Wandering Jew Plant (Tradescantia or Spiderwort): Care, Types, Images and More

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Wandering Jew Plant (Tradescantia or Spiderwort ): Care, Types, and Growing Tips
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The wandering Jew plant is a common name for different species of plants that belong to the Tradescantia genus. There are around 75 different types of plants in Tradescantia genus and some are called inch plants, spiderwort, stiped wandering Jew, Boat Lily, or Purple Queen. Wandering Jew plants are great house plants because they are relatively easy to care for. They are also easy to grow because the wandering Jew plant propagates easily from cuttings.

Some types of wandering Jew plants have green and gold leaves, some have reddish leaves, and others have green fuzzy leaves. There are also types of wandering Jew plants that flower. Their blooms can be purple, white, or pink, depending on the type of Tradescantia.

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In this article, you will find all you need to know about this delightful houseplant. You will also get tips and ideas on how to care for your wandering Jew plants.

Wandering Jew Plant (Tradescantia or Spiderwort) Overview

The botanical name for wandering Jew plant is Tradescantia zebrina and is also called the inch plant. However, the name wandering Jew is given to many herbaceous perennial plants in the Tradescantia genus. (1)

Species of Tradescantias naturally grow outdoors in countries in Asia, Africa, Central and South America, and Australia. Varieties of wandering Jew plants also thrive well indoors, where, like their garden varieties, they grow well when it is warm, sunny, and moderately humid.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, various varieties of Tradescantias are regarded as invasive plants in the wild. However, it is the fast-growing nature of spiderworts, wandering Jews, and inch plants that makes them perfect houseplants. (2)

Many people like to grow wandering Jews or spiderworts in hanging baskets or grow them in pots to decorate a garden.

What does a wandering Jew look like?

Plants from the Tradescantia varieties have leaves that seem to grow in all directions (hence the term “wandering Jew”).

One of the distinct features about foliage on wandering Jews is that many of them have striped leaves. Sometimes, the leaves can be purple and silver stripes, whereas other types of Tradescantias have leaves that are almost all silver. (3)

You may also notice that some varieties of wandering Jew plant have different colors on the underneath of the leaf. For example, the Tradescantia zebrina has green/silver leaves on the upper side and deep red or burgundy colors on the underside.

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Wandering Jew houseplants also produce attractive flowers. These can sometimes be white or can range in color from pink to various shades of lilac and purple. (3)

However, plant lovers don’t usually grow wandering Jews indoors or outdoors for their blooms. It’s the beautiful variation of leaf colors that makes various types of Tradescantias so desirable houseplants.

Types of Wandering Jew (Spiderwort) Plants

The most popular types of Tradescantia plants to keep indoors are Tradescantia fluminensis (spiderwort), Tradescantia pallida (purple heart), and Tradescantia zebrina (wandering Jew).

Wandering Jew or inch plant (Tradescantia zebrina). This type of house plant has purple and green leaves with a stripe pattern that resembles zebra’s stripes. There are types of wandering Jews that have bluish green leaves and purple hues on the underside.

Tradescantia zebrina

Tradescantia fluminensis (spiderwort). There are a number of types of Tradescantia that are called spiderwort. This is distinguished from some Tradescantias as it has ovel shiny dark green leaves with pointed tips which are slightly fleshy.

Tradescantia fluminensis (spiderwort)

Tradescantia pallida (purple heart). This type of spiderwort plant is also commonly referred to as wandering Jew. The T. pallida houseplants have vibrant purple leaves and light pink flowers when they bloom.

Tradescantia pallida (purple heart)

Tradescantia callisia. The leaves of T. callisia varieties are sometimes referred to as creeping inch plants. They have remarkably stripy leaves made up of green and white stripes.

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Tradescantia callisia

Wandering Jew Plant Care (How to Grow Spiderwort or Tradescantia)

Caring for wandering Jew plants is fairly simple and straightforward. All plants in the Tradescantia genus enjoy moist soil, sunny but indirect sunlight, and warm conditions.

