Care for wandering jew

The Wandering Jew is not a single plant — it’s the name given to a few different plants in the genus Tradescantia.

When grown outdoors it’s considered invasive in many regions of the world, but those same growing characteristics make it perfect as an indoor vining plant.

Where to Buy Wandering Jew Plants

Preventing Common Wandering Jew Pests & Diseases

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Wandering Jew Overview

Common Name(s) Wandering jew plant, inch plant, flowering inch plant
Scientific Name Tradescantia zebrina, Tradescantia fluminensis
Family Commelinaceae
Origin Mexico
Height Up to 6 feet
Light Bright, indirect sun
Water Average-medium
Temperature 50-80°F
Humidity Average
Soil Slightly moist
Fertilizer Half strength liquid
Propagation Cuttings
Pests Root rot, spider mites, aphids.

Wandering jew plants have green, heart-shaped leaves with purple stripes and a silvery sheen to them. Depending on the variety, the leaves can be solid or variegated. Blooms are small with three petals and can be violet or white.

Types of Wandering Jew Plants

The name ‘wandering jew’ is really referring to three different species in the Tradescantia genus: fluminensis, zebrina, and pallida.

Tradescantia fluminensis

The classic wandering jew plant. It has dark-green leaves that contrast nicely against the bright, white, three-petaled flowers.

Learn More: Tradescantia Fluminensis Care Guide

Tradescantia zebrina

As you can probably guess, it’s named for it’s zebra-like leaves. The middle of each half of the leaves are a creamy white, with the outer edges tipped in silver.

Tradescantia pallida

This variety is unique in that the foliage is a deep purple with light purplish-pink flowers. It’s one of the most popular varieties of wandering jew.

Learn More: Tradescantia Pallida Care Guide

Wandering Jew Plant Care

All types of wandering jew plants are fairly easy to care for. As long as you give them a good amount of light and prune regularly, you should enjoy your tradescantia for many years.

Light

This is a houseplant that really thrives in bright but indirect sunlight. The brighter the light you provide your wandering jew plant, the more flowers it will produce.

If it’s not getting enough light, the brightly-colored foliage will begin to fade.

Water

These plants are happy as long as they’re not kept soaked or allowed to be completely dry too long. Keeping the soil evenly moist is the best.

You’ll know it’s ready for more water when the soil is dry to at least 1/2″ deep. Give it a good drink but be sure that the pot drains well.

Soil

You can use a standard houseplant potting mix for your wandering jew, but they’ll do even better if you give them soil that has more organic matter.

To make your own soil mixture, add equal parts of the following:

  • Perlite or coarse sand
  • Peat or humus
  • Garden soil
  • A light dusting of lime
  • A handful of rich, organic compost

You’re looking for the perfect balance of water retention and draining ability, so give the plant a watering and watch to see which way your soil tends to go, then adjust accordingly.

Fertilizer

Use a water-soluble fertilizer at least twice a month during the growing season. Be sure to dilute it down to 50% strength to avoid nutrient burn on the foliage.

You can also use a slow-release fertilizer to the soil once a year.​

Repotting

If your wandering jew’s beginning to become a bit crammed in its pot, select a pot that’s 1-2″ wider than its current one. Prepare your pot with a little fresh potting soil around the sides.

Remove your plant from its existing pot, setting the root ball into the new one. Add or remove soil as necessary to get it in place. Then, fill to 2″ below the pot’s rim. Lightly tamp down the potting soil to anchor the plant in place.

Pruning​

Wandering jew plants have a tendency to get leggy, so pruning them becomes a must if you want to maintain a healthy appearance.

Simply prune back the stems and pinch off stem tips. The plant will send out two shoots from right below the pinched area, making your plant bushier.​

Propagation

Whatever you do, don’t waste your stem cuttings! ​Wandering jew propagation is easily done from stem cuttings.

Remove all but a few leaves off of the stem cuttings and then place them in a smaller pot with moist potting soil in a warm, bright area.

You’ll start seeing new shoots growing after 1-1.5 months. Wandering jew plants are one of the easiest houseplants to propagate!

Problems

In some people and animals, skin irritation can occur when coming in contact with the sap from the plant. You should keep it in an area that is hard for your cat or dog to reach. A good idea is to grow it in hanging baskets that are too high up for your pets to nibble on!

Pests

The most prominent pests you’ll deal with on wandering jew plants are spider mites. They love warm, dry areas, so one good way to counter them is to keep humidity high or mist your wandering jew plant.

If that doesn’t work, you can wash the plant off with water to knock the mites off of the plant. For even more serious infestations, you should remove infested areas and use a systemic insecticide.​

Diseases

Most diseases you’ll run into are related to over watering. Root rot is a big problem with most houseplants, and has two causes:

  1. You are watering too much
  2. Your soil retains too much water​

If you have problem #1, simply water less often! If you have problem #2, add some perlite or coarse sand to your soil mix. You can also add rocks to the bottom of the pot to improve drainage.

