Wandering Jew / Inch Plant - Tradescantia


Tradescantia albiflora albo-vittata

This article is for Tradescantia - common names include Inch Plant, Wandering Jew, Spiderwort & Zebrina. 


Top Tips

  • Keep the soil evenly moist at all times - never promote prolonged droughts due to the high risk of dehydration and death.
  • Although average room humidity is acceptable.
  • Bright indirect light is best, avoiding prolonged exposure to the sun, especially in the summer.
  • Too-dark locations will cause variegations to fade on multi-coloured specimens. If it's bright enough to read a newspaper, you're good to go.
  • With a houseplant fertiliser, supplement every two to four weeks depending on the season.
  • In spring, repot every three years with houseplant compost. Water the plant 24hrs beforehand, to reduce the risk of damaging the root hairs. (Transplant shock).
  • Tradescantia tends to grow quicker when given enough light and room to grow. 

•Water - 🔸🔸

These plants love moist feet. Once the top few inches of the soil dries out, rehydrate with lukewarm water - their root systems can be sensitive to temperature change, which usually leads to stunted growth and yellowed foliage. Practice using the bottom-up method of submersion. Splashing the leaves each time the plant is irrigated could cause the foliage sitting above the soil to yellow and rot away. If this has happened to yours, take stem cuttings and place them back into the soil, after several weeks of root growth in water. Scroll down to the 'Propagation' section for more information. Under-watering symptoms include crispy/curling leaves, a grey, washed-out appearance, yellowing leaves and a lack of new growth. These issues are commonly down to either too much heat/light forgetfulness. Dehydration is the number one issue among growers, so always keep an eye out for drying soil. Over-watering symptoms, on the other hand, include yellowing lower leaves, little to no growth and a rotting stem or leaves. Never allow Tradescantia to endure long periods of soggy soil or a dark location as both will significantly increase the chance of over-watering and death.


Read More - Identifying Common Houseplant Pests & Diseases


•Humidity - 🔸🔸

Although providing a moist environment is vital, good air circulation is far more crucial for the plant's health. Introduce a humidity tray, especially in winter, to reduce the chances of browning leaf-tips, however, this is not an necessity. If it's situated in a darker location, be careful with over-misting; powdery mildew or leaf spot disease could arise at any time when the air circulation is poor. Never situate this plant within three metres of an operating radiator.


•Location & Light - 🔸🔸

Bright indirect light is best. The combination of good soil moisture and a well-lit location will provide the best results for your plant.

Sunny locations should be avoided at all costs. Prolonged exposure to the sun or dry soil will result in pale leaves, stunted growth and crisping foliage - if it's too hot for a chocolate bar, it'll be too hot for the plant, too.

Alternatively, lower-lit areas should only be used, if wholly necessary. Although Tradescantia can thrive in shady locations, the reduced rates of photosynthesis and too moist soil will lead to a weakened plant, along with the chance of developing root rot. Variegated specimens situated in these areas will slowly revert back to its green appearance, too.


•Fertilisation - 🔸

Tradescantia like fertile soil; supplement using a houseplant feed every two weeks in the growing period, and monthly for the rest of the year.


Tradescantia nanouk is by far the most drought-tolerable and beautiful within the genus.
Common Issues with Tradescantia

Under-watering is the biggest issue. Typical signs of this include wilting, sunken and yellowed leaves and stunted growth. If the plant is in direct sunlight, relocate it to a slightly darker area. Increase the amount of waters, too - Tradescantia tends to grow along riverbeds that rarely promote droughts. As long as you keep an eye out for drying soil, success is inevitable.
Those situated in direct sunlight or within three metres of a radiator are most likely to suffer from these issues.

Too much sunlight will lead to sun scorch, with typical signs including browning or crispy leaves, dry leaf-edges, sunken leaves or stunted growth. Although too little light will cause over-watering issues, too much sunlight will be a detriment, too. If yours has fallen short of this, reduce the amount of sunlight considerably and always be mindful of environmental shock (when too locations offer too different growing conditions). Remove some of the affected leaves and increase waters slightly.

Never situate it within four metres of an operating heat source, for instance a radiator or fireplace. Due to the heightened temperature, the plant will soak up far more moisture than those situated in cooler locations, increasing the chance of droughts and browning leaf-edges.

As mentioned before, powdery mildew and southern blight are major threats among heavy foliage plants when excess moisture is allowed to sit on compacted foliage. Remove the affected areas and improve the growing conditions by situating the plant in a brighter location and keeping the leaves dry.

A loss of variegations is caused by too little light. Although Tradescantia can be used in shady locations, it'll come at a cost of the variegations. If you're not entirely bothered about this, simply skip this step. Move the plant into a brighter location to allow the patterns to re-develop on the new growth. Alternatively, extreme variegations that hinder the plant's green appearance is caused by too much sunlight.

Root rot is another common issue. Typical symptoms include rapidly yellowing leaves, stunted growth and stem collapse. Those situated in darker locations and/or too-soggy soil are most likely to be hit with this issue. Take the plant out of the pot and inspect its root systems - if they sport a yellow appearance, you're okay, but if they're brown and mushy, action must be taken immediately. More information about addressing root rot can be found on this link.