So, it doesn’t matter if you have fuzzy leaf Tradescantias, purple queen varieties, spiderworts, or wandering Jews, they all require the same type of care.

Light requirements for Tradescantias

To make sure that wandering Jew plants grow successfully, they require a good amount of light. This ensures that they grow with healthy leaves that have a vibrant green, silver, purple, or lilac colors.

The best place to place wandering Jew plant or spiderworts is in an east- or west-facing location. This means that they get plenty of natural light without being in direct sunlight when the sun is at its strongest.

The only exception is if you have Tradescantia pallida plants with dark purples leaves. They usually thrive in direct sunlight, although you should regularly check them in the summertime to make sure the sun isn’t too strong.

One sign that your Tradescantia isn’t getting enough light is if the color of their leaves starts to fade.

Best growing temperature

One of the reasons why wandering Jew plants are good for the home is that they thrive in room temperature.

The best temperatures for growing any type of Tradescantia plant is between 65°F (18°C) and 75°F (23°C). The houseplants also thrive in conditions that are described as “average humidity.”

If you grow Tradescantias outdoors, you should be aware of a drop in night temperatures and lower temperatures during winter. You should bring Tradescantias indoors if the temperature drops.

Best watering techniques for wandering Jew plant care

To care for your inch plant, spiderwort, or wandering Jew, you should keep the soil moist.

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The best way to water a wandering Jew is to water the soil thoroughly and let the water drain out the bottom. Another way to water your purple house plant is to put water in the plant pot tray and allow the plant to soak up as much as it needs.

Some beginners who start caring for houseplants such as Tradescantias for the first time buy a soil moisture gauge to help get the soil moisture levels just right.

When it comes to proper watering for your wandering Jew, always make sure the soil isn’t too dry or too damp. Usually, weekly watering in the summertime is enough to keep your Tradescantia growing well.

The best fertilizer for wandering Jew houseplants

The reason why Tradescantias are so easy to care for is that they don’t usually require any feeding.

If you decide to encourage your inch plant or spiderwort to grow faster, then choose a liquid organic fertilizer mixed at half strength and use once a month.

Most houseplant growers don’t feed their wandering Jew plants in the fall or winter as they tend to become “leggy” or “straggly.”

Which type of soil to use for Tradescantias

To properly care for wandering Jew varieties of houseplants, you only need to plant them in regular potting soil.

How to prune wandering Jew plants

In time, Tradescantia plants require some cutting back and pruning. This helps to give your houseplant a bushier appearance and also gives you plenty of cuttings to propagate.

For Tradescantia pruning, you just need to pinch off the stem tips to leave about ¾ of the length. This will encourage your plant to grow better and become more attractive.

Growing Plants from Wandering Jew Cuttings

Even for the most novice of houseplant owners, propagating any type of Tradescantia plant is very easy. After you have cut back your “leggy” wandering Jew stems, you will have a large number of cuttings that you can use to grow new house plants.

How to propagate wandering Jew plant leaves

To prepare your wandering Jew cuttings or purple heart plant cuttings for propagation, you need a couple of stems about 1-2 inches long. Remove all the leaves apart from 2 or 3 at the end of the stem.

There are 2 ways you can grow wandering Jew plants from cutting:

  • The first way is to just put a cutting in potting soil and wait for it to grow. All you have to do is make sure that the soil is kept moist and not overly damp.
  • The other way to grow a Tradescantia from a cutting is to put the stem in water. You should notice that new roots start to grow within a week. When you notice new roots growing, you can transfer your cuttings to a pot to grow a new houseplant.

Wandering Jew Outdoor Plant Care

Tradescantia plants are great garden plants and grow well outdoors in warmer zones in the U.S. (USDA growing zones 9-11). In fact, it is because they grow so well outside in warmer countries and are quite invasive that they are classed as a weed in certain countries.

You can easily care for any Tradescantia plants to add color and beauty to your garden. Purple hanging plants or wandering Jew vines with stripy leaves can grace any patio, doorway, or garden area.

As with caring for wandering Jews or spiderworts indoors, Tradescantia plants growing outdoor should be protected from direct sunlight. So, place your plants in shady areas of the garden.