FAQs​

Q. I’m trying to take cuttings of wandering jew, but they keep rotting. How can I prevent this?

A. Your cuttings are probably suffering from a fungal infection. To prevent this, make sure to use a sterilized cutting instrument and dip in chlorox, then rooting hormone before you place your cuttings in soil.

Q. How do I know how far to place my wandering jew away from a window or light source?

A. Leave your plant where it is and monitor the color of the leaves. If they start to lose their bright colors, it’s a clear-cut sign that the plant needs more light. Move it closer to the window and keep watching the leaves until the color starts to come back on new growth.

Q. I’m having trouble rooting cuttings in soil. Can I do anything else?

A. Many gardeners have success rooting their wandering jew cuttings directly in water. Just be sure to sterilize and change the water every so often so it remains fresh and free from any pathogens. When you see roots, plant in potting mix.

Q. Is wandering jew plant toxic to cats?

In short, no, but it’s also not deadly either. It irritates the digestive tract of pets if consumed, and also produces a dermatitis-like effect on their skin.

Q. Can I grow wandering jew plant outdoors?

A: Absolutely! It can be a bit tricky if you’re outside USDA growing zones 9-11, but if you’re in that range, it’s easy to grow outside!

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The name, “Wandering Jew Plant,” is a common name used to refer to species of Spiderwort. It is probably a description of the plant’s tendency to escape into shady, wet regions.

There are three such species to which the name is applicable. They include the following varieties: Tradescantia zebrina, Tradescantia fluminensis, and Tradescantia pallida. These three are fairly common ornamentals that are typically native to Mexico, South America, and Central America. Wandering Jew plants are identifiable by their heart-shaped leaves, which, depending on the species will have distinct leaf colors, stripes, and sheens. It is a succulent, trailing herbaceous flowering plant with blooms of only three petals.

Wandering Jew Plant Overview

Wandering Jew Plant Quick facts

Common name Wandering Jew plant, Striped Wandering Jew (T. zebrina), Inch plant, Flowering Inch plant, Wandering Willie (T. fluminensis), Purple Queen (T. pallida), Spiderwort
Scientific name Tradescantia zebrina, Tradescantia pallida, Tradescantia pallida
Family name Commelinaceae
Origin Mexico, South America, Central America, Caribbean
Flower Color Depending on the species, the Wandering Jew Plant could have pink, rose-purple, or white flowers
Leaf Form: Variegated
Leaf Arrangement: Alternate
Leaf Shape Ovate, oblong, or heart-shaped lanceolate leaves
Height As much as 6 feet
Light Bright indirect sun
Water Doesn’t tolerate totally dry soil. Needs watering regularly
Fertilizer Weak liquid fertilizer.
Temperature 50 degrees Fahrenheit to 80 degrees Fahrenheit
Soil Moderately moist
Humidity Average
Propagation Cuttings
Pests Aphids, spider mites

All three species of the Wandering Jew plant can be grown either outdoors or indoors. In its natural habitat, be it in Mexico, South America, or Central America, it has become notorious for ‘wandering’ into shady wet regions, as we alluded to earlier. This is due to the presence of so many short joints on its limbs that compel the stem to grow in directions different from the one it followed in the previous section.

This is also why it is known as an invasive plant. It can thrive on virtually any surface with the minimal requirements for growth and, before long, will eclipse almost any plant growing in the same vicinity. If you do not take care to nurture it properly, it could become problematic as even an inch of it will continue to propagate left unattended. In this guide, we will be considering how to grow it as a houseplant.

Types of Wandering Jew Plant

Here’s a brief overview of the three species of this perennial plant.

Tradescantia zebrine

Tradescantia zebrine

This species is native to Mexico and gets its binomial name from its zebra-like leaves. T. zebrina leaves are paired, creamy white in the middle of each half, and silvery green on the edges. The leaves develop a purple patch on the upper surface and underneath and are asymmetrical at the base. Its flowers are light purple.

Tradescantia pallida (Purple Heart)

Tradescantia pallida (Purple Heart)

This Spiderwort species is also native to Mexico and is arguably the most popular of the three. Its leaves are sheaths, clasping, ciliate, and oblong. T. pallida leaves are deep royal purple on the upper surface, and underneath are violet and pink. Its flowers are light purple.

Tradescantia fluminensis

Tradescantia fluminensis

This species is native to South America. T. fluminensis leaves are ovate to oblong-lanceolate leaves that are dark green or flushed purple beneath its bright white flowers.

Tradescantia fluminensis ‘Variegata’

Wandering Jew Plant Care Instructions

All Tradescantia species, when cultivated as houseplants, depend on a steady exposure to sunlight to preserve their variegated leaves or else they will begin to fade. The number of flowers that bloom is directly related to the amount of sunlight the plant receives.

Keep in mind, though, that this must be indirect sunlight. If the plant gets too much sunlight, the leaves begin to scorch before long. This is something you will need to be mindful of if you decide to cultivate the plant outdoors.

Temperature

The temperature requirements for growing Tradescantia zebrina, Tradescantia pallida, and Tradescantia fluminensis are the same. Grow any of these species in temperatures between 65 degrees Fahrenheit and 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

The plant generally does better under warmer temperatures, but as long as you don’t go below 50 degrees Fahrenheit, your plant should be fine. Below that, there is a great chance of the leaves getting discolored or, worse yet, damaged.

The Wandering Jew is classified as an invasive species for the and is hard to eradicate if their growth outdoors proceeds unchecked. It is, therefore, not surprising that they can thrive on little water. They also do well in waterlogged terrains.

That is not to say that you should go about watering irregularly. Rather, to ensure that the plant grows robustly, you should water it at regular time intervals in the growing season in summer, and then appropriately reduce the amount you use in winter.

The idea is to use soil that contains a lot of organic matter to grow the Wandering Jew Plant. That is not so say it will not do well if you choose to use a regular houseplant compost mix. It just grows better when it has a lot of organic matter to draw from.

This is something that you could create all by yourself. You are going to need the following ingredients: Humus or peat moss, garden soil, a scoop of rich organic compost, coarse sand or Perlite, and a little limewater.

Once you have this, all you will need to be on the lookout for is how well it drains and how well it retains water. Tinker with it until you are satisfied with the end product.

As of writing, there is no consensus when it comes to how much fertilizer you should use. You will be safe, though, with using a water-soluble fertilizer on a bimonthly basis as long as you do not fail to dilute it to fifty percent of the normal strength.

If you apply fertilizer at the normal strength, you run the risk of overfeeding the plant, which is bound to result in the plant losing its variegated pattern if you do so over a sustained period.

Re-Potting

It is inevitable that as long as you care for whichever Spiderwort species you decide to purchase and grow, the plant will eventually outgrow the pot. Once it does, you will need to figure out how to re-pot it. How exactly should you go about doing that?

For one thing, you should do it no more frequently than once a year. It is best that you give this perennial herbaceous plant’s roots enough time to grow. As a reminder, it is not as if the Wandering Jew plant will die if you do not re-pot it. It is built to survive almost anything longer than most other houseplants once planted.

If you were to grow your Wandering Jew plant in a hanging basket, for instance, it would be best if you do your utmost to ensure that you re-pot it. When re-potting, make sure you do not rely on soil made from dirt or containing too much organic manure.

Pruning

The invasive nature of this ornamental plant makes it necessary for every gardener to be prepared for pruning if they decide to grow it either indoors or outdoors.

This is due to the presence of so many short joints on its limbs that compel the stem to grow in directions different from the one it followed in the previous section. When pruning, take care to slice off the stems to the point where you will be able to pinch off the stem tips.

This will ensure that the upcoming shoots, usually two in the case of the Wandering Jew Plant, will grow to give the plant a wider appearance overall.

Height & Spread

As far as vertical height is concerned, you would be hard pressed to get your Wandering Jew houseplant to grow taller than six inches even if you take the best possible care of the plant.

Even if you follow all of the aforementioned steps to the letter, the only growth you are going to observe is that which happens with each individual stem. In that case, you might be able to see growth of up to six feet. This is especially desirable if you go the hanging basket route.

There are few ornamental plants grown as houseplants that grow more readily and effortlessly than the Wandering Jew Plant. That is why it is imperative to make judicious use of your stem cuttings after pruning as many times as you desire.

It will interest you to know that you do not need to do any special preparation of the cutting, such as drying it overnight or applying any special kind of growth hormone to the stem to get started.

If you have a fresh compost mix ready for potting, all you need is an inch of the stem with one leaf, and you are all set. All that is necessary from that point forward is appropriate watering and feeding with fertilizer in the manner we described above. You are bound to see results in a few weeks’ time.

Flowers

You will observe light purple flowers with three petals if you purchase and grow Tradescantia pallida or Tradescantia zebrina. If you are working with Tradescantia fluminensis, then the flowers will be bright white. There is no timetable dictating when they should appear.

Tradescantia zebrina flowers

Tradescantia zebrina with light purple flowers

Tradescantia pallida flowers

Tradescantia pallida purple flowers with three petals

Tradescantia fluminensis flowers

Tradescantia fluminensis with bright white flowers

Common Problems and Pests

Falling Leaves

As with almost any ornamental plant grown as a houseplant, falling leaves are typically a function of age. When you observe that the leaves of your Wandering Jew have begun to fall off much earlier than they should, it means you have been subjecting it to less water than is required. That rarely happens, though, because this plant is a survivor. But with too much negligence, anything is possible.

