Wandering jew plant picture

Looking for a plant that’ll attract attention? The vivid purple leaves and stems of tradescantia pallida will do it! This wandering jew species is called purple heart plant, purple queen, and more.

Popular in frost-free regions, a purple heart ground cover can be extremely striking. But it does just as well hanging, and it makes a fantastic house plant too.

All About The Purple Queen

Tradescantia pallida has vibrant purple foliage. Source: jam343

Originating in eastern Mexico, this particular species of wandering jew is a stunner. Its leaves, which are long and pointed, can reach up to seven inches in length. Sometimes the tips will remain red or green while the rest of the leaf turns purple.

The stems have obvious segmentation along their length. This has contributed to its spread as an invasive species in warmer climates. At the joints, the plant is weaker and easy to snap off, but it reroots from the joint easily. This also makes it very easy to grow from cuttings!

In cooler climates, there’s little risk of it becoming widespread. Tradescantia pallida is not tolerant of frosty climates and will die back in the cold.

The flowers it produces are small. Often three-petaled, they range from white to pinks and lavenders in color. They aren’t particularly showy, but offer a counterpoint to the bright foliage.

The Many Names For Purple Heart

What’s in a name? In the case of this plant, an awful lot.

Originally named Setcreasea pallida, the botanical name Setcreasea purpurea has also been used. The former was its botanical name from 1911 onward. Both of these names fell out of usage in 1975 when it was reclassified as Tradescantia pallida.

As for its common names, it has many of those as well! Wandering jew, walking jew, purple heart, purple queen, and purple secretia are used. It’s also referred to as a combination of any of the above, such as wandering jew purple heart.

An Indoor Contaminant Cleanser

Phytoremediation is becoming a popular topic in our over-polluted world. And here, the purple heart wandering jew excels. Its ability to remove volatile organic compounds (or VOCs) from our indoor air is highly rated!

More and more often, people are turning to plants to improve their air quality. Tradescantia pallida was rated “superior” after an extended study at the University of Georgia. It only lost out to a handful of other plants.

English ivy and wax plants were slightly better at air cleaning than purple heart. So were asparagus fern and the purple waffle plant. But if you’re looking to clean your air, growing a mix of these will help!

Some tests have also shown that this wandering jew can help absorb heavy metals in soil. There’s still more testing that needs to happen, but it’s clear that this plant will make your life better in more ways than one.

Tradescantia Pallida Care Tips

In full sun, purple heart develops its bright color. Source: Starr

These are some of the best plants for beginners to grow. Not only are they gorgeous, but they’re easy to care for. Let’s go over the basics of wandering jew care briefly, but also specifics for the purple queen itself.

Growing Basics

Opt for bright light conditions. If you’re growing purple heart outdoors, you may want to put it in full sun! It will tolerate partial shade as long as it gets enough ambient light.

Temperature matters for this plant. While the roots are hardy to 10 degrees, the plant’s foliage will die back in frost conditions. Consider bringing it indoors if you’re in a colder climate.

Keep the soil evenly moist. If it’s dry in the upper inch of soil, it’s time to water. The soil itself should be rich in organic matter and able to hold some water while allowing excess to drain.

Fertilize your plant at least monthly during its active growing season. A balanced organic fertilizer is a good choice.

To keep your plant from getting too leggy, pinch off stem tips. Make sure to pinch above a leaf joint, as the plant will start new growth there. You should also cut them back after they’ve finished flowering.

While spider mites are a common pest indoors, outdoor plants are prone to scale insects. Mealybugs are a very common issue. You can use neem oil to combat all these pests.

Finally, remember that pets and wandering jew don’t mix. While the most common problem is irritated skin, the sap is mildly poisonous as well. Keep it out of the reach of your four-legged family members if you can!

Specialized Purple Heart Plant Tricks

While it looks phenomenal in a hanging pot, purple queen is actually quite fragile. Too much banging around and the stems will snap off. It’s important to make sure it’s not where it’s likely to get jostled around, whether it’s hanging or on the ground.

Indoors, this is an evergreen plant as the climate is ideal. But if your plant is actually green instead of purple, it’s a sign of low light. To develop that amazing coloration, it needs full sun.

