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Tradescantia Tricolor Care From A to Z

Tradescantia Tricolor Care From A to Z

(image credits, IG:oohyouplantsy)

I have a hide-away in my home that I escape to for some me-time. It is ultra-feminine and all done out in pink.

When I saw this stunning pink Tradescantia Tricolor plant at the nursery, I just had to have it! It offers the most glorious shades of pink transforming into a darker purple, interspersed with green. 

Like all plants, the Tradescantia Tricolor has a difficult Latin Name. This one is Tradescantia fluminensis.

It is also known by other names including the Wandering Jew, Flowering Inch Plant, Wandering Willie, Wandering Gypsy, Purple Queen, Spiderwort, and Tradescantia.

What’s more, Tradescantia is a genus of 75 species of wildflowers. The name comes from John Tradescant, a botanist who lived during the 17th century.

The ‘wandering’ word refers to the fact that it spreads easily, wandering all over your window sill. They are very easy to grow at home. Most are native to South America where they grow as dense mats underneath forest trees. 

To enhance the glorious pink shades, I place my Tradescantia Tricolor next to a Mosaic Plant, Fittonia albivenis. This is a trailing plant with deep pink veins in the green leaves. They make a great pair. 

Let’s take a closer look at how to care for your Tradescantia fluminensis.

 

 

Tradescantia Tricolor Care

For ideal Tradescantia Tricolor care, give it well-draining soil that will partially dry out between waterings. Fertilize with a good mix of peat, compost, mulch or humus, bark, pumice, or perlite. It thrives best in temperatures between 65°F to 75°F (18°C to 24°C). Temperatures should not drop below 50°F (10° C). The  Tradescantia Tricolor wants bright light but not direct sunlight. Placing it near to a south-facing window is ideal. 

 

Soil

Tradescantia fluminensis enjoys moist soil to thrive best. However, it must not be drenched or allowed to dry out completely.

Plant it in well-draining sandy soil. You can achieve this by mixing perlite into regular potting soil. Use a mix of 40% perlite and 60% potting soil.

Ensure that your pot has drainage holes at the bottom. This allows the excess water to run out and won’t cause the roots to become waterlogged and drown. 

For ideal Tradescantia Tricolor care, I use natural organic additives. Including everyday materials like pumice or crushed bark, sterile garden compost, mulch, or organic manure gives you a rich, fertile soil that makes your Wandering Jew flourish.

Adding in some environmentally friendly coco Husk chips is a great way to introduce extra aeration into the soil. The Tradescantia Tricolor is not fussy about PH levels, try to maintain a neutral PH of around 7.0. 

 

Light

Tradescantia Tricolor does best in bright conditions with indirect sunlight. Allowing direct sunlight to fall onto the plant for too long causes the leaves to scorch.

Too little sunlight results in the leaves fading and not producing those lovely pinky shades. 

Try to place your plant about 3 feet away from a south-facing window (if you are in the northern hemisphere), on a side table or high shelf. In this way, it gets the benefit of bright light but not direct sunlight. In general, 45 minutes of direct sunlight will be enough. 

If you do need to stand it on a window sill, try to place a sun filter over the window. You can also use your décor skills and get it to nestle under another plant with large leaves, creating a natural umbrella.

If you prefer to plant your Tradescantia Tricolor outdoors, find a spot that gets bright light and limited direct sunlight. 

Care tip for Tradescantia Tricolor: If your plant does not show healthy signs of variegated growth, ie, it is not displaying lovely different pink colors, it is probably getting too little light. 

 

Watering

When it comes to watering care for your Tradescantia Tricolor, it is best to keep the soil moist. You need a balance between drenched and bone dry.

Watering once a week during the summer months is adequate. In winter, reduce watering to once every two weeks.

Because you are not drenching this plant, you should not create too much of a mess indoors. Place a plant saucer under your pot that is large enough to catch any water that may flow out.

When watering in winter, use lukewarm water, no plant responds well to an icy blast! I do notice that my Wandering Jew can get to the point of looking almost droopy. Then a good watering brings it back to life within 24 hours. 

 

Tradescantia Tricolor care tip: You can also water from the bottom. This technique involves placing your pot into a tub or sink filled with a few inches of water. The drainage holes in your planter allow the water to slowly absorb into the soil without over-saturating it. 

 

Temperature

Tradescantia species perform best at temperatures ranging from 65°F to 75°F (18°C to 24°C). They can, if necessary, withstand higher temperatures. If the temperature drops below 50°F (10° C), the leaves will suffer. 