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Also, frost can damage the plant, so, if you live in areas where fall and winter temperatures drop below 10°F (12°C), you should take them indoor and continue to grow them as houseplants.

Problems with Wandering Jew Plant (Spiderwort)

Even though it is relatively easy to care for wandering Jew plants, you can still come across certain problems.

Let’s look at some growing tips for Tradescantia plants to avoid or remedy some common problems.

Pests

The most common pest when growing wandering Jews indoors are bugs such as spider mites or aphids. The appearance of these pests on your bushy spiderwort or inch plant may be a sign that conditions are too dry.

To help remedy the problems of pests on your Tradescantia, mist the leaves regularly and make sure the soil is moist enough. You may need to wash off the mites with water to help get rid of the infestation.

Diseases

One of the beauties about caring for wandering Jew plants indoors or outdoors is that they are not susceptible to disease. Usually, any discoloration of the leaves or poor growth is connected to the soil being too dry or too damp.

Fungal infections

Overwatering spiderworts, inch plants, or wandering Jews can cause a fungal growth called botrytis to develop in the roots.

Brown leaves

As with most problems associated with caring for Tradescantias, brown leaves can also indicate that the growing environment isn’t right. The leaves of your wandering Jew could have turned brown because of too much or too little sunlight. Also, too much watering can affect leaf health.

Where to Buy Wandering Jew Plants

Many garden centers and online stores stock many different varieties of wandering Jews. You will also find that Tradescantia cuttings are available online.

Because many different types of wandering Jews are so easy to grow yourself, you could ask a friend for a cutting if they have the plant. You can also get more Tradescantia houseplant or garden plants by propagating cuttings from plants you already have.

FAQ Related to Wandering Jew Plant (Tradescantia)

Do they need any pruning?

To properly care for wandering Jews, the leaves and stems require pruning. The stems can grow quite long and start losing their leaves from the base. The best time to prune any Tradescantia plant is just before the growing season in late winter or early spring.

You may also find that Tradescantias grow better if you give them a mild prune in late summer.

How to prevent wandering Jew roots from rotting?

Go easy on the watering to stop Tradescantia plants’ roots from rotting. Water them enough to keep the soil moist during summertime and only occasionally in the winter.

Are wandering Jew plant leaves toxic to animals?

While not toxic to cats or dogs, the leaves of wandering Jew plants can cause irritation. If you have pets that like to nibble on leaves, you can still benefit from the beauty of Tradescantias if you grow the outdoor plant in hanging baskets.

Can I grow my Tradescantia plant outdoors?

Yes, you certainly can. Wandering Jew plants grow well out of doors in warm climates. During the summertime, you can move your indoor houseplants to the garden and place them away from direct sunlight.

Dashes of purple colors, bright pinks, or interesting green and purple stripped leaves can make an interesting feature in any garden or balcony.

Can you train a wandering Jew plant?

Tradescantia plants are easy to train because their stems can grow very long and you can wrap them around objects. Wandering Jew plant stems can grow up on trellises or obelisks or up around any other item.

Heavily pruning wandering Jews in late winter can also help to train the plant to grow into a colorful bush.

How fast does wandering Jew plant grow?

Tradescantia cuttings should start growing roots within a week or so. Once the plant is established, you can expect it to grow about an inch every week. Some people claim this is the reason that some Tradescantias are called inch plants.

Can Tradescantia houseplants cause allergies?

The sap of wandering Jew plants or prolonged skin exposure to its leaves could cause allergic reactions.

The journal Allergy reports that indoor plants such as Tradescantia can also cause symptoms such as itching of the throat, swelling, wheezing, and runny eyes and nose. (4)

Do wandering Jew varieties have any health benefits?

Although not widely used, extracts from Tradescantia zebrina have certain medicinal properties. You can buy inch plant herbal liquid extracts that are said to have many antioxidant properties.

Researchers have found that therapeutic compounds in Tradescantia extracts have antibacterial, anticancer, and antioxidant uses. (5)

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