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Wandering Jew: Complete Plant Care and Growing Guide

wandering jew house plant

Wandering Jew makes for some beautiful houseplants that are sure to brighten up any room in your home. Contrary to popular belief, Wandering Jew is not a single plant, but rather the common name for a variety of Tradescantia species.

The Tradescantia genus contains 75 herbaceous perennials that are collectively known as wandering jew, or wandering dude. Among these are the well-liked houseplants Tradescantia fluminensis ‘Quicksilver’, Tradescantia pallida ‘Purple Heart’, and Tradescantia zebrina ‘Tricolor’, each of which is known by a variety of different common names.

Regardless of which particular variety piques your interest, each of these species is hardy, grows quickly, and requires little care and attention. The plant care instructions are the same for all three common types as well.

These plants look particularly striking in hanging planters or in any area of your space that could use a splash of color because their eye-catching colorful foliage will trail, spread, or climb.

However, some members of the Tradescantia family are toxic to pets, so keep them away from your furry loved ones.

Interestingly, wandering jew is considered invasive in many parts of the world when grown outdoors, but its vining habit makes it ideal for the indoors.

Read on to learn more about wandering jew plant care and how to propagate it successfully at home.

Scientific Name: Tradescantia spp.

Common Name: Wandering jew, wandering dude, inch plant

Family: Commelinaceae

Plant Type: Houseplant

Hardiness Zones: 9 – 11 (USDA)

Sun Exposure: Bright, indirect sunlight

Soil Type: Potting soil

Soil pH: Acidic soil (5.0 to 6.0)

Height: Up to 14 inches

Spacing: 10 to 14 inches

Bloom Time: Summer

Flower Colors: Purple, pink, white

Quick Guide: Planting, Growing & Caring for Wandering Jew

  • They are hardy, grows quickly, and requires little care and attention
  • Wandering Jew plant is not one plant but the common name for a variety of Tradescantia species
  • Three most common ones include Tradescantia fluminensis ‘Quicksilver’, Tradescantia pallida ‘Purple Heart’, and Tradescantia zebrina ‘Tricolor
  • Plant care is the same for all three common types and is detailed in this guide

Wandering Jew Plant Care

Wandering jew is a stunning plant that have heart-shaped green leaves with purple stripes and a silvery sheen. Depending on the type, the leaves may be solid or have different colors on them. Flowers have three petals and can be violet or white, or sometimes even pink.

The wandering jew plant, also known as the inch plant, is a native species that can be found growing wild in subtropical regions of both North and South America.

The xenophobic origins of the term ‘Wandering Jew’ have made it obsolete, and in its place the term ‘Wandering Dude’ has gained popularity.

Even though it might not seem racist to use the name to talk about an old story from the 13th century with the same name, the fact that the story has been used to justify discrimination can’t be ignored.

The story was used to justify prejudice against European Jews at the time the term was coined, and it was also used by the Nazis to justify atrocities during World War II.

So, even though we agree that the name has a history of being used to discriminate, we only use the common name to keep things simple as many people still search for the plants as wandering jew.

Light

Wandering Jew is a houseplant that does best when it is provided with bright indirect light. Your wandering jew plant will bloom more abundantly if it is exposed to more light. The vibrant colors of the foliage will fade if it doesn’t get enough sunlight.

If you prefer to relocate your plant outdoors for the summer, be sure to keep it in the shadow or partial shade so that it is sheltered from the afternoon sun.

Soil

Your wandering jew can be planted in a standard houseplant potting mix, but they’ll grow even more successfully in soil that contains more organic matter.

Supplement your potting mix with some organic compost, perlite, and peat moss. You’re aiming for the ideal balance between water retention and drainage, so water the plant and observe which way the soil tends to go, then adjust accordingly. The ideal soil pH ranges from 5 to 6.

Water

These plants thrive as long as they are not overly dried out or kept completely wet. Maintaining an even moisture level in the soil is the best method. When the soil is dry to at least 1/2 inch depth, it is ready for more water. Give it a lot of water, but make sure the pot has good drainage.

Temperature and Humidity

Your inch plant thrives best in a range of 60 degrees Fahrenheit and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Frost will kill the plant if it is exposed to it. However, plants in USDA hardiness zones 9 through 11 may survive light frosts. If the plant’s leaves die back in these places, the plant may come back in the spring.

When the outside temperature is consistently below 60 degrees Fahrenheit, plants grown in containers should be brought inside. Extreme heat may scorch the leaves of your plant, but it can tolerate heat considerably better than cold.

70% relative humidity is ideal for Tradescantia plants. Indoors, you can get the right amount of humidity by using a plant humidifier or misting plants every day with filtered or distilled water.

Fertilizer

For optimal growth, give your plants a water-soluble fertilizer at least twice monthly during the active growing season. Make sure to water it down to 50% strength to keep the leaves from getting burned by too many nutrients. An annual application of slow-release powdered fertilizer is also beneficial.

Pruning

Pruning wandering jew plants becomes necessary to maintain a healthy appearance because they have the propensity to become leggy. Simply cut the stems back and pinch off the tips.

The plant will grow into a bushy wandering jew as a result of the pinching, which will cause it to send out two shoots directly below the area that was pinched.

3 Main Types of Wandering Jew Plants

The common names “wandering jew” and “wandering dude” really refer to three distinct species that are all members of the Tradescantia genus. These species are fluminensis, zebrina, and pallida. Let’s look at each of them in more detail:

Tradescantia fluminensis ‘Quicksilver’

This kind of wandering jew with white flowers is a well-liked houseplant. It’s an evergreen perennial that thrives in mild climates and has its origins in southeastern Brazil in South America.

