HOW TO CARE FOR YOUR TRADESCANTIA (WANDERING JEW PLANT)
Tradescantia genus AKA. Spiderwort / Inch Plant / Indian Paint Plant / Wandering Jew / Cradle-Lily / Oyster Plant
A general name for a genus of around 75 different species of perennial wildflower, the tradescantia covers a lot of ground, and these pretty little plants have become a houseplant staple in Europe for the variation in their green-purple foliage and their versatility. These houseplant all-stars can shine and reach their full potential whether grown in a planter on the floor, or suspended and allowed to trail from a hanging basket. Some of the more common varieties you may be familiar with are the tradescantia fulminensis, tradescantia albiflora and tradescantia zebrina – all of which are celebrated for their abundant foliage with delicate pink and purple hues alongside vibrant greens!
Where Does It Come From?
Native to the New World, tradescantia species stretch from southern Canada to northern Argentina and also populate the islands of the West Indies. Introduced to Europe in the 17th century as an ornamental plant, the genus has since been naturalised in many tropical regions in Africa, Asia and Australasia too.
Why Should I Get One?
- Versatile, attractive and wonderfully unfussy; the joy of the tradescantia genus is that they’re relatively easy to keep healthy in a whole host of conditions.
- They’re unpicky when it comes to soil quality and can achieve optimum growth within quite a wide temperature range, making them a great option for a beginner plant-parent.
- Very easy to propagate
How Big Can It Grow?
Most types of tradescantia can be characterised as weak scrambling plants and therefore like to trail, or climb across planters and baskets. Generally, a fully grown plant will reach between 30-60cm in size making it the perfect mid-sized addition to an indoor living space.
Where Should I Keep It?
In general, most species of tradescantia prefer bright, indirect light. A good way to test whether your tradescantia is soaking up enough rays is to pay attention to the vibrancy of the leaf markings. When the plant is a little light-starved, the leaves’ markings tend to start to fade. With the exception of the Purple Queen variety which loves to sunbathe, direct sunlight will often scorch the leaves of a tradescantia, so place your plants mindfully somewhere bright, where they still benefit from a little protection from the sun’s strongest midday rays.
Frost is a killer for these little sun-worshippers and it’s imperative that you place them somewhere where they can be kept nice and warm. Most tradescantia plants are able to survive and thrive in average temperatures anywhere between 15 and 26°C, so they’re the perfect fit for a cosy living space or a humid conservatory.
How Often Should I Water It?
Tradescantia plants love moisture and care should be taken to avoid the plant drying out at all, especially over winter. A regular watering schedule works well to keep these plants looking their best and they often appreciate a daily misting to replicate the humid conditions of the jungles of the Americas. Whilst a huge fan of moisture, the plants don’t like to be saturated – so placing the plant above a tray of pebbles in water can be a nice way to create a quirky indoor ornament that contributes an ambient moisture to help the plants thrive.
A relatively chilled out plant, fertilising a tradescantia isn’t strictly necessary, although the plant may reward you with a growth spurt if you give it a half strength dose of plant food every now and then in the Spring and Summer.
With a huge range of distinctive and colourful plants to choose from, with leaf shapes and hues to suit any indoor space, a tradescantia plant is a wonderful low-maintenance addition to your home. These lush jungle perennials offer a welcome flush of the tropics alongside a laid-back attitude to existence that makes them joyfully easy to keep alive. Snap one up and get growing!
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