Wandering jew flower pictures

Growing Wandering Jew Outside: How To Plant Wandering Jew Outdoors

The wandering jew plant (Tradescantia pallid) is truly one of the easiest plants to grow and is often sold throughout North America as a houseplant due to its adaptability. The wandering jew plant has small pink flowers that flower sporadically through the year and contrast nicely against its purple foliage, making it a lovely container specimen either indoors or out.

Did I say outdoors? So can wandering jew survive outdoors? Yes, indeed, provided you live in USDA zone 9. Wandering jews like warm temperatures and fairly high humidity. As its name implies, growing wandering jew has a well, wandering or trailing habit. In USDA zone 9, growing wandering jew makes an excellent ground cover, especially under taller specimen plants or around the base of trees.

How to Plant a Wandering Jew Outdoors

Now that we have ascertained that wandering jew is not just a pretty houseplant, the question remains, “How to plant a wandering jew outdoors?” Just as wandering jew grows quickly and easily as a hanging houseplant, it will soon cover a large area of outdoor landscape as well.

Wandering jew plant should be planted in shade to partial sun (indirect sunlight) either in hanging baskets or in the ground in the spring. You may either use a start from the local nursery or a cutting from an existing wandering jew plant.

Wandering jew will do best in rich soil with good drainage. Cover the roots of the start or cutting and the bottom 3 to 5 inches of stem with soil, taking care as the plant breaks very easily. You may need to remove some of the leaves to get a good few inches of stem to plant.

Caring for Wandering Jew

Keep wandering jew moist but not wet; it’s better to underwater than overwater. Don’t worry, wandering jew plants can survive very dry conditions. But don’t forget it all together!

When caring for wandering jew, liquid fertilizer should be applied weekly to foster a good rooting system.

You may pinch the stems to encourage bushier (and healthier) growth and then use the cuttings to create new plants, or “fluff up” a spindly hanging plant. Either put the cuttings in with the hanging jew to root, or place in water and allow to root and then plant.

When wandering jew is planted outdoors, it will die back if frost or freezing temperatures arise. However, it will be sure to return in the spring provided the freeze was of short duration and temperatures warm quickly again.

Provided you live in an area of sufficient humidity and heat, there is no doubt that you will be enjoying the fast and easy growing wandering jew for years to come.

Is it possible to grow wandering jew plant outdoors? Absolutely. It started there, after all!

But there’s some tricks to growing these plants so they thrive in an outdoor setting. Let’s talk about the best ways to provide for your Tradescantia-species plants. All wandering jew plants are similar in their requirements, so these tips will work for all types.

Temperature and Climate Needs

Wandering jew and coleus make for a brightly-colored mix. Source: Gardening Solutions

In their native habitat, the wandering jew plant tends to prefer warmer climates. Temperature ranges between 50-80 degrees are perfect.

During winter, temperatures in the 45 degree range are a time to be cautious. They can tolerate it for short periods of time, but too long and the plant will start to die. A cold frame can help keep your plant’s ambient temperature above 50 degrees.

If it looks like there’ll be a sudden frost, and you lack a cold frame, a piece of woven cloth can help. Most cloth will only provide 2-5 degrees of warmth, but it’s better than nothing at all.

As for heat, wandering jew loves warm days. But when it’s over 90 degrees, they’re going to need much more frequent watering. A little shade during the hottest part of the day is helpful.

Wandering jew plant outdoors is best placed in a spot where it stays between 50-80 degrees most of the year. Provide a bright, but partially-shaded environment, and your plant will be thrilled.

Potted or Ground Planting?

A wandering jew ground cover under trees. Source: Tony Rodd

But where should you plant your wandering jew plant outdoors? That’s another really important thing to take into consideration.

If you’re planting them outside, you’ve got two realistic options. Mobile containers might be best if your winter temperatures are too cold. These can live outdoors from the spring through the fall and move inside for the winter.

If you’re in USDA growing zones 9-11, you’re in luck. It seldom gets cold enough there for the plants to be in danger. They’ll be safe year-round in that climate range.

Either way, you want your plants to have partial shade during the day. Too much sun can cause the leaves to bleach out and lose their distinct coloration. They can also experience sunburn.

Avoid placing them in total shade as well. They do need some sunlight! Bright, indirect sunlight is best for these plants. A covered porch or patio that gets lots of light during the day is fantastic. With too little light, the plants will send runners towards the nearest bright area, making them uneven and scraggly-looking.

These plants thrive in moist soil. If planting in the ground, be sure to mulch around them to keep the soil moisture consistent. For potted plants, use a potting soil that retains lots of moisture. Mulch the top as well.