It will tolerate short-term exposure to cold weather but generally does not do well in the cold. If you live in a cold climate, consider growing your outdoor Tradescantia Tricolor in a container.

You can then bring it indoors during the winter months. All species of Tradescantia are Winter hardy in USDA hardiness zones 9 to 12. 

Coming from South America, the plant does not require tropical temperatures to thrive. It is quite hardy, and as long as it is not exposed to frost you should be fine. It can even stand on a chillier window sill.

 

Humidity

Your Tradescantia Tricolor is not overly fussy about humidity. It is not a desert plant nor a tropical plant, so the average house humidity of 30% to 45% found in a home should do fine.

In winter, running heaters and air-conditioners can dry out the air and change the humidity, so you will need to be aware of this. 

If the humidity in your home is too high, at over 50%, this could result in the growth of mold and bacteria and will give your living space a musty smell. Installing a dehumidifier will help to solve the problem. 

Tradescantia Tricolor care tip: I find that my plant responds well to a lovely soft shower from a watering can.

Although this does not increase humidity, it acts as a natural rain shower, wetting all the leaves and washing away dust and pests.

Make sure you do this outside and allow the plant to dry off before moving it back indoors. 

 

Fertilizer 

The Inch Plant loves to wander and grows fairly fast, spreading over window sills indoors and rocks outdoors. It does not require a serious fertilizing program.

Like many potted indoor plants, Tradescantia fluminensis does well with some extra fertilizer during the growing months of Spring through early fall.

I am a great supporter of eco-friendly living and that also applies to the plant fertilizers I use. I stay away from chemical fertilizers whenever possible.

My number one care hack for Tradescantia fluminensis is to buy or make my own natural organic fertilizer. If you have a liquid fertilizer, dilute it, and use it once a month. 

Fertilizing plants outside of the growing season is not good. The fertilizer can end up harming the plant by burning the roots. 

Natural organic fertilizers can be made using peat, pumice, perlite, mulch, coco husks, and crushed bark. A small compost making kit is a fun addition to any garden and makes good use of fallen leaves, dead flowers, and grass cuttings. 

 

Propagation

The easy-to-grow Inch Plant is also easy to propagate. This can be done by simply snipping off a healthy stem, placing it into rich, moist soil, and watering from time to time.

You can also put the stem cutting into a tall vase of water and allow it to grow roots. Place the vase in a bright spot and keep an eye on it.

Roots will appear within a week. Remove the cutting and plant into your terracotta pot or unglazed planter. 

Propagating your own house plants is a fun and rewarding experience, give it a try! 

 

Growth

Tradescantia Tricolor gets its Wandering’ name because it loves to wander. It grows fairly fast and spreads over the edge of pots, along window sills, and over rocks. It also looks great as a ground cover next to pathways and walkways in a garden. 

It has beautiful variegated pink shades, that darken to purple and are interspersed with green. The stems and leaves are soft and hairless.

The leaves are an oval shape with pointed tips. They are shiny and smooth and grow to about 1.25 to 2.5 inches (32 to 64mm) long.

The flowers are white and have 3 petals, about 0.5 to 1 inch (13 to 25mm) in diameter. The flowers appear in Summer in small clusters. 

The best Wandering Jew growing condition is in a bright spot with indirect sunlight and average humidity.

This plant is a ground cover perennial. It does not require heavy pruning, but if it sprawls too much and becomes straggly, you should trim it back to keep it in shape. 

Tradescantia fluminensis care tip: If your plant is producing only green leaves, your light conditions are not ideal.

It does this to conserve energy, as creating variegated leaves uses up more energy. Prune back the green leaves, allow it to recover and produce those glorious pink shades. 

 

Potting

Tradescantia fluminensis is not fussy when it comes to pot size. It will thrive in a small pot for years and will grow happily in a large pot.  

If you do want to repot your Inch Plant, Springtime is the best season to do this. Repot into a mix of fresh soil and perlite to boost growth.

You can add some gritty sand to the potting mix to enhance drainage. Water well but do not drench. Check that the PH of the soil is neutral at around 7.0. 

Care tip: Ensure that your planter has drainage holes so that the water can flow out. You don’t want the roots to rot in stagnant water at the base of the pot. 