Leaves Losing Variegation

We have already mentioned the possibility of the leaves of the Wandering Jew losing their variegation if you apply too much fertilizer. If you have that under control and you see the leaves going green, then you should probably expose it to more sunlight.

Aphids and spider mites attack the Wandering Jew, but of the two, the latter is the most formidable obstacle to robust growth. We have said that you should grow the plant in warmer temperatures and under direct sunlight. What we have not said is that spider mites also love both of those conditions.

Wash your plant off with water to combat this pest. If that is not enough, you should probably get a pesticide.

As we alluded to earlier, the Wandering Jew is prone to suffering from root rot if it is taking in too much water. It could be taking in too much water if you water too much or cultivate it in soil with high water retention. Make sure that you only water it when the soil is dry, and ensure that the excess water can drain through the pot or into your groundwater. For indoor plants, empty the saucer once the water drains to prevent the soil from re-absorbing the water as it dries.

Use the Wandering Jew Plant to Beautify Your Home

A Tradescantia pallida (Wandering Jew Plant) in pot indoors

Growing and caring for the Wandering Jew Plant as a houseplant can be a rewarding experience if you follow the instructions we have outlined in this guide in addition to channeling your inner gardener instincts. Take care not to grow this plant in a small garden bed or mixed pot because its invasive nature makes it hostile to such environments. It will overshadow and crowd out everything else you have planted.

If you manage to get the plant the right light, temperature, water, fertilizer, and soil requirements, you will be able to sit back and enjoy the beautiful foliage of this perennial plant in addition to its light-purple or bright white flowers. You can observe this in a hanging basket, flowerbed, or large pot. It will complement your indoor or outdoor décor beautifully.

You can also take advantage of the length of the stem for decorative purposes because it allows the plant to wrap itself around objects. To achieve this look, select any solid material in your home or office and attach the stem to the said object with the aid of a string that does not cut the stem. You will be amazed at the beautiful aesthetic in a few weeks.

Tradescantia Zebrina (Wandering Jew Plant / Inch Plant)

Wandering Jew Care Guide

All Tradescantias including the Wandering Jew Plants need plenty of light to retain the variegated colours on the leaves, if things are too dim these will fade.

On the other side of the coin if too much light is provided leaf scorching is the end result, fortunately however the problem of “too much light” is basically only caused by excessively exposed locations during midsummer. This is quite hard to provide indoors anyway, so you will only really risk this if you Summer your plants outdoors.

It’s important they’re placed in plenty of light but protected from very strong sun.

Watering

As you would expect from any hard to kill houseplants, the Wandering Jew will cope with droughts and a little water logging from time to time.

Try to avoid this careless watering approach where possible though as a good looking plant needs to be watered correctly. The instruction here is simple, water your Tradescantia regularly and freely during the warmer seasons to try and keep the soil moist for much of the time. In Winter cut right back because growth will slow or stop completely and the need for water will reduce drastically as a result.

Humidity

The leaves are almost succulent like and therefore humidity is something you don’t have to worry about a great deal. It will be worth misting the plant however if you start to notice the leaves becoming shriveled or brown leaf tips start to appear. You can also grow Tradescantia in an indoor bottle garden.

Feeding

The opinion is often divided about how much and how often you should feed Wandering Jew Plants. Some will suggest regular heavy feeding, perhaps as much as every other watering and others will say only once or twice a year at most, otherwise it will encourage the variegated leaves to turn green. The truth of it is that this plant will cope with almost anything you give (or don’t give) it.

We fertilise normally (back of the bottle instructions) once a month and the OurHousePlant.com’s Inch Plant is as good looking as the day it was brought.

Give your plant average warmth conditions for quick growth, a cooler room of around 10°C (50°F) is also suitable too. In fact, the only no no, is exposure to frost or really chilly temperatures for prolonged periods. Frost will do serious damage and chilly locations will cause leaf discoloration.

It’s best to repot once a year to give a little more space for the roots to grow, but as with everything else to do with this plant, it will still cope living in the same soil for years. This is handy if you’ve chosen to grow it in a hanging basket as these can be fiddly to upsize and can also be a little difficult to work with.

When you do repot though, normal potting soil is a great choice, just make sure you avoid mixes with a heavy manure content and don’t use ordinary dirt from your yard.

Propagation

When it comes to propagation of Wandering Jews only the Spider Plant is easier and more reliable to work with. The success rate of Spider Plants is something like 99% and the Wandering Jew, 98%, so either way it’s still incredibly easy to grow more plants.

You don’t need a fancy heat mat or any special containers or tricks. You don’t need to use any type of rooting hormone, and it’s literally just a case of pushing the cutting a few centimeters into a fresh potting mix, water well and away you go. Trust us, once you know what you’re doing it’s so easy to do. Below is a break down of each step.

The stems of a mature plant are quite brittle so an accidental knock or an intentional snip on an existing plant will mean you have a Wandering Jew Plant stem cutting almost ready to go.

