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Tradescantia zebrina

Wandering Jew: A Magnificent Cascading Houseplant

Wandering Jew, or spiderwort plants, are popular houseplants loved for their beautiful purple and green variegated foliage, trailing vines, and ease of care.

Other names for this plant...

Spiderwort plant Inch plant Striped wandering Jew Purple wandering Jew Silver inch plant Wandering dude

About Wandering Jew

Wandering Jews are characterized by their striking purple, green, and silver tricolor leaves. They have recently acquired the alternative name of ‘wandering dude.’

Wandering Jew plants are known for their ability to trail and cascade, making them perfect for hanging baskets or as a trailing plant in a mixed container. They’re low-maintenance, tolerate low light levels, and are incredibly easy to propagate.

While wandering Jew plants are classified as succulents, they have slightly different environmental preferences than most succulents.

Botanical Name

The botanical name of the wandering Jew plant is Tradescantia zebrina. It is a member of the Commelinaceae family, which includes around 652 flowering plants in tropical and subtropical regions.

Plant Type

The wandering Jew plant is a herbaceous perennial, meaning it is a non-woody plant that lives for multiple growing seasons and dies back to the ground each winter when grown outside. As a houseplant, the wandering Jew will grow year-round but not produce much new growth in the colder months.

Origin

The wandering Jew plant is native to Mexico and Central America.

Appearance

The wandering Jew plant is a trailing herbaceous perennial with long, slender stems. The leaves of the wandering Jew plant are typically lance-shaped and range in color from green to purple, with a silver stripe running down the center of each leaf.

The leaves are also slightly fleshy and covered in fine, soft hairs.

The plant produces small, three-petaled flowers that are usually pink or white but are not as showy as the foliage.

Types Of Wandering Jew Plants

Here are a few of the most popular varieties:

  • The most common wandering Jew plant is radescantia zebrina. It has green variegated leaves with a silver stripe down the center and purple undersides.

  • Tradescantia fluminensis has green leaves with white stripes down the center and are sometimes confused with Tradescantia zebrina.

  • Tradescantia pallida is also called purple heart or purple queen. It has purple leaves that turn almost black in bright light.

  • Tradescantia albiflora has green leaves with white or cream-colored stripes and produces small white flowers.

  • Tradescantia spathacea, or Moses-in-a-cradle, has long, pointed green leaves and produces small white flowers surrounded by a boat-shaped purple bract.

  • Tradescantia fluminensis, or “Variegata,” has striped leaves of green and cream.

Wandering Jew Styling 

Here are a few ideas for styling your wandering Jew plant:

  • The cascading and trailing growth habit of the wandering Jew plant make it an excellent choice for a hanging basket. Choose a basket that matches your decor and hang it in a sunny location where the plant can receive indirect sunlight.

  • You may combine wandering Jew plants with other trailing or upright houseplants, such as spider plant, pothos, or fern, to create a mixed container display.

  • With some training, the wandering Jew plant can be grown up a trellis or other support to create a climbing effect. This is a great way to add vertical interest to your home decor.

  • Wandering Jew plants can be grown in a terrarium or other partially enclosed container, which creates a humid environment that the plant enjoys.

  • If you have a smaller wandering Jew plant, style it as a tabletop display by placing it in a decorative pot or container and using it as a centerpiece on a coffee table or dining table.

Light

Wandering Jew plants thrive in bright, indirect sunlight but also tolerate some shade. Full sun scorches the plant leaves, so it is best to place it near a window that receives filtered or indirect sunlight. Provide some shade if you put it outside in the summer.

Water

Wandering Jew plants prefer consistently moist, well-draining soil, so water the plant thoroughly when the top inch of soil feels dry. Avoid letting the soil dry out completely or become waterlogged, as this causes the plant to wilt or develop root rot.

Temperature

Wandering Jew plants like average room temperatures between 60 and 75°F (15 and 24°C) and tolerate a range of humidity levels. Avoid placing the plant in areas with temperature extremes, such as near drafty windows or heating vents.

Humidity

Wandering Jew plants prefer moderate to high humidity, so keeping the soil evenly moist and occasionally misting the leaves to increase humidity levels is important. If the air in your home is particularly dry, place a small humidifier near the plant or group it with other houseplants to increase humidity levels.

Soil

Wandering Jew plants need a well-draining, peat-based soil with a pH between 5.5 and 6.5. Use a commercial potting mix or create your own by combining peat moss, perlite, and sand in equal parts.

As your wandering Jew plant grows, you must repot it into a larger container.

Pruning

To prune a wandering Jew plant, use sharp, clean scissors or pruning shears to remove dead, damaged, or yellowing leaves. You can pinch back the growing tips to encourage new growth and branching and create a fuller, bushier shape.

When making your cuts, trim back to just above a node, a small swelling on the stem where new leaves and branches emerge.

Look for stems that have become leggy, stretched out, or are growing in an undesirable direction. Remove any dead, diseased, or damaged ones.

Feed

Wandering Jew plants do not require frequent fertilization but provide a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer every 2 to 4 weeks during the growing season (spring and summer). Avoid fertilizing the plant during the winter when it is not actively growing.

Height & Growth

The wandering Jew plant’s stems grow up to 2 to 3 feet (0.6 to 0.9 meters) in length. It can be a very fast grower during the growing season, so plan to prune it regularly to maintain the desired shape and size.

Toxicity

The wandering Jew plant (Tradescantia zebrina) is mildly toxic to humans and animals. The sap of the plant contains oxalates, which cause skin irritation and a rash in some individuals. Oxalates cause gastrointestinal upset if ingested, such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. If ingested, the plant causes irritation and swelling of the mouth, lips, and throat.

Pet

Tradescantia zebrina is toxic to pets.

Common Problems 

The common problems of a wandering Jew plant include yellowing leaves caused by over-watering, under-watering, or lack of humidity. The plant is also susceptible to pest infestation, like spider mites, aphids, and mealybugs.

How To Propagate Wandering Jew

The propagation of wandering Jew plants is achieved by taking a stem cutting and placing it in potting soil. Keep the soil moist and care for the new plant as you would for a mature wandering Jew plant.

The cutting will take root very quickly in soil or water. Many people take the cuttings from a pruning session and simply stick them back into the same pot to encourage fuller growth.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does wandering Jew like sun or shade?

Wandering Jew plants prefer bright, indirect sunlight but also tolerate some shade. Direct sunlight scorches the leaves of the plant.

What is the most common type of Wandering Jew?

The most common type of wandering Jew is Tradescantia zebrina, also known as the inch plant, purple-heart, or purple queen. This plant has distinctive purple and silver striped leaves and trailing stems.

Is Wandering Jew poisonous to cats?

Yes, wandering Jew plants are toxic to pets. The plant contains compounds that cause irritation and digestive problems if ingested. Symptoms of wandering Jew plant toxicity in cats are vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, and lethargy.

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