The Wandering Jew or Tradescantia zebrina (old name = Zebrina pendula) is native to Mexico. It is not to be confused with Tradescantia albiflora, which also goes by the name of Wandering Jew and has very similar care needs.
Tradescantia zebrina has attractive foliage, sporting exciting zebra-patterned leaves. It also flowers, but when kept as a houseplant, this rarely ever happens. It is fast growing and a great groundcover according to the University of Florida.
Tradescantia zebrina care is pretty straight forward, but it certainly can’t hurt to have a quick glance at the most important things to consider when caring about this herbaceous perennial plant.
So, without further ado, let’s see how you can make your Wandering Jew, aka the Inch plant, as happy as possible.
For the reasons outlined above the following care tips are also valid for Tradescantia albiflora.
- 1 WANDERING JEW PLANT CARE BASICS
- 2 The ways to water your wandering jew
- 3 Wandering Jew Propagation
- 4 Wandering Jew Pest Control
- 5 Signs that a wandering jew needs help
- 6 Five key points to a happy Wandering Jew
- 7 Is Wandering Jew care difficult?
- 8 Wandering Jew plant care FAQ
WANDERING JEW PLANT CARE BASICS
Any good potting soil will do for your Wandering Jew. For instance, this could be Miracle gro potting soil that is readily available online in stores such as Amazon.
But these plants do not only feel very comfortable in soil, but they can also be kept in hydroponics.
Sunlight is a vital aspect when it comes to the well being of most houseplants. Some houseplants do well with just moderate sunlight while others only thrive (or flower) when a certain level of sunlight is guaranteed.
The Wandering Jew does best in bright, indirect sunlight.
If you are unsure about what that actually means, please have a look at our Light Levels article.
The Wandering Jew, a tropical native, thrives best when the root ball is always well moisturized. Still, waterlogging should be avoided whenever possible, as this could lead to root rot.
This tropical plant does not enjoy limy water. Use soft water whenever possible. Rainwater and distilled water are very good choices.
People who own an Inch plant and keep it outside run the risk of exposing it to cold temperatures. This is where indoor plant owners have the upper hand.
Wandering Jews are able to thrive with average room temperatures (16 to 24°C/ 60 to 75°F) as long as it doesn’t drop for long periods of time. Anything below 12°C for an extended period of time is could be fatal for your Wandering Jew.
The perennial, herbaceous Wandering Jew plant is native to Mexico, Central America and Colombia, so it should not come as a surprise to you that it likes a good deal of humidity.
To ensure high humidity levels, it is a very good idea to regularly mist your plant. A hand mister filled with water does the trick.
As for the location, you may want to keep your Wandering Jew in the bathroom, as this is usually the place in the house with the highest humidity.
Feed your plant once a month during spring and summer. In winter, fertilizing is not necessary.
Also, fertilization of the Wandering Jew is only necessary from the second year of cultivation or after repotting.
Best propagated through stem tip cuttings. Propagating the Wandering Jew is an easy task.
Wandering Jews don’t get very tall. They might reach a height of about 15 cm when kept indoors. They spread to about 25 cm. The leaves of Tradescantia can reach a length of about 10 cms.
Regardless of the actual plant species, repotting is pivotal for keeping the root system healthy. How often a houseplant needs to be repotted, depends on various factors, though.
Some houseplants grow incredibly fast, so they need to be repotted often. Others, on the other hand, grow very slowly, so that repotting is not a top priority.
The thing with the Wandering Jew is that it grows fast, hence its nickname “Inch plant.” And because of its fast-growing pace, the plant usually gets very leggy and leaves are often lost near the base of the plant.
That said, repotting your Wandering Jew once in a while is definitely a good idea.
As far as the longevity of Wandering Jews goes, they often don’t get older than 2 to 3 years.
The ways to water your wandering jew
The watering needs of the Wandering Jew are nothing out of the ordinary. Still, providing your plant with an adequate amount of water is very important, as both over- and underwatering could be the downfall for your leafy friend.
To make it easier, we’ve laid out everything you need to know in terms of supplying your Wandering Jew with just the right amount of water.
Implementing a proper watering schedule
Wandering Jew that is kept indoors doesn’t have the same requirements compared to individuals that are planted in a garden. Potted plants tend to dry out more quickly.
It is important to keep in mind that your Wandering Jew will do better when being allowed to dry out between watering sessions.
In winter, however, as holds true with most houseplants, watering should be reduced.
Use your finger
Providing the correct amount of water can fluctuate based on several reasons such as the time of year, temperature, location and many more. An easy way to check if the soil is too dry is to use your finger.
Place your finger about two inches deep into the soil. Is it dry? That’s your cue that it should be given more water.
Wandering Jew Propagation
The Wandering Jew roots very easily. The plant can easily be propagated through stem tip cuttings.
When propagating your Wandering Jew, make sure that your plant is in a healthy condition.
Please follow our step-to-step guide to propagate your Wandering Jew through stem tip cuttings.
- Identify the plant that you want to replicate. It should have healthy growth and plenty of stems.
- Make clean cuts on sections that are three to six inches in length.
- Use a sharp knife and carefully cut off any leaves that are on the bottom half of the stem.
- If you want, you can dip the exposed end of the stem in a rooting hormone. This will speed up the rooting process, however, it is not a must.
