating to the center. Try rearranging the outer stems so that the more of the inner is exposed.
Q. The Stems Keep Getting Mushy And The Leaves Are Falling Off? What Am I Doing Wrong?
A. The Wandering Jew is very similar to succulent plants. The water is drawn up the stems and sets there until the leaves or flowers need it.Too much water and the stems get mushy, like they are waterlogged. Cut back on watering until the soil dries out more.
Q. My Cuttings Keep Dying When I Try To Plant Straight In To Soil. I Don’t Want To Have Cups Of Water Everywhere, So How Can I Fix This?
A. The pieces you are trying to plant may be going into shock when you are putting them straight in dirt. There are a couple of ways you can avoid this.
1. Of course, use the cup of water would be the main thing. However, if you don’t want to go that route, try using wetter soil.
Add some newspaper to the bottom of the pot, underneath the soil. This will keep more water in the pot temporarily. Eventually the paper will degrade and you won't have to remove it when the plant finally roots.
2. Try only trimming pieces that already have roots starting.Parts of the plant closest to the soil will have already started growing roots to pull itself along. Trim these and plant to avoid shock as they are used to the soil.
Lindsey Hyland grew up in Arizona where she attended University of Arizona’s Controlled Environment Agriculture. She has supplemented her formal education by working on various organic farms, including spending a semester abroad in India.
Growing and/or raising just about anything gets her excited. She is especially passionate about environmental justice and low-tech, sustainable ways to better run small-scale farms and homesteads. Lindsey started Urban Organic Yield to discuss gardening tips and tactics.
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