How to Grow Inch Plant Outdoors

Can you grow inch plant outdoors? The answer is a resounding yes! But there's some tricks to making sure it'll be healthy and happy. Horticultural expert Lorin Nielsen explains how.

Growing inch plant outdoors.

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Inch plants are generally considered houseplants, ideal for growing in containers indoors. But is it possible to grow an inch plant outdoors? Absolutely. It started there, after all!

There are some tricks to growing these plants to thrive in an outdoor setting, from climate to care.

Let’s talk about the best ways to provide for your Tradescantia plants. All inch plants are similar in their requirements, so these tips will work for all types.

Temperature and Climate

Close up of inch plant with purple and green striped leaves.
Inch plants do not tolerate cold well.

In their native habitat, the inch plant tends to prefer warmer climates. Temperature ranges between 50-80°F (10-27°C) are perfect.

During winter, temperatures in the 45°F (7°C) range are a time to be cautious. They can tolerate it for short periods of time, but too long and the plant will start to die. A cold frame can help keep your plant’s ambient temperature above 50°F (10°C).

If it looks like there’ll be a sudden frost, and you lack a cold frame, a piece of woven cloth can help. Most cloth will only provide two to five degrees of warmth, but it’s better than nothing.

As for heat, inch plant loves warm days. But when it’s over 90 degrees (~32°C), they’re going to need much more frequent watering. A little shade during the hottest part of the day is helpful.

Inch plant is best placed in a spot where it stays between 50-80°F (10-27°C) most of the year. Provide a bright, but partially-shaded environment, and your plant will be thrilled.

How to Grow Inch Plant Outdoors

Garden bed using inch plants as ground cover.
Inch plants make great colorful ground covers.

If you’re planting inch plant outdoors, you’ve got two realistic options. Mobile containers might be best if your winter temperatures are too cold. These can live outdoors from the spring through the fall and move inside for the winter.

If you’re in USDA growing zones 9-11, you’re in luck. It seldom gets cold enough there for the plants to be in danger. They’ll be safe year-round in that climate range.

You want your plants to have partial shade during the day. Too much sun can cause the leaves to bleach out and lose their distinct coloration. They can also experience sunburn.

Avoid placing them in total shade as well. Bright, indirect sunlight is best for these plants. A covered porch or patio that gets lots of light during the day is fantastic. With too little light, the plants will send runners towards the nearest bright area, making them uneven and scraggly-looking.

These plants thrive in moist soil. If planting in the ground, mulch around them to keep the soil moisture consistent. For potted plants, use a potting soil that retains lots of moisture. Mulch the top as well.

Providing damp soil also ensures that they get the humidity that they prefer. An occasional misting of the leaves doesn’t hurt and can provide additional moisture they crave.

Controlling Spread

Inch plant vines climbing up a tree outdoors in the garden.
Keep an eye on these plants to manage spread.

Tradescantia species do tend to spread. In fact, they’ve become almost invasive, taking over spaces inhabited by other plants.

It’s important to be sure that if you’re growing yours outdoors, you avoid this problem. If placed in the ground, be sure to prune them before they can spread into other beds.

Pruning at a stem joint can provide you with new plants. Keep a glass of water next to you as you’re pruning, and select healthy stems to put in the water. Every day, rinse off the stems and dump and replace the water. Roots should grow within a couple of weeks.

Container-planted inch plants will try to wander, too. While their long stems look great in hanging baskets, those in other pots should get pruned. This keeps them the right size for their available soil and moisture level.

What About Wildlife?

Inch plant growing amongst rocks in the garden.
Inch plants are considered toxic to pets.

Do your dogs or cats have free run of the yard? Are deer prone to nibble on your foliage?

If so, you may want to rethink inch plants near animals. While deer aren’t prone to go onto your covered patio, they will graze on your bushes. Dogs get anywhere on the ground, and cats generally go wherever they want to.

Tradescantia plants tend to cause a dermatitis-like reaction in most dogs and cats. Livestock and wildlife may also be susceptible to this. If your garden is optimized for wildlife to cruise by, you should keep this in mind when planting. Put your plants somewhere out of reach.

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