This broken stem can be used to create multiple plants

You don’t need to wait for the fresh cut end to dry out so you could just push it into some soil (even in the existing pot where it was growing before if you’re trying to recreate a bushy appearance). But just replanting the large stem is potentially wasteful as there are several individual plants that can be created from a broken stem, like the one shown in the photo, this cutting could easily become three plants.

The photo above shows three sturdy stems with blue circles around them. Snip them off, making sure each is an inch long and has at least one leaf, although ideally for quicker results you will want a cutting that is several inches long and several leaves already in place.

Trim off any leaves on the lower part of the cuttings, because if any leaves touch the soil they will quickly rot, which could then cause the entire cutting to fail. Instead, remove the lower leaves and discard any unused material.

Below you can see the results of the above instructions – Three cuttings created from the original big one that are now ready to be planted up.

Several sections have been created and the lower leaves removed

Cuttings will take time to become bushy and to fill a pot by themselves, so because of the ease at which propagation can be done it’s usually more effective to take several cuttings and put them all into the same pot.

Simply fill a container with potting soil or compost and wet it before inserting the stem ends into the soil. Make sure the cuttings are reasonably stable and fixed in place as they need good contact with the soil to stimulate root growth. You can use a rooting hormone, but we’ve found standard cuttings root with a very high probability anyway so don’t bother.

Cuttings do much better if they don’t touch each other and if they’re planted towards the edges of the container rather than right in the centre. Doing this will discourages rotting and the outer edges tend to be warmer than the very heart of the pot which gets the roots growing faster.

Once in place keep the soil moist (but not wet or soggy) and keep the plant warm. New growth should appear in just a few short weeks.

The cuttings planted up into a pot of compost

You can, of course, grow your individual cuttings in their own pots if that’s what you’d prefer to do, but by putting several together like in the photo above it will mean after just a few months this pot will be completely covered with new growth. All these cuttings will have knitted together nicely to give the illusion of one full plant when in fact it’s actually several. This is something that would take almost a year or more if you’re going for one stem cutting per pot.

Speed of Growth

The growth rate of Wandering Jew Plant’s when temperatures are warm is fast. As much as an inch a week in the growing seasons, if good light levels are provided and its watering needs are being met.

Its natural tendency is to “vine” and spread out, so if you aren’t growing this in a hanging basket or you want to grow a neat compact looking plant then you must prune regularly to keep it tidy (don’t forget the pruned stems can be used to propagate new plants).

Height / Spread

The height of this plant won’t ever go beyond 6in / 15cm however each single stem can eventually grow to 6ft / 1.8M. This type of spread might be what you’re looking for of course i.e. if you want it to trail down from a hanging basket perched up high. However the stems can always be kept shorter by pinching out the growing tips on a frequent basis.

The Wandering Jew Plant is another houseplant which is grown for it’s foliage rather than the flowers it produces, however they can still add a nice touch when they appear. The pink or purplish flowers these plants produce will be small and can appear at any time of the year, although it’s much more likely in late Spring early Summer.

Are Tradescantia plants Poisonous?

Generally speaking, Tradescantia is very mildly toxic to pets and people. While it does little harm if eaten, the sap within the leaves and stems can cause contact dermatitis on the skin, especially in those with sensitive skin or those with an allergy. Wash your hands quickly after handling and you shouldn’t have any issues.

Anything else?

Your plant is looking tired, it’s become leggy and unattractive, convinced you have done something wrong you Google “Wandering Jew care instructions” to try and find out how to fix things. The answer you’ll find will be pretty much the same everywhere because as any seasoned owner of this plant will tell you, this “look” is inevitable.

The vines grow long and quickly. Over time as they age the older leaves yellow and fall off creating the appearance you feel you’ve caused through poor treatment, which isn’t usually the case. Basically what’s happened is that the plant has pushed and spread itself away from the pot it was growing in.

You can start again by taking cuttings and next time prune more frequently to encourage everything to keep closer, compact and neat.

Caring for Wandering Jew Plants Summary

  1. Good Light Needed To keep the beautiful markings you need to provide good to bright light. Avoid direct sun exposure and low light conditions.

  2. Average Watering Tolerant of a wide range of watering styles, it secretly wants to be well watered and for the soil to be moist for much of the time.

  3. Average Temperature Provide temperatures at or above 18°C (65°F) for best results.

  4. Feeding Feed the soil once a month during Spring and Summer.

  • No direct sunlight or low light positions
  • Do not try and grow your plant in very cold places

Wandering Jew Problems

Leaf fall

Normally this is down to age, the oldest leaves will yellow and fall naturally. Although if this happens and you notice there are limp stems too then this is likely to be caused by quite prolonged and extreme underwatering.

Leaves changing to green / lost variegation

Although you can buy a green leaved variety of Wandering Jew, the majority are variegated and therefore if the leaves are changing colour this is obviously a problem. The cause is almost certainly too little light. Overwatering can dull the colours but this doesn’t make them go completely green. The cure therefore is to move the plant to a brighter area in your home.

