How to Care for the Tradescantia
With its trailing stems and lush colorful foliage, the Tradescantia—or Spiderwort—is a fast growing houseplant that require little extra care, making them popular choices for both beginner and novice gardeners. Native to tropical and temperate climates, the Tradescantia is regarded as a garden or indoor plant or even as an invasive weed depending on the variety. They can grow up to six to twelve inches high and one to three feet wide. Their variegated leaves are either blue and green, purple and burgundy, or grey and silver. These plants produce flowers with three petals, which come in white, purple, pink, and other colors, again, depending on the variety.
The Tradescantia Spathacea or Boat Lily is one of the most popular varieties due to its striking foliage: green on top, purplish maroon at the bottom. It produces small white flowers cradles in leaf axils, hence its nickname. The Tricolor Boat Lily is a white, magenta, and green variegated form of Boat Lily that trails more easily. The Tradescantia Zebrina or Wandering Jew has variegated olive and silver leaves with purple undersides; its cousin, the Purple Wandering Jew, had foliage that is purple on both sides with silvery green stripes.
Most Tradescantia varieties are toxic to both humans and pets; some will cause skin irritation upon contact, while others will cause mouth, stomach, and even vomiting if ingested.
These plants are tolerant to most lighting conditions, but they will do best in bright, indirect sunlight. Placing them near a window for at least eight hours of sun a day will result in lush growth and brightly colored leaves, but direct rays will lead to leaf burn. If your plant has faded colors or variegation, it means it isn’t getting the right amount of light.
Tradescantia thrive in humid environments—think a bathroom or a kitchen. They do best in temperatures between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Never leave them in drafty areas with temperatures below the 50-degree range as this will harm the plant. Water when the top 50-75% of the soil is dry to the touch.
It’s also advisable to prune them as they grow aggressively and can get leggy if unattended. Pinching the stems back periodically will also encourage compact growth. They do not need to be repotted often; only when they are root bound. Choose a pot one to two sizes up from the current one when doing so.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (FAQs)
Do Tradescantia live long?
When given the best care, these plants can last you a few years.
How fast do Tradescantia grow?
It grows about an inch a week. When raised as an outdoor plant, Tradescantia grow so aggressively to the point that it is considered invasive in some areas. It can grow just as fast indoors, but it can be controlled.
Why is my plant getting leggy?
This is because it isn’t getting enough light. Simply move the plant to a brighter location, and pinch the tips off on occasion to encourage compact growth.