Pest damage can also cause issues down the line, with Spider Mites being the usual inhabitants. Check the under-leafs for their webs and near-transparent critters that are the size of a sand grain. Typical signs to look out for are yellow mottled leaves, stunted growth and sticky webs that'll hold bits of dirt. Click on this link for more info.

Too-low humidity will cause the browning of leaf tips with yellow halos, commonly caused by nearby operating radiators. As dry air is a big issue among households during the colder months, introducing a humidity/pebble tray will help deter this issue, along with providing better growth. Although this won't help with the already-affected leaves, its new growth will look as good as new. The use of artificial humidifiers are only needed whilst the radiators are operating.

Yellowing lower leaves is a clear sign of over-watering, usually caused by too little light. Although they can do well in darker locations, the frequency of irrigations must be reduced in order to counteract the chance of root rot. People don't realise that a plant's root system needs access to oxygen too, so when the soil is overly-saturated, the roots will suffocate and therefore will begin to breakdown. Click on this link to learn more about root rot and how to address it.

 

Tradescantia zebrina is a great choice for ground-cover in both large plant pots and in the garden.

Origins

There are over seventy-five species of Tradescantia that originate right across the Americas. The genus was first described in the 1750's by Carl Linnaeus, who named it in honour of two 17th century English father and son explorers, John Tradescant Snr. and John Tradescant Jnr. The latter went on three voyages to America, being of the first to bring live specimens back to the UK in 1629. The most popular species, T. fluminensis, comes from the Latin word for 'rivers' which is in reference to their natural habitats. 


Temperature

10°C - 30°C   (50° - 86°F)
H1b - can be grown outdoors in the summer whilst the nighttime temperatures are above 10°C. If you decide to bring this houseplant outdoors, do not allow it to endure more than an hour of direct sunlight a day as this will burn the leaves. Regularly keep an eye out for pests, especially when re-introducing it back into the home.


Spread

Up to 3m in length and width, when given enough space. The ultimate height will take between 3 - 6 years to achieve. The growth rate is rapid - some cases can see specimens grow up to 50cm per year!


Pruning

Remove yellowed or dying leaves and plant debris to encourage better growth and improve the all-round appearance. Pruning must be done with clean scissors or shears to reduce the chance of bacterial and fungal diseases - remember to make clean incisions as too much damage can shock the plant.


Propagation

Via seed or vine cuttings. To learn about the essentials with sowing seeds, be sure to click on this link - Seed Propagation Tips.


Vine Cuttings

  1. Choose the healthiest, most established vines from the leading growths. This propagation method can be taken from spring to summer, using between three to six leaves, with the vine being at least 8cm (3 inches) in length. Remove the bottom half of the leaves to aid the production of roots.
  2. Cut directly below a node (leaf), using a clean knife to reduce bacteria count. Have a look at the image above if you're stuck.
  3. Place the bottom half of the cutting into water to root - this process will be quick and should only take a few weeks. Once small roots surpass 3cm in length (1 inch +), it's time to prepare the soil and pot.
  4. Use a 5 inch pot that has good drainage holes - plastic or terracotta are both acceptable in this instance.
  5. Set the cutting's rooted half into a well-draining compost, for example Houseplant or multipurpose compost, keeping the foliage above the soil line.
  6. Avoid direct sunlight and offer good humidity by placing the potted plants into a transparent plastic bag for the first couple of weeks. 
  7. Open the bag every two days for half an hour for the prevention of disease. After a month of being placed in soil, remove it from the bag and treat like an ordinary houseplant.


Flowers

Achieving a Tradescantia bloom in the warmer months of the year is very easy - just provide a dormancy period over the winter that consists of cool nighttime temperatures (12⁰C, 54⁰F) and drying soil.

Tradescantia albiflora
T. albiflora - flowers during the spring or summer, producing white clusters of flowers along the stem.

T. fluminensis - produces white flowers from spring to summer, spanning up to two weeks.

T. minima - small pale-coloured flowers will develop close to the foliar line, lasting several days once opened.

T. pallida (Purple Heart) - red-tinged flowers will develop in late spring, for a summer show. 

T. spathecea & nanouk - produces small pink and white summer blooms that sit close to the foliage.

T. virginiana - deep-blue flowers will develop along the shafts of the plant in the spring or summer, lasting up to two weeks.

T. zebrina - dark-pink or purple blooms will develop periodically throughout the year.


Repotting

Repot every three years using Houseplant Compost and the next sized up pot. Water the plant's soil 24hrs before the repot, as damage to the dry root hairs will cause transplant shock. For matured specimens, introduce more grit to promote a stronger root ball; click on this link for more information on how to perform the perfect transplant.


Diseases & Pests

Typical diseases associated with Tradescantia are leaf-spot disease, botrytis, powdery mildew & root rot. Keep an eye out for spider mites, mealybugs, aphids, whitefly, root mealybugs, scale & thrips. Click here for more information about how to identify and address any of these issues.


Toxicity

This plant is classified as non-poisonous, however, if large quantities of the plant is eaten, vomiting, nausea and a loss of appetite may occur.


Retail Locations

Blue Diamond,  Online Stores.

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