- Place your stem tip cuttings into a pot with fresh soil after thoroughly watering the potting mixture.
- Use a clear plastic bag to hold in moisture, taking it off to water weekly.
- Keep your eyes on the plant for new growth. You should start to see roots in about two to three weeks. Once this happens, transfer the plant babies to a larger pot.
Note: Instead of rooting your stem tip cuttings directly in soil, you could also root them in water.
Wandering Jew Pest Control
Wandering Jews are prone to aphids and spider mites attacks. So you will need to look out for these two little pests in particular.
Some of these are known to cause defoliation while others can kill the plant altogether. Depending on the severity of infestation, you may need to use chemicals or insecticides.
The Wandering Jew is not particularly susceptible to plant diseases or pests. Yet, at some point, you might have to deal with an aphids attack. These parasites pierce the leaves of their host plant and suck their sap.
Like scale insects, they excrete sticky honeydew, by which you can immediately recognize the infestation.
Aphids can multiply explosively, especially in warm, dry environments.
As a preventive measure, therefore, ensure regular watering and occasional misting of your Wandering Jew.
The best way to combat aphids is to first control them mechanically by rinsing them off the plant with water.
Before you actually do that, you should isolate your plant from your other houseplants, so that your other plants won’t be infested as well.
If the infestation is more advanced already, you might want to try your luck with neem oil in order to get rid of these little pests.
To prevent further pest infestations, it also makes sense to regularly pluck dried leaves. Especially the dried leaves lying on the substrate must be removed, otherwise, there is a risk of rotting or infestation by parasites and fungi.
Signs that a wandering jew needs help
Knowing about the basic needs of a Wandering Jew is a great way to start. But what if something were to go wrong later down the road?
Understanding the telltale signs of a struggling Wandering Jew plant is key in fixing a problem before it is detrimental. We’ve highlighted a couple of the most common problems with Wandering Jews.
Telltale sign #1: Brown leaf tips
Brown leaf tips is a very common problem with a wide variety of houseplant. Depending on the species, the causes for this problem can be of very different nature, though.
So what causes leaves to turn brown with Wandering Jews?
Telltale sign #2: Only green leaves (not enough variegation)
If you do own a variegated Wandering Jew but only see a great amount of unvariegated leaves, chances are that your plant does not get enough sunlight.
To solve the problem, allow your Wandering Jew some more bright, indirect sunlight, by placing it in a sunnier location.
Telltale sign #3: Fading leaves
If your inch plant’s foliage is suddenly losing color and sports fading leaves, then this is yet another sign that it does not get enough sunlight.
Telltale sign #4: Dropping leaves
Dropping leaves is yet another very common problem that many plant parents need to deal with on a regular basis. If your Wandering Jew drops leaves, then this is usually due to too low or too high temperatures.
In summer, make sure that your Wandering Jew is exposed to average room temperatures (16 to 24°C/60 to 75°F).
In winter, it should be kept in a cooler environment (12 to 15°C are ideal).
Five key points to a happy Wandering Jew
We know that you likely can’t memorize every little trick and tip to keeping your Wandering Jew happy. To make it easier, we’ve summarized the top five and combined them in a list down below.
- Allow your Wandering Jew to get lots of bright, indirect sunlight!
- Average room temperatures (16 to 24°C/ 60 to 75°F) will keep your Wandering Jew happy.
- Feed your Wandering Jew once a month during spring and summer.
- In winter, the Wandering Jew should be kept in a cooler spot (12 to 15°C are ideal)
- Pest problems: Watch out for aphids and spider mites!
Is Wandering Jew care difficult?
Not at all. Wandering Jews are considered low-maintenance plants and are, therefore, perfectly suitable for beginners.
They do well at average room temperatures, don’t demand a very high level of humidity (which is sometimes difficult to achieve in a home environment) and it is very easy to propagate them through stem tip cuttings.
Wandering Jew plant care FAQ
Which plant species are commonly referred to as “Wandering Jew”?
That would be Tradescantia zebrina and also Tradescantia albiflora.
What is the difference between Tradescantia zebrina and Zebrina pendula?
There is no difference between Tradescantia zebrina and Zebrina pendula. Zebrina pendula is just the old name for Tradescantia zebrina.
Does my Wandering Jew flower at all?
Wandering Jews are indeed flowering plants. However, when kept indoors, they very rarely flower.
How long can you keep a Wandering Jew?
If you don’t propagate your Wandering Jew, you can keep it about 3 years. After that period of time, the quality of your Wandering Jew will most likely decrease. If you do regularly propagate your leafy friend through stem tip cuttings, you can keep it indefinitely.
Any display tips for Wandering Jews?
Wandering Jews look great in hanging planters!
Is the Wandering Jew toxic to cats?
Yes, the Wandering Jew plant is toxic to cats. Therefore, you got to keep your cat away from this plant.
Is the Wandering Jew toxic to dogs?
Yes, the Wandering Jew plant is toxic to dogs. Therefore, you need to make sure that your dog does not get in contact with this plant.
What are the health benefits of Tradescantia zebrina, if any?
Not only is The Wandering Jew a beautiful houseplant famous for its striking foliage, but also does it presents several health benefits for humans. It is especially known for its antioxidant and antibacterial activity and it is widely used in Traditional Medicine in several countries of the world. Tradescantia zebrina is also believed to be a valuable source for treating kidney diseases.