Wandering jew plants look amazing in hanging containers, too. You can opt for one of the hanging baskets with a coconut coir liner, like these Rocky Mountain Goods Hanging Flower Baskets. The liner will help hold extra moisture. But you’ll still need to water hanging pots often, as all that airflow will dry them out fast. When the top 1/2″ of soil is dry, water again!

Providing damp soil also ensures that they get the humidity that they prefer. An occasional misting of the leaves doesn’t hurt, and can provide additional moisture they crave.

Maintaining Wandering Jew Plant Outdoors

Plants like this tradescantia fluminensis can become leggy if not maintained. Source: Starr Environmental

Tradescantia species plants do tend to wander, as their name would insinuate. If given half a chance, they’ll spread rapidly. In fact, they’ve become almost invasive, taking over spaces inhabited by other plants!

It’s important to be sure that if you’re growing yours outdoors, you avoid this problem. If placed in the ground, be sure to prune them before they can spread into other beds.

Pruning at a stem joint can provide you with new plants. Keep a glass of water next to you as you’re pruning, and select healthy stems to put in the water. Every day, rinse off the stems and dump and replace the water. Roots should grow within a couple weeks.

Container-planted wandering jews will try to wander, too. While their long stems look great in hanging baskets, other pots should get pruned. This keeps them the right size for their available soil and moisture level.

What About Wildlife?

This wandering jew plant has started to flower. Source: John Tann

Do your dogs have free run of the yard? How about your cats, or for that matter any ferals in the area? Are deer prone to nibble on your foliage?

If so, you may want to rethink wandering jew near animals. While deer aren’t prone to go onto your covered patio, they will graze on your bushes. Dogs get anywhere on the ground. Cats… well, they go wherever they want to go! And when growing wandering jew plant outdoors, that’s an issue.

Tradescantia plants tend to cause a dermatitis-like reaction in most dogs and cats. Livestock and wildlife may also be susceptible to this. If your garden is optimized for wildlife to cruise by, you should keep this in mind when planting. Put your plants somewhere out of reach.

Wandering jew plants outdoors are definitely an option! Just be sure you’re prepared for the elements, and place them in the right spot. What’s your favorite wandering jew variety? Let me know in the comments!

The Green Thumbs Behind This Article:
Lorin Nielsen
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Wandering Jew – The Shades Of Its Succulence

(Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on September 21, 2008. Your comments are welcome, but please be aware that authors of previously published articles may not be able to respond to your questions.)

Although there are many tradescantias that go by the name Wandering Jew, few of them are available commercially. The tradescantias are a particular favorite of mine as I have always been a little partial to foliage. When I began researching these plants I was surprised to learn that they are actually members of the spiderwort family. All three of the Wandering Jew plants are extremely easy to grow. They do well in full sun as well as in the shade. They can survive on virtually no care if placed in the proper environment which isn’t hard to do considering their flexibility. The do not require a great deal of water and will grow in either slightly soggy or dry soil.

Tradescantia fluminensis is often grown as a house plant here in the United States, and though it is a treasure to most it is considered an invasive intruder to others. It is considered to be invasive in some areas due to the rate that it spreads; its stems will break off easily and it will take root wherever it lands.

It will also smother plants that attempt to grow under or through it.

Although weed sprays do have some effect it is unlikely that you would be able to rid yourself of this plant because of the rate that it spreads.

The only way to prevail would be to simply pull it by hand; this may need to be repeated over some period of time.

Tradescantia pallida grows well in a hanging pot but is often used in warmer climates as a ground cover. Though it can be invasive, it is absolutely gorgeous.
It is impressive with its purple foliage, but once you have seen its simple and elegant bloom, it will become an irreplaceable part of the landscaping.

Tradescantia zebrina is still known by many as Zebrina pendula but whichever you decide to call it, it is a plant worth having. It has variegated leaves as well as a simple sweet bloom. Much like its sister plants, it can be invasive if it is not properly maintained. It will cling closely to the ground and make an adorable groundcover. It grows well in the shade as well as slightly more sunny areas.

You can root more plants as easily as you can take cuttings. Simply clip some leaves or pinch off the succulent stems and place them into the soil where they will quickly take root and grow into lovely plants. It is believed that unlike its counterparts, prolonged exposure to the sap from the stems or rubbing the foliage can cause skin irritation in some people. For that reason I would place this plant in a hanging pot or off the “beaten path” where children are not likely to be in physical contact with the plant.

It is not my intention to deter you from growing any of these beauties; I do however recommend that you check with your local county extension office to make sure that you are allowed to plant it, and its potential invasiveness.