Its leaves have a glossy appearance, and they are oval in shape with a dark green hue. They attach themselves to fleshy stems, which allow roots to easily develop from the nodes on the stem. The foliage produces triangular, three-petaled white flowers.

These do not produce seeds but may grow individually or in clusters.

Tradescantia Fluminensis Wandering Jew

Tradescantia Fluminensis

Tradescantia zebrina ‘Tricolor’

Tradescantia zebrina is a popular houseplant with variegated leaves that belongs to the wandering jew family Commelinaceae. The appealing purplish-green leaves of the zebra plant have silver stripes.

This is the plant for the aspiring gardener! It is extremely hardy and can survive in virtually any indoor environment. This fragile perennial native to southern Mexico and Guatemala can be grown as an annual or as an outdoor plant in warm temperatures (zones 9-11) where it does not freeze.

In certain areas, Tradescantia zebrina is considered an invasive plant. This includes Hawaii, Brazil, and Australia, where the species thrives in damp, wooded environments.

tradescantia zebrina wandering jew

Tradescantia Zebrina

Tradescantia pallida ‘Purple Heart’

This specific variety of wandering jew is stunning and has its origins in eastern Mexico. Its tall, pointed leaves can grow to a maximum length of seven inches. Occasionally, the leaf’s tips will remain red or green while the remainder of the leaf becomes purple.

The stems are clearly segmented along their length. This has helped it become an invasive species in areas with warmer weather. The plant is more fragile and easy to break off at the joints, yet it can quickly reroot itself from there. This also makes propagation from cuttings very simple.

There is far less of a chance of it spreading in colder climates. Tradescantia pallida can’t handle cold weather, so it will die back when it gets cold.

It only produces tiny flowers. They usually have three petals which can be white, pink, or lavender. They aren’t extremely noticeable, but they provide a nice contrast to the brilliant foliage.

tradescantia pallida wandering jew

Tradescantia Pallida

How to Plant and Propagate Wandering Jew

Tradescantia plants can be propagated year-round without a rooting hormone or a specific medium. They can be easily propagated in soil or water. Here’s how it’s done:

How to Propagate Wandering Jew in Soil

Propagating wandering jew in soil is easy. To do this, start by taking multiple cuttings at the ends of branches, cutting at a 45-degree angle slightly beneath a leaf node using a clean, sharp blade. The length of the cuts should be between four and six inches. Remove the lowest set of leaves from each cutting’s stem.

Next, fill a 6-inch pot or hanging basket to 1 inch below the top with all-purpose potting soil. Make holes around the pot that are about 2 inches deep and evenly spaced. Put one cutting in each hole and pat the soil around the stems to keep them in place.

Keep the soil uniformly wet and water your cuttings. Place in an area with good indirect lighting. You’ll get a lush, green new plant in a few months.

How to Propagate Wandering Jew in Water

Propagating wandering jew in water is just as easy as soil. Start by using a clean, sharp blade to make a 45-degree cut just beneath a leaf node to take 4- to 6-inch cuttings from healthy wandering jew stems. Take off the leaves at the bottom of each stem.

Place the cuttings in a glass or jar of water, making sure that the bottom leaf node is immersed. In about a week, you should start to see new roots coming out.

Plant your cuttings in all-purpose potting mix and continue caring for them as normal after they have spent approximately two weeks in water or when the new roots are a few inches long.

How to Repot Wandering Jew

Tradescantia are rapid growers and may need repotting every two or three seasons. You may repot your wandering jew plant in the spring if the roots are becoming too congested, but only if they have reached the very edge of the container.

Choose a pot that is 1 to 2 inches wider than the one you are using now. You may use whatever kind of container you wish, but if you use a porous material like terracotta, the soil will dry up more quickly and you’ll have to water more often.

Put some fresh soil in the new container. Before carefully removing the plant from its present container, loosen the root ball of the plant by working your way around the perimeter of the container.

Carefully transfer it to the new container, fill it with fresh soil, and give it a quick spritz of water. Handle delicate stems with care throughout the repotting procedure. Save any that fall off to replant or root in the pot.

Common Pests and Plant Diseases for Wandering Jew Plant

Spider mites are the most common pests seen on wandering jew plants. They like warm, dry environments, therefore one effective defense is to maintain high humidity levels or spray your wandering jew plant.

If it doesn’t do the trick, try giving the plant a good soaking to wash away the mites. If the infestation is really bad, you should also remove the affected areas and apply a systemic pesticide.

Aphids are another kind of insect that feed on the sap of wandering jew plant leaves. Take your indoor plants outdoors and treat them with neem oil or a vigorous water stream. If aphids persist after 7-10 days, repeat the treatment.

The majority of diseases that you’ll encounter are a direct result of overwatering. The most common cause of root rot in houseplants is overwatering or soil that retains too much moisture.

Overwatering may be remedied by just watering less often! You may improve the drainage of wet soil by including perlite or coarse sand in your soil mixture. You may also increase drainage by adding rocks to the bottom of the container.

Other fungal concerns, such as leaf spot, botrytis, and powdery mildew, manifest themselves on leaves as black patches, water-soaked lesions, and white powdery particles. Get rid of any damaged foliage if any of these show up. These diseases grow in the same conditions that rot does, so you should treat them the same way.

If none of your remedies work, take the plant from the container and discard it. Before reusing the container, sterilize it and do not reuse the soil.

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