Reaching stems and lovely velvety foliage are the hallmark of Tradescantia. A member of the Commelinaceae family, Tradescantia naturally grows in both tropical and temperate climates in North and South America. Tradescantia also goes by the names zebra plant, inchplant, and spiderwort. When grown as a landscape plant, Tradescantia makes an impressive ground cover and can be considered invasive in some instances. As a houseplant, Tradescantia is an excellent option for new or impatient plant owners because this beauty is easy to grow and quickly bulks up. Learn more about Tradescantia care.
Types of Tradescantia
Most Tradescantia cultivars feature oval leaves that come to a point, often with dazzling colors, growing on reaching stems. The most popular Tradescantia variety is the Burgundy which has deep maroon stripes set against silver, but there are a lot of colorful varieties. There are Tradescantia with pink accents or solid leaves in green or purple. The underside of the leaves are often continuous complementing colors, like purple or pink, for a showy display from any angle. Some of the more common houseplant varieties of Tradescantia include:
- Baby Bunny Bellies (Tradescantia chrysophylla)
- Burgundy (Tradescantia zebrina)
- Green Ghost (Tradescantia zebrina)
- