Better known as Spiderwort, the Wandering Jew, or the Zebra Plant, the Tradescantias are just about everywhere in tropical and temperate environments. This trailing plant looks excellent hanging in baskets and atop high shelves or as groundcover outdoors. The Tradescantia genus is full of colorful, picturesque leaves in a variety of vibrant colors, including pink, white, light green, and violet.
Check out our in-depth guide to help keep your Tradescantia happy and healthy!
Before getting into the specifics of care, it’s important to note that members of the Tradescantia genus are toxic to both animals and people. Touching Spiderwort can leave you with skin irritation, as its sap is a known skin irritant. However, not much is known about ingesting the leaves raw. When handling this plant, be sure to wear protective gloves. If a pet accidentally ingests this plant, it’s still a good idea to contact poison control or a local vet just to be safe.
Interestingly enough, Spiderwort is commonly used in folk medicine– you should probably avoid harvesting your own Tradescantia just to be safe.
Despite its beauty, Tradescantia genus are toxic to both animals and people.
Photo by Samira.sahra
Tradescantia plants are very hardy and can grow happily just about anywhere– the secret is that they’ll need plenty of light and adequate drainage to remain content.
For light, stick with bright, indirect sunlight for these plants. Tradescantias have sensitive leaves that will burn under direct sun, but they still need lots of light. To help keep them from getting sunburnt, keep your Tradescantia near an east or south-facing window. Outdoors, give your Spiderwort a shaded reprieve during the afternoon. Spiderwort plants can handle medium and low-light environments, but their leaves will lose their vibrancy.
To help keep them from getting sunburnt, keep your Tradescantia near an east or south-facing window.
Photo by Ludmila Kapustkina
Tradescantia plants can thrive in traditional potting mix, but they prefer mixes with high drainage. To help increase drainage, modify your potting mix using a small amount of coarse sand, perlite, and peat.
Spiderworts like it moist but don’t enjoy sitting in wet soil– this is why prioritizing drainage is especially important for these plants. When you water your Spiderwort, only do so about once a week when the first few inches of soil are dry to the touch. To water effectively, ensure you water deeply, letting any excess water drain from your pot before putting the plant away.
Watering about once a week when the first few inches of soil are dry to the touch.
Temperature and Humidity
Since Spiderwort can survive in USDA hardiness zones 4b-12a, you’ll have to look into your specific species for outdoor temperature requirements. Indoors, however, any and every Tradescantia loves temperatures between 65 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit. For humidity, try to keep your room around 60%, or mist your plant frequently.
For fertilizer, your Tradescantia won’t need much– if you want to fertilize, do so during the spring and fall. Use a diluted, balanced, water-soluble fertilizer once every two weeks. If your Spiderwort starts losing its vibrancy, cut back on the fertilizer.
Potting and Repotting
When you repot your Spiderwort, wear gloves and long sleeves to keep your skin safe from the sap. Only repot your Spiderwort during its growing season unless the plant suffers from root rot or infection. When choosing a pot for your Tradescantia, make sure it has drainage holes to ensure proper aeration. To further improve drainage, use a pot made from a porous material like concrete, terracotta, or ceramic.
One of the Spiderwort’s best features is its flowers. These plants produce tiny flowers in a wide array of colors, ranging from white to yellow to violet. To encourage blooming during the growing season, simply increase the amount of light your Spiderwort receives during the growing season.
Increasing the amount of light for Tradescantia to encourage them blooming.
Photo via istockphoto.com
Pruning and Propagation
Pruning is a great way to help control your Tradescantia’s growth, and you can use the cuttings to help make your plant appear fuller or to produce new plants to share with loved ones. When you prune, make sure you only do so during the growing season to ensure your plants have plenty of time and energy to recover.
If you want to use your cuttings for propagation, trim the stems one to three inches long. Then, let your cuttings callous over for a day or so. Before you plant them, dip your cuttings in some rooting hormone to help promote growth. Place your cuttings in a jar of water or moist potting mix, and keep them somewhere away from direct sunlight. You should start to see root growth about two weeks after making your cuttings.
Pruning is a great way to help control your Tradescantia’s growth.
Photo by Kuziki
Even though Tradescantia plants have their growing season in both the spring and fall, they are one of many houseplants that go dormant in the winter. When temperatures begin to drop, your Tradescantia will slow its growth and appear dead, but it’s still very much alive– just conserving energy for the next growing season.
While your Tradescantia is dormant, keep it out of direct sunlight and cut back on watering.
Common Pests and Complications
Since drainage is a priority for these plants, they are particularly susceptible to root rot and other complications stemming from overwatering and poor drainage. Root rot, mealybugs, fungal gnats, and mold infections are all commonplace for a Tradescantia with poor drainage.