The Wandering Jew is not a single plant — it's the name given to a few different plants in the genus Tradescantia.
When grown outdoors it's considered invasive in many regions of the world, but those same growing characteristics make it perfect as an indoor vining plant.
Wandering Jew Overview
|Common Name(s)||Wandering jew plant, inch plant, flowering inch plant|
|Scientific Name||Tradescantia zebrina, Tradescantia fluminensis|
|Height||Up to 6 feet|
|Light||Bright, indirect sun|
|Fertilizer||Half strength liquid|
|Pests||Root rot, spider mites, aphids.|
Wandering jew plants have green, heart-shaped leaves with purple stripes and a silvery sheen to them. Depending on the variety, the leaves can be solid or variegated. Blooms are small with three petals and can be violet or white.
Types of Wandering Jew Plants
The name 'wandering jew' is really referring to three different species in the Tradescantia genus: fluminensis, zebrina, and pallida.
Tradescantia fluminensis is the classic wandering jew plant. It has dark-green leaves that contrast nicely against the bright, white, three-petaled flowers.
Tradescantia zebrina, as you can probably guess, is named for it's zebra-like leaves. The middle of each half of the leaves are a creamy white, with the outer edges tipped in silver.
Tradescantia pallida is unique in that the foliage is a deep purple with light purplish-pink flowers. It's one of the most popular varieties of wandering jew.
Wandering Jew Plant Care
All types of wandering jew plants are fairly easy to care for. As long as you give them a good amount of light and prune regularly, you should enjoy your tradescantia for many years.
This is a houseplant that really thrives in bright but indirect sunlight. The brighter the light you provide your wandering jew plant, the more flowers it will produce.
If it's not getting enough light, the brightly-colored foliage will begin to fade.
These plants are happy as long as they're not kept soaked or allowed to be completely dry too long. Keeping the soil evenly moist is the best.
You'll know it's ready for more water when the soil is dry to at least 1/2" deep. Give it a good drink but be sure that the pot drains well.
You can use a standard houseplant potting mix for your wandering jew, but they'll do even better if you give them soil that has more organic matter.
To make your own soil mixture, add equal parts of the following:
- Perlite or coarse sand
- Peat or humus
- Garden soil
- A light dusting of lime
- A handful of rich, organic compost
You're looking for the perfect balance of water retention and draining ability, so give the plant a watering and watch to see which way your soil tends to go, then adjust accordingly.
Use a water-soluble fertilizer at least twice a month during the growing season. Be sure to dilute it down to 50% strength to avoid nutrient burn on the foliage.
You can also use a slow-release fertilizer to the soil once a year.
Often when an ornamental plant is purchased, it comes in a small pot and may outgrow the pot. If the reader needs to repot the plant, how would they do it?
Wandering jew plants have a tendency to get leggy, so pruning them becomes a must if you want to maintain a healthy appearance.
Simply prune back the stems and pinch off stem tips. The plant will send out two shoots from right below the pinched area, making your plant bushier.
Whatever you do, don't waste your stem cuttings! Wandering jew propagation is easily done from stem cuttings.
Remove all but a few leaves off of the stem cuttings and then place them in a smaller pot with moist potting soil in a warm, bright area.
You'll start seeing new shoots growing after 1-1.5 months. Wandering jew plants are one of the easiest houseplants to propagate!
In some people and animals, skin irritation can occur when coming in contact with the sap from the plant. You should keep it in an area that is hard for your cat or dog to reach. A good idea is to grow it in hanging baskets that are too high up for your pets to nibble on!
The most prominent pests you'll deal with on wandering jew plants are spider mites. They love warm, dry areas, so one good way to counter them is to keep humidity high or mist your wandering jew plant.
If that doesn't work, you can wash the plant off with water to knock the mites off of the plant. For even more serious infestations, you should remove infested areas and use a systemic insecticide.
Most diseases you'll run into are related to over watering. Root rot is a big problem with most houseplants, and has two causes:
- You are watering too much
- Your soil retains too much water
If you have problem #1, simply water less often! If you have problem #2, add some perlite or coarse sand to your soil mix. You can also add rocks to the bottom of the pot to improve drainage.
Q. I'm trying to take cuttings of wandering jew, but they keep rotting. How can I prevent this?
A. Your cuttings are probably suffering from a fungal infection. To prevent this, make sure to use a sterilized cutting instrument and dip in chlorox, then rooting hormone before you place your cuttings in soil.
Q. How do I know how far to place my wandering jew away from a window or light source?
A. Leave your plant where it is and monitor the color of the leaves. If they start to lose their bright colors, it's a clear-cut sign that the plant needs more light. Move it closer to the window and keep watching the leaves until the color starts to come back on new growth.
Q. I'm having trouble rooting cuttings in soil. Can I do anything else?
A. Many gardeners have success rooting their wandering jew cuttings directly in water. Just be sure to sterilize and change the water every so often so it remains fresh and free from any pathogens. When you see roots, plant in potting mix.