Crispy brown and translucent leaves

Sometimes you’ll find dead brown crispy leaves or some leaves going yellow or translucent, as shown in the photo below.

This is going to be caused by one of the following (or in some cases a combination).

  • Natural Ageing. Close to the heart of the plant tend to be the oldest leaves which are likely receiving very little light due to the shade from the canopy of the outer leaves. It’s sensible for the plant to shed these leaves as they’re not serving any propose. These leaves should pull off easily, so just remove them.
  • Too much light. Excessive direct burning sunlight will quickly scorch and destroy the leaf. These plants want bright light but not full sun.
  • Underwatering. Too little water can cause leaves to crisp and dry out. Make sure you’re giving your plant ample water during the growing months.

Stem rot

Wandering Jew Plants love water when growing strong, but as with the majority of indoor plants too much watering will eventually rot the stems. Keep the soil moist not water logged.

Bare spindly and / or leggy growth

This is typically the issue discussed in the “anything else” section above, i.e. this appearance is usual after the plant is quite old. It may also be caused however by too little light (the variegation will have faded also), too little water on a regular basis (accompanied with yellowing leaves), or not enough fertilizer.

Wandering Jew Plant leaf tips are brown and shriveled

Although quite unusual in most homes this is caused by placement in a room with very low humidity, i.e. the air is too dry. You might also be trying to grow your plant next to a heat source like a fire or heater.

Either move the plant somewhere else or follow some of our tips to increase humidity in the home. You should resolve this quickly as your Wandering Jew Plant will also be easy prey for Red Spider Mite infestation.

About the Author

Tom Knight

Over the last 20 years Tom has successfully owned hundreds of houseplants and is always happy to share knowledge and lend his horticulture skills to those in need. He is the main content writer for the Ourhouseplants Team.

Also on Ourhouseplants.com

(Article / Gallery) Photo credit of the Wandering Jew T. fluminensi to LucaLuca
(Article / Gallery) Photo credit of the Wandering Jew flower to Ruestz

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The Tradescantia plant is commonly known as the Wandering Jew plant – an attractive vining plant whose distinctive leaves bear stripes of purple, white, green and silver. The botanical name for the tricolor wandering jew? Tradescantia zebrina!

The wandering jew, is a native of Mexico who earned its common name thanks to the plant’s ability to root easily, spread and thrive in a wide variety of conditions.

This plant comes from the spiderwort family (Commelinaceae) and is also known as Zebrina pendula or inch plant.

Another popular wandering jew variety is Tradescantia pallida – with deep purple leaves and goes by several common names like purple wandering jew, purple queen, and purple heart.

There are several other wandering jew varieties with green and white variegated leaves.

Tradescantia displays small 3-petaled pink, white or purple flowers.

In the “old days” before the advent of garden centers and nurseries carrying a wide variety of houseplants, housewives and gardeners shared cuttings of plants freely.

Cuttings of the wandering jew traveled broadly from home to home and proved itself adaptable and capable of thriving in almost any setting.

This reminded people of the wanderings of the Jews of biblical times, hence the nickname.

This easy-care plant grows indoors or out in a variety of settings.

In this article, we will provide best practices instructions on how to grow and care for Tradescantia pallida and provide some words of caution regarding another invasive species related to it, Tradescantia fluminensis. Read on to learn more.

Wandering Jew Care

The Wandering Jew does well in pots planted in a 60/40 peat moss and perlite potting mixture or with an all-purpose potting mix.

This indoor plant makes an exceptionally beautiful hanging basket plant.

Lighting can vary from medium indirect light to even full sun. Likewise, this hardy plant does well in room temperatures ranging from 55° degrees to 75° degrees Fahrenheit.

NOTE: Tradescantia Plants will achieve the most vibrant, bright colors in high, bright indirect light and at consistently warmer temperatures.

Like most houseplants, the Wandering Jew does not like soggy roots. Translation – Too much water leads to root rot.

Allow the soil to dry completely between waterings, then water deeply. If desired, use a general liquid houseplant fertilizer two times monthly.

Do not water directly into the crown of the plant. Doing so may encourage rotting of the stems and the roots.

These plants like humid conditions, so between watering, the leaf surface enjoys a frequent misting.

Continue misting through the winter, but cut back on watering. Generally speaking, watering once a week should work.

During the winter, reduce watering to two times monthly, and do not fertilize.

Pruning and grooming play an important role in caring for your Wandering Jew indoors.

These houseplants grow very quickly and send out long tendrils and stems on a regular ongoing basis. Keep these trimmed or pinched back at leaf nodes to encourage your new growth and fuller plants.

Propagation of this rambling plant is very easy.

Simply clip off the long stem cutting tips (3” length) during the spring and summer months and root them in potting soil or in water.