How and where to plant this type of plant is very much about personal choice. I have it growing climbing out of my flower bed and crawling around as a border.
Though this is beautiful and works wonderfully, it is a continuing process that takes persistence to keep it under control.

Another beautiful option is to take all three varieties and plant them in a large container. Once they take hold and are growing well, the colors of the leaves really go well together. They bring out each other’s colors. The possibilities are endless with these little beauties.

All photos are courtesy of Wikipedia and public domain. http://wikipedia.org/

Wandering Jew Stock Photos and Images

  • Tradescantia fluminensis ‘Albovittata’ (Wandering Jew) with abundance of variegated leaves
  • Illustration Of Anti-Semitism The Wandering Jew By Dore France 1852 One Of The Many Illustrations To Describe The Jews As People
  • The Wandering Jew, painting by Gaston Melingue. – Drawing Pelissier, vintage engraved illustration. Magasin Pittoresque 1874.
  • Tradescantia zebrina ‘Purpusii’ wandering jew COMMELINACEAE Spiderwort family spider lily
  • Detailed view of the Cluster Fig Tree(Ficus racemosa), a ficus tree also known as Indian and Goolar, with the plant,wandering jew growing on ground
  • Historical illustration, facsimile of the title, The Eternal Jew, Ahasver, 1619,
  • Exotic cover of variegated wandering jew plants (Tradescantia zebrina or inch plant)
  • Vintage Ogdens cigarette card actors,Matheson Lang playing the character Matathias in the play the Wandering Jew. EDITORIAL ONLY
  • Close-up of a May Tradescantia pallida, Setcreasea purpurea, Wandering Jew, Purple Heart or Purple Queen flower agaist blurred background
  • Purple Heart Wandering Jew
  • Illustration for The Wandering Jew.
  • Benghal dayflower, tropical spiderwort, wandering Jew benefits make you an appetite suppressant, use as a laxative, help solve leprosy. Relieve skin i
  • The modern wandering Jew’ Ulysses S. Grant with walking stick, ‘war record’, wandering through cemetery of two term presidents, including George Washington, Monroe, Jackson, Lincoln, Madison, and Jefferson, with dome of the U.S. Capitol in background.
  • A flower bed full of Purple Heart plants and flowers, Tradescantia pallida, in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA.
  • Tradescantia pallida ‘Purpurea’ (Purple Heart) plant.
  • Close-up of flowers of Whte Tradescantia / Spiderwort / Wandering Jew plant – Tradescantia pallida – Family Commelinaceae
  • Lush green Wandering Jew plant
  • Hanging house plant called tradescantia / wandering jew. In this photo you can see a closeup of the branches of this plant with plenty of leaves.
  • Purple Heart plant, Tradescantia pallida, with a small pink flower. Oklahoma, USA.
  • Variegated green leaves from Tradescantia fluminensis ‘Variegata’ (Wandering Jew), close-up
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    Wandering Jew Plant

    Wandering Jew plant­ looks very much like its close cousin, the spiderwort, and shows this relationship through its trailing stems and stalkless, pointed leaves. The leaves, about two inches long, are shiny, with two silver stripes on the upper su­rface and a rich purple underside. There are also variegated versions with bronze, pink, or cream stripes.

    Prune wandering Jew plants heavily to keep them young or start new plants from cuttings. Their stems sometimes “escape” and end up as ground covers in other pots.

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    Wandering Jew Plant Quick Facts:

    Scientific Name: Zebrina pendula

    Common Names: Wandering Jew

    Light Requirement for Wandering Jew Plant: Bright Light to Filtered Light

    Water Requirement for Wandering Jew Plant: Drench, Let Dry

    Humidity for Wandering Jew Plant: Average Home

    Temperature for Wandering Jew Plant: House

    Fertilizer for Wandering Jew Plant: Balanced

    Potting Mix for Wandering Jew Plant: All-Purpose

    Propagation of Wandering Jew Plant: Layering, Stem Cuttings

    Decorative Use for Wandering Jew Plant: Hanging Basket, Table

    Care Rating for Wandering Jew Plant: Very Easy

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    ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

    Larry Hodgson is a full time garden writer working out of Quebec City in the heart of French Canada where he grows well over 3,000 species and varieties. His book credits include Making the Most of Shade, The Garden Lovers Guide to Canada, Perennials for Every Purpose, Annuals for Every Purpose, Houseplants for Dummies, and Ortho’s Complete Guide to Houseplants, as well as other titles in English and French. He’s the winner of the Perennial Plant Association’s 2006 Garden Media Award. ­

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