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Propagate Tradescantia Tricolor from cuttings

– This is best done in early Spring to late Summer, during the growing period

– Use a sterile sharp knife, scissors, or cutter

– Wear gloves as the sap can irritate the skin

– Select a stem that looks healthy and has a few sets of leaves

– Carefully cut off the stem at the base, where it joins another stem

– Remove the lower leaves by snipping off to leave a clean stem at the base

– You now have 2 options: propagate in soil or propagate in water

 

Propagating the cuttings in soil

– Prepare a pot with a mix of soil, gritty sand, and organic fertilizer

– Water well but don’t drench

– Push your finger into the soil and create a hole about 2 inches deep

– Place the offcut into the soil and pack the soil back to hold it firm

– Place the planter where it will get bright light but not direct sunlight

– Water well for the next few weeks

 

Propagating the cuttings in water

– Fill a clear vase, tall glass, or container with water

– Place the cutting into the water

– Keep it shallow enough so that the leafy section is above the waterline

– A slender glass works well as the leaves will balance on the top rim

– Fine roots will start showing in about 1 to 2 weeks

– Wait for the roots to grow to 1 to 2 inches long

– Plant into a pot as described above

 

Common problems with Tradescantia Tricolor

 

Pest Control

Like all plants, your Tradescantia Tricolor can be attacked by pests. Common pests that affect the Wandering Jew are spider mites and aphids.

An easy way to get rid of them is to give your plant a good shower and wash them off. If they persist, you can spray with a solution of insecticidal soap. 

Tradescantia Tricolor care tip for pests: Make your own insecticidal soap. Use all-natural soap, not detergent.

Mix 5 tablespoons to 1 gallon of cooled, boiled water. Add in 1 teaspoon of vinegar and 1 teaspoon  vegetable oil to get the solution to stick. You can also add a teaspoon of garlic. Pour into a clean garden sprayer that has a fine spray setting and spray the plant.

 

Leaves don’t have variegated colors

If you notice that your Tradescantia Tricolor is only producing green leaves, this is due to bad lighting. Bad lighting reduces the energy of the plant.

To create the gorgeous colors, it needs energy, so it will conserve energy and only create green leaves. 

 

Leaves look scorched 

If your leaves are turning brown or look scorched, your plant is getting too much direct sunlight. Move it to a more suitable position, or protect it with sunscreen if possible. 

 

Plant looks scraggly and untidy

Tradescantia Tricolor grows fast and spreads. You need to keep it in shape by trimming now and then. Remove any dead stems and leaves. Trim back into the neat shape you want. 

 

Rotting roots 

This is a sign of too much water. Tradescantia Tricolor does not enjoy drenched soil. Ensure that your container has drainage holes and allow the soil to partially dry out. 

 

Tips to grow Tradescantia Tricolor problem-free

– Avoid overwatering your Tradescantia Tricolor 

– Keep soil moist but well-drained

– Ensure that your plant is in a bright spot, it does not enjoy the dark

– Do not place in direct sunlight 

– Does not enjoy very dry or very humid conditions 

– Fertilize during the growing season with organic mixtures

– Trim from time to time if it becomes scraggly

 

Frequently asked questions about Tradescantia Tricolor 

 

Is Tradescantia Tricolor considered invasive? 

In some countries, Tradescantia Tricolor is invasive. This is because it spreads fast outdoors and can become invasive. It grows as thick mats in forest areas, blocking out the light for other ground plants. 

 

Can Tradescantia Tricolor grow indoors? 

Yes, it makes a very attractive indoor plant in a decorative pot. It looks fabulous in a hanging basket, or on a high shelf where you can let the long stems flow downwards. 

 

Is Tradescantia Tricolor easy to care for?

Yes, this is a great plant for beginners. It requires very little maintenance and is hardy and strong. You don’t want to be discouraged by losing your first plant. The Tradescantia Tricolor will flourish in a bright spot out of direct sunlight. 

 

Is Tradescantia Tricolor poisonous?

The Tradescantia sap can irritate if it comes into direct contact with the skin. It may also cause gastric distress in cats who ingest the leaves. Be safe and keep it away from pets and children. 


 

Conclusion

Do you want a glorious plant with pink tones? The Wandering Jew is eye-catching and easy to care for. It is a great choice for a beginner to create a focal point in a room or on a patio, in a hanging basket. 

Once you are successful in growing your Tradescantia Tricolor, you can add other Tradescantia plants to your collection. Take a look at the lovely Tradescantia occidentalis, Tradescantia zebrina, and the Tradescantia pallida.