While tradescantia pallida tends to be relatively drought-hardy, it also tolerates heavy watering. It’s adaptable enough to take both! Either way, ensure that the soil will hold moisture, but drain off excess water well.

Cuttings from this plant root very easily. You don’t need rooting hormone or specialized care. A fresh cutting placed into moist potting soil is enough for it to develop roots. It’s a great candidate for air layering, too!

I can’t emphasize just how easy this plant is to grow! Everyone should have a purple heart tradescantia, whether indoors or out. They’re a beautiful accent, and they look great in combination with other plants, too. Try growing yours with some sweet potato vines for a colorful planter!

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Lorin Nielsen
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Kevin Espiritu
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Purple Heart (Tradescantia pallida) used as a bedding plant at the Missouri Botanical Garden.

Tradescantia pallida is a tender evergreen perennial native to northeast Mexico (from Tamaulipas to Yucatan) grown as an ornamental for its striking purple foliage. Originally named Setcreasea pallida by Joseph Nelson Rose in 1911, it was reclassified in the genus Tradescantia by D.R. Hunt of the Royal Botanic Garden Kew in 1975. The former name S. pallida or S. purpurea is still often used.

Commonly called Purple Heart or Purple Heart Wandering Jew (and occasionally “Moses in the Basket,” although this usually refers to a different species) this herbaceous plant in the Commelinaceae (spiderwort family) is a low-growing trailer that is hardy in zones 7-10, but is easily grown as an annual or houseplant in colder climates.

The small, pale purple flowers are borne on the ends of the stems.

Dark purple, lance-shaped leaves up to 7” long are produced alternately on fleshy stems. The fleshy leaves are covered with pale hairs and form a sheath around the stem. The stems are quite fragile, and break off easily if brushed or kicked too hard. In colder areas it will die back to the ground in winter, but comes back from the roots in spring. The rambling plants get about a foot high but can spread much wider.

From midsummer through fall, and sporadically at other times, relatively inconspicuous pink or pale purple flowers with bright yellow stamens are produced at the ends of the stems. These ½” wide blooms have three petals typical of this genus.

Purple heart makes a good container plant.

Purple Heart can be used as a ground cover, cascading in baskets, as a trailer in mixed containers or as a houseplant. They are best used in masses for in-ground plantings and will spread relatively quickly. The purple leaves are a nice contrast to gold, chartreuse, or variegated foliage, and a great complement to pink, light purple, or burgundy blossoms on other plants. Pair it with complementary colors for bold combinations – chartreuse coleus, orange marigolds or red begonias.

Purple heart combined with asparagus fern, pink verbena and other flowers.

Try using it in a container with ‘Marguerite’ ornamental sweet potato, golden creeping Jenny (Lysimachia nummularia ‘Aurea’ or other varieties) or light green asparagus fern. Or combine it with pink or lavender verbena, coral-colored scarlet sage (Salvia coccinea ‘Coral Nymph’) or pink petunias. Other suggestions for harmonious combinations with pink or purple-flowered plants include four o’clocks (Mirabilis jalapa), lantana, scaveola, vinca (Catharantheus roseus) and Mexican petunia (Ruellia brittonia).

Purple heart is easy to grow.

Grow purple heart in full sun for best color development; plants growing in shade tend more to green than purple. Pinch the plants to promote more compact growth. Plants are drought tolerant and thrive on neglect, but also tolerate frequent watering. Fertilize monthly when actively growing. Cut plants back after flowering to prevent them from getting spindly. If grown in containers to hold indoors over the winter or as houseplants, reduce watering during the winter and don’t fertilize until new growth starts in spring. Purple heart has few pests, but scales and mealybugs can be a problem. The juice from the leaves or stems may cause skin redness and irritation in some people and dogs, but this is not a common problem.

Plants are easily propagated by taking cuttings from any part of the plant – just shove a node into the soil or potting mix and it will usually root (or place in water until roots develop). This plant can also be propagated from seed, but that is rarely available.
– Susan Mahr, University of Wisconsin – Madison

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Show Off Your Purple Heart

The best deep purple since “Smoke on the Water.” Photo: Steve Bender

The recent Memorial Day holiday got Grumpy thinking about a plant to fit the occasion. What better candidate could there be than one called “purple heart?” It’s tough as nails and handles the worst abuse summer dishes out. Plus, if you’re one of those people who craves purple in the garden, nothing does purple like the foliage of purple heart.

Formerly known as Setcresea pallida, purple heart (Tradescantia pallida ‘Purple Heart’) is a creeping perennial that grows about 12 inches tall and 24 inches wide. Spear-shaped leaves range from reddish-purple to nearly black. Light pink, three-petaled flowers appear in summer. It’s winter-hardy in USDA Zones 7-11, dying to the ground with the first hard autumn freeze (except in the mildest zones) and reappearing the next spring. Don’t worry about losing it if you live farther north. It’s one of the easiest plants to root — just stick a cutting in moist potting soil, no rooting powder needed — so you can take a rooted cutting inside to a bright window and grow it on as a houseplant.

In the garden, purple heart makes a fine, seasonal ground cover or edging plant. Just trim it every once in a while to keep it in check and remove any discolored flower stalks. Its rambling habit also lends itself to being the “spiller” plant in window boxes, hanging baskets, and big containers. Try combining it with yellow, orange, and light pink foliage and flowers.

Image zoom emPurple heart and coleus. Photo:Rainyside.com/em

How To Grow A cousin to the less cold-hardy wandering jew, purple heart is virtually indestructible. Give it full sun for the best foliage color and well-drained soil. Summer heat and drought don’t faze it. Deer don’t usually either. You’ll find it for sale now at most garden centers.

Wandering Jew

Botanical name: Tradescantia fluminensis
Family name: Commelinaceae

Wandering Jew is a succulent perennial plant that is an environmental weed, causing major problems under trees and in bush reserves throughout the North Island in some parts of the South Island. Originally from South America, it has been grown as an ornamental garden plant for many years and also in hanging pots, but sale in garden centres is now banned because of its invasive nature. Because wandering Jew can form thick mats of vegetation in moist, shady areas within bush reserves, it stops new seedlings of trees and shrubs from establishing wherever it grows. Although it is not thought to produce seeds within New Zealand, it spreads due to the brittle nature of its stems, resulting in the plant fragmenting easily, and these fragments do not dry out easily. It probably spreads mainly during periods of flooding, when it gets washed into new areas. It also gets into new areas through people dumping garden waste on roadsides, as it is commonly found in many gardens, especially where gardens have been growing for many decades. Apart from being a major problem within bush areas and shady gardens, it can cause allergic skin reactions in dogs and other animals running through the foliage. It is also exceedingly difficult to get rid of once established. It is sometimes also known as wandering Willie.

Distinguishing Features

The succulent, brittle nature of the stems distinguishes it from a number of other species that grow in shady forest floors such as periwinkle (Vinca major) and ivy (Hedera helix). Each leaf is oval shaped, shiny, smooth and slightly fleshy with pointed tips. When growing in a mat, this can get 50 cm deep at times. It produces white flowers about 2 cm across in spring to early summer, with each having three petals, whereas periwinkle has blue flowers.


Most herbicides give very poor control. The best chemical appears to be triclopyr, which is sold under such trade names as Grazon, Victory, Scrubcutter and in garden centres as Hydrocotyle Killer. Even with this herbicide, retreatment may be necessary. Amitrole has been used in the past, and although this works better than glyphosate, it is not as effective as triclopyr. Likewise, metsulfuron has some activity on it, but is a less effective herbicide. However, triclopyr is mainly used for controlling scrub weeds, so be careful not to spray it on nearby shrubs. Some people have attempted to rake the plant up under hot dry conditions rather than use herbicide, but this seldom works as any fragments left behind will regenerate, and the raked material has to be disposed of carefully so it doesn’t spread to new areas. Picloram gel (eg Vigilant) has sometimes been applied to it with a paint roller, but this cannot be recommended as the persistent picloram residues can be taken up by the roots of trees and shrubs growing underneath the treated weed and cause severe damage to these trees and shrubs.

Breaking news

WEED BUSTERS Weed warning: Tradescantia, also known as wandering jew and wandering willie, is arguably the most notorious ornamental plant to have escaped into the wild and caused massive damage in natural areas, smothering out native seedlings and preventing bush regeneration. It is spread by dumping of garden waste.

Q: I’m losing the battle with tradescantia in a patch of bush in a gully at the back of my section. What do you suggest for treatment over a large area?

A: Tradescantia (aka wandering willie and once upon a time wandering jew) is very hard to get rid of because every fragment left behind can resprout. It is tolerant of deep shade, wet conditions and most soil types. Its dark green, shiny leaves form large, dense mats that prevent native species regenerating.

Weedbusters recommend working from the top of the area downwards and from the edges to the centre. Rake and roll up the matted growth to reduce the amount that needs to be sprayed. Dispose of at a refuse transfer station. Watch out for dropped fragments that will spread the infestation.

Follow up with a triclopyr or glyphosate-based spray with a penetrant to stick to the shiny foliage. Repeat spray within two to three months before the plants recover. At least two or three sprays are needed for total control.

* Brazilian beetles war on weeds
* Wellington’s wandering willie under attack by Brazilian beetles
* How to get rid of onion weed

There is a glimmer of hope on the horizon. Landcare Research announced that biological control trials of Brazilian tradescantia beetles are showing signs of success. Scientist Simon Fowler, who led the tradescantia biocontrol research, said he was “overjoyed” to see the damage to the weed during a visit to a trial site in Northland, where 300 tradescantia leaf beetles were released. About half the leaves on the plants had been stripped bare by the larvae, and the rest were well-chewed by the adult beetles, he said.

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Weeds of Australia – Biosecurity Queensland Edition Fact Sheet

Tradescantia fluminensis

Scientific Name

Tradescantia fluminensis Vell.


Tradescantia albiflora Kunth



Common Names

creeping Christian, green wandering Jew, inch plant, inch-plant, small leaf spiderwort, small-leaf spiderwort, spider wort, spider-wort, spiderwort, trad, wanderer, wandering creeper, wandering Jew, wandering trad, wandering tradescantia, wandering Willie, water spiderwort, white flowered wandering Jew, white-flowered wandering Jew


Native to South America (i.e. south-eastern Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay).


This species has been cultivated as a garden ornamental, particularly in the cooler and wetter parts of the country. A form with variegated leaves (i.e. Tradescantia fluminensis ‘Variegata’) has been particularly popular in cultivation. It has leaves with white, cream or yellowish-coloured stripes.

Naturalised Distribution

Widely naturalised in southern and eastern Australia (i.e. in eastern Queensland, eastern New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania, south-eastern South Australia and south-western Western Australia). Also naturalised on Lord Howe Island.


A weed of forests, forest margins, urban bushland, open woodlands, riparian vegetation, roadsides, ditches, waste areas, disturbed sites and gardens. It prefers damp and shaded areas in temperate and sub-tropical regions, but will also grow in more open habitats and in tropical regions.


A long-lived (i.e. perennial) herbaceous plant with trailing or creeping (i.e. prostrate or decumbent) stems up to 4 m long. It often grows as a groundcover and forms a dense mat of vegetation.

Distinguishing Features

  • a somewhat fleshy long-lived herbaceous plant with trailing stems that produce roots at their joints.
  • its shiny leaves have dark green upper surfaces and often slightly purplish undersides.
  • these leaves are alternately arranged along the stems and have sheathed bases.
  • its white flowers (about 2 cm across) have three pointed petals (7-10 mm long).
  • these flowers are borne in small clusters near the tips of the branches.

Stems and Leaves

The glossy leaves are alternately arranged and their bases form short sheaths (5-10 mm long) around the creeping stems. The somewhat fleshy (i.e. semi-succulent) leaf blades (3-6.5 cm long and 1-3 cm wide) are dark green on top and often slightly purplish underneath. They may be either broadly lance-shaped (i.e. lanceolate), egg-shaped in outline (i.e. ovate), or oblong with entire margins and pointed tips (i.e. acute apices). Leaf sheaths can be either hairy (i.e. pubescent) or hairless (i.e. glabrous), while the leaf blades are hairless, or occasionally with some small hairs (i.e. cilia) along their margins.

Flowers and Fruit

The flowers (about 2 cm across) are borne in small clusters near the tips of the branches. Each cluster has two small leafy bracts at the base and the individual flowers are borne on stalks (i.e. pedicels) 1-1.5 cm long. They have three white petals (7-10 mm long) with pointed tips (i.e. acute apices), three greenish sepals (6-8 mm long), and six small yellow stamens. Flowering occurs mainly during spring and summer.

The fruit are small capsules, with three chambers. However, this species is not known to produce viable seed in Australia. Black, pitted seeds are produced overseas.

Reproduction and Dispersal

This plant only reproduces vegetatively in Australia, by producing roots at the joints (i.e. nodes) of stems that come into contact with the soil (i.e. stolons).

Stem fragments easily break off and may be dispersed by water, vehicles, machinery, in dumped garden waste or in contaminated soil.

Environmental Impact

Trad (Tradescantia fluminensis) is a significant environmental weed in Victoria and New South Wales, an environmental weed in South Australia, Queensland and Tasmania, and a potential environmental weed in Western Australia and the ACT. It was recently listed as a priority environmental weed in four Natural Resource Management regions in Australia.


This species is declared under legislation in the following states and territories:

  • New South Wales: Class 4 – a locally controlled weed. The growth and spread of this species must be controlled according to the measures specified in a management plan published by the local control authority and the plant may not be sold, propagated or knowingly distributed (in the Hornsby, Ku-ring-gai, Lane Cove, Manly, North Sydney, Ryde and Willoughby local authority areas).
  • Western Australia: Unassessed – this species is declared in other states or territories and is prohibited until assessed via a weed risk assessment (throughout the entire state).


For information on the management of this species see the following resources:

  • the Biosecurity Queensland Fact Sheet on this species, which is available online at http://www.dpi.qld.gov.au.
  • the Randwick City Council environmental weeds profile on this species, which is available online at http://www.randwick.nsw.gov.au.
  • the Shire of Yarra Ranges environmental weed fact sheet on this species, which is available online at http://www.yarraranges.vic.gov.au.
  • the Wandering Jew page on the South Coast Weeds website at http://www.esc.nsw.gov.au/Weeds/index.asp.

Similar Species

Trad (Tradescantia fluminensis) can be easily confused with the native aneilema (Aneilema biflorum ). It is also relatively similar to native wandering Jew (Commelina diffusa ), hairy wandering Jew (Commelina benghalensis ) and zebrina (Tradescantia zebrina). These species can be distinguished by the following differences:

  • trad (Tradescantia albiflora) has glossy green leaves that are mostly hairless and somewhat fleshy. Its flowers are white with three pointed petals.
  • aneilema (Aneilema biflorum) has glossy green leaves that are hairless and somewhat fleshy. Its flowers are white with rounded petals.
  • native wandering Jew (Commelina diffusa) has dull green leaves that are hairless and relatively thin. Its flowers are usually bright blue (rarely white) with rounded petals.
  • hairy wandering Jew (Commelina benghalensis) has dull green leaves that are hairy and relatively thin. Its flowers are usually bright blue with rounded petals.
  • zebrina (Tradescantia zebrina) has variegated purplish leaves that are hairless and somewhat fleshy. Its flowers are bright pink with rounded petals.

This fact sheet has been updated thanks to the sponsorship of Sunshine Coast Council.

Fact sheets are available from Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation (DEEDI) service centres and our Customer Service Centre (telephone 13 25 23). Check our website at www.biosecurity.qld.gov.au to ensure you have the latest version of this fact sheet. The control methods referred to in this fact sheet should be used in accordance with the restrictions (federal and state legislation, and local government laws) directly or indirectly related to each control method. These restrictions may prevent the use of one or more of the methods referred to, depending on individual circumstances. While every care is taken to ensure the accuracy of this information, DEEDI does not invite reliance upon it, nor accept responsibility for any loss or damage caused by actions based on it.

Killing Wandering Jew Plants: How To Get Rid Of Wandering Jew Weeds In The Garden

Wandering jew (Tradescantia fluminensis), not to be confused with its attractive and more well-behaved cousin of the same name, is a decorative groundcover native to subtropical Argentina and Brazil. While it can make for a striking addition to your garden, it is extremely invasive and should be treated with caution. Keep reading for information about wandering jew and, specifically, how to get rid of the stuff.

Wandering Jew in the Garden

Wandering jew thrives in USDA zones 9-11. It can withstand a very light frost, but nothing more. It can be used as a groundcover or encouraged to cascade down ledges to form an attractive curtain that produces small white blossoms.

If you really want wandering jew plants in the garden, opt for the “Innocence” variety that has been bred to be less invasive and more attractive. Planting it is not recommended, however, as once it’s taken root, both you will be seeing a lot of it.

This particular wandering jew plant can be identified by its glossy, bright green leaves encircling a single stem. From spring to fall, clusters of white, three-petaled flowers appear in the top of the stem. It is most likely to appear in large patches in damp, shady parts of your garden or backyard.

How to Get Rid of Wandering Jew Weeds

The wandering jew weed is a serious problem in Australia, New Zealand, and the southern United States. It is fast growing and rarely propagates by seed. Instead, a new viable plant can grow from a single stem fragment.

Because of this, removing wandering jew plants by hand-pulling is only effective if every piece is collected and removed, making killing wandering jew in its entirety difficult. This process ought to work with diligence and persistence, however.

The stems float, too, so take extreme care if you are working near water, or your problem will crop up all over again downstream. Killing wandering jew with a strong herbicide may also be effective but should only be used as a last resort.

Trad, Wandering Jew

Scientific name:Tradescantia fluminensis


Tradescantia is a smothering, evergreen creeper with a growth rate of several metres a year. It roots easily from points along the stem and stem fragments. It can cause allergic reactions.

Tradescantia is rampant, highly invasive and tolerant of shade, sun and drought. It develops dense mats up to 60cm deep, smothers ground plants and prevents regeneration of shrubs and trees.
Stem growth can be several metres a year under favourable conditions. One noded section of stem will root to form multiple stems.
It has been found to cause allergic skin reactions in dogs and rapid death when consumed by cattle.

Origin and distribution

Tradescantia thrives in damp or moist shaded conditions. It invades warm and cool temperate rainforest, damp and wet sclerophyll forest, dry sclerophyll forest and woodland but can also establish in open sunny locations. It is frost tender but will regenerate from stems protected by leaf litter.


Trad is an environmental weed in Sutherland Shire. It is important that environmental weeds are destroyed, as they can affect human health, or can be invasive in the natural environment killing the native flora and reducing the natural biodiversity. Native animals may also be affected due to the loss of their natural habitat


Small infestations can be removed by hand. Check the site carefully for stem pieces. Monitor the area for regrowth over the next year.

Large infestations: rake or roll the plant mass. Start from the top of the infestation and rake or roll the plant mat over itself. Lift the bundle of plant material and dispose of safely. Inspect the area for any remaining rooted stems and remove. Check the site thoroughly for broken stem pieces and sections.

Areas should be monitored for regrowth over the next year.

Infestation near waterways: care should be taken to ensure no pieces of plant material can be carried downstream.

Solarisation can be used to control infestations in summer. Lay plastic sheeting over the plant mass for 2-6 weeks. Any regrowth can be removed manually.

Disposal:Large quantities can be composted on site but will require vigilant attention against regrowth. Please obtain guidance from council staff if using this option.

Contact council for advice if you wish to spray

More information




There’s a number of tradescantia varieties very similar in looks, how they’re grown and their growth habit, including the T. zebrina (has dark green leaves with silver bands), the T. fluminensis variegata with cream stripes and quicksilver which has white stripes. Then there’s the T. pallida from the same genus which is sometimes named wandering jew plant, but looks very different from the T. fluminensis and zebrina.

Foliage: Fleshy oval or lance shaped leaves are produced from the pendant stems (growing a couple of feet or so long). These small leaves have a shiny appearance and grow to about 2 – 4 inches long with pointed tips. The underside of a leaf is purple in color on the zebrina and new leaves appear purple at first, then turn green. In the wild or grown in gardens (grown as a bedding plant) stems take root at the nodes, but indoors in a hanging basket or container they grow and hang over the sides.

Flowering: The small non showy flowers are white in color, appearing during summer usually and at other times (depending on the conditions). These flowers appear in clusters, and display three small petals.

Care level and growing: Wandering jew plants are pretty simple to care for and maintain, although providing plenty of bright light is important. Tradescatia naturally become spindly and need to be pruned regularly and pinching stems will encourage fuller growth, improving it’s appearance.

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