Growing Wandering Jew As An Outdoor Plant

Wandering Jew thrives in a temperate climate with fairly high humidity. Hardy in USDA Zones 9-11.

Tradescantia tricolor makes a good ground cover in spots receiving bright indirect light, such as around the base of tall trees which are shady areas.

They also serve as a great ornamental and basket plant.

Planting is simplicity itself. You can use four-inch plants in pots purchased from a nursery, or use stem cuttings from your houseplant for repotting or creating new starts.

You’ll get best results planting in rich, well-drained soil.

Be sure to cover the roots or sink your cuttings 3″ to 5″ inches into the soil. Keep a moist soil until the plant becomes established.

After this, weekly watering should suffice. Applying liquid fertilizer once a week will help to develop a healthy root system.

Keep plants pinched back and pruned to encourage them to grow bushy rather than spindly and trailing manner.

NOTE: Some people report skin irritation when coming in contact with the sap when handling cuttings.

More on the Wandering Jew Plant being Poisonous or Toxic.

Wandering Purple Jew plants will die back during cold winter months outdoors. Fear not, if you plant correctly and help establish a good root system they will reappear come springtime.

Three Best Ways To Root Tradescantia

  1. Poke the ends of cuttings into potting soil and keep the potting mix moist for a few weeks. During the rooting process, keep plants in partial shade. Once rooted, transfer them to pots and water as you would a mature plant.
  2. Simply lay cuttings on the surface of moist potting mix. Press the joint of the cutting into the soil so that it makes good contact. Roots will form at the joint. Once the plant becomes established, transfer it to its own pot.
  3. Place cuttings in a glass or bottle of water set on a sunny windowsill. Once roots emerge, transfer cuttings into pots. Keep the soil moist for a few weeks until the cuttings adjust and established themselves in the soil.

Replacing The Wandering Jew Sometimes Becomes Necessary

This houseplant does not usually live for long periods of time like a Hoya the wax plant or grandma’s African violet plant. Luckily it regenerates itself easily.

If your Wandering Jew begins looking shabby, loses foliage easily and gets too leggy, you may want simply toss it into the compost pile and replace it with one of its offspring. Alternately, you could try cutting the foliage back to the roots to see if it will regenerate.

Pests and diseases rarely attack Wandering Jew, but occasionally you’ll discover spider mites and aphids on the leaves and stems.

When this happens, simply cut back the affected areas and dispose of the cuttings in a sealed plastic bag.

Spray plants vigorously with water to knock off any errant pests. Depending on the infestation this should take care of the problem.

If it does not, turn to natural insecticides for killing any remaining aphids and prevent reinfestation.

NOTE: Don’t compost diseased or pest-infested plants.

Beware Of The Wandering Jew’s Invasive Cousin!

So far we’ve discussed the wandering jew – Tradescantia pallid. Another variety known as Tradescantia fluminensis is solid green and produces white flowers.

This wandering jew variety thrives in USDA zones 9 through 11. In fact, it does so well it can quickly become invasive. You must take great care to prevent it from taking over your entire yard.

In subtropical areas such as New Zealand and Australia and in the southern United States it has become a serious invasive plant problem.

Wandering Jew Propagation:

It propagates itself with wild abandon, and new starts grow readily from stem segments.

Inclement weather only encourages this because the segments can float and travel far and wide to establish themselves in new homes.

Eradicating Tradescantia fluminensis or even cutting it back by hand may encourage the plant to spread.

Very often people regret introducing this “Wandering Jew” in their gardens. They often end up having to use a strong herbicide to kill it off.

Should The Green Wandering Jew Be Avoided Entirely?

Tradescantia fluminensis can be a good garden addition, and it does well as a groundcover in Brazil and Argentina from whence it hails.

If you want Tradescantia fluminensis in your garden, look for the Innocence variety.

It’s more attractive and less invasive than the common varieties. It prefers damper and shadier areas and thrives in lower shade with moister soil.

Zebrina pendula Wandering Jew1

Edward F. Gilman2

Introduction

It would be difficult to find a more colorful or faster-growing groundcover than wandering Jew (Fig. 1). The purple-green leaves with broad, silvery stripes and purple undersides are produced along the succulent stems, which root wherever they touch soil. Rapidly creating a thick, 6- to 12-inch-high mat of colorful foliage, a groundcover of wandering Jew will easily hide fallen litter from trees growing above it. Stems root as they touch the ground. Small, insignificant, rose-pink flowers are produced among the leaves of wandering Jew all through the year. Figure 1.

Wandering Jew

General Information

Scientific name: Zebrina pendula

Pronunciation: zee-BRYE-nuh PEND-yoo-luh

Common name(s): wandering Jew

Family: Commelinaceae

Plant type: herbaceous; ground cover

USDA hardiness zones: 9 through 11 (Fig. 2)

Planting month for zone 9: year round

Planting month for zone 10 and 11: year round

Origin: not native to North America

Uses: container or above-ground planter; ground cover; naturalizing; hanging basket; suitable for growing indoors; cascading down a wall

Availability: generally available in many areas within its hardiness range

Figure 2.

Shaded area represents potential planting range.

Description

Height: .5 to 1 feet Spread: depends upon supporting structure Plant habit: prostrate (flat); spreading Plant density: moderate Growth rate: fast Texture: fine

Foliage

Leaf arrangement: alternate Leaf type: simple Leaf margin: entire Leaf shape: ovate Leaf venation: bowed Leaf type and persistence: evergreen Leaf blade length: less than 2 inches Leaf color: purple or red; variegated Fall color: no fall color change Fall characteristic: not showy

Flower

Flower color: pink Flower characteristic: flowers periodically throughout the year

Fruit

Fruit shape: oval Fruit length: less than .5 inch Fruit cover: dry or hard Fruit color: unknown Fruit characteristic: inconspicuous and not showy

Trunk and Branches

Trunk/bark/branches: not applicable Current year stem/twig color: reddish Current year stem/twig thickness: medium

Culture

Light requirement: plant grows in the shade Soil tolerances: slightly alkaline; occasionally wet; clay; sand; acidic; loam Drought tolerance: moderate Soil salt tolerances: poor Plant spacing: 18 to 24 inches

Other

Roots: not applicable Winter interest: no special winter interest Outstanding plant: not particularly outstanding Invasive potential: aggressive, spreading plant Pest resistance: long-term health usually not affected by pests

Use and Management

Wandering Jew will grow in a variety of soils but should be planted in partial to deep shade and receive regular waterings. Plants have marginal salt-tolerance. The cultivar ‘Purpusii’ has dark red or red-green, unstriped, hairy leaves. ‘Quadricolor’ has metallic-green leaves striped with green, red, and white. There is also a green and white cultivar available. Propagation is by stem cuttings, which root easily.

Pests and Diseases

No pests or diseases are of major concern, but it is occasionally bothered by mites.

Footnotes

This document is FPS-620, one of a series of the Environmental Horticulture Department, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date October 1999. Reviewed February 2014. Visit the EDIS website at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu.

Edward F. Gilman, professor, Environmental Horticulture Department; UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.

The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county’s UF/IFAS Extension office.
U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.

Wandering Jew Plant Care: Best Practices

Wandering jew, also known as ‎Tradescantia zebrina, are much sought after for their unique bright colors as well as their vining growth habit. They look gorgeous in hanging baskets or set atop a pedestal where the colorful vines can cascade down.

Caring for the wandering jew plant is easy during the warm, humid summer months. But it can be a bit more challenging to grow a wandering jew plant indoors during the dry cold months of the year.

Wandering jew plants add wonderful color to mixed containers, as well as add great texture and color to shady garden areas. Just remember if you put them outside, these plants are not tolerant of the cold, and will die at the first hard freeze if left outdoors. But they can easily be brought indoors and grown as a houseplant through the winter.

You will find it much easier for the long-term to move your Wandering Jew plants outside for the summer, where they will thrive and grow huge!

As mentioned previously, make sure to locate your wandering jew plants outside on a shady front step or porch during the summer months.

As the wandering jew vines grow longer, you can train them to climb. By mid-summer, they are absolutely gorgeous, and you will definitely get tons of compliments for the rest of the year.

Another key to successfully growing a wandering jew plant indoors is humidity and lots of it! When the humidity is too low for a wandering jew, the leaves will start to turn brown and die.

This is the biggest issue with growing them indoors during the winter months. When the air in your home is very dry, it’s important to keep the humidity level as high as possible. One easy way to increase the humidity level around your wandering jew plant is to run a humidifier near the plant.

Wandering jew plants don’t really need to be fertilized, but of course, they will benefit from being fed once and a while.

They only need to be fertilized spring through summer, don’t fertilize them in the fall or winter. Winter growth on a wandering jew plant houseplant is usually very weak and leggy, so you really don’t want to encourage new growth during the winter.

As part of your wandering jew plant care routine, you can feed your plant monthly using a liquid fertilizer mixed at half strength.

We recommend using an organic plant fertilizer, rather than a chemical one. Wandering jew plants can be sensitive to chemical fertilizers.

Fertilizing can also help encourage flowering. Wandering jew plant flowers are pretty small and insignificant, and not all varieties have the same flower.

A wandering jew flower can be anywhere from purple, to pink, to white, but it’s always fun to see them. And sometimes they will even flower during the winter, which is a welcome sight to see!

Wandering jews will tolerate heavy pruning, and it’s best to make pruning a part of your regular wandering jew plant care schedule.

To prune a wandering jew plant, pinch or trim off new growth as well as any thin, weak growth and dead leaves. You can also prune off the long tendrils if you prefer to keep the plant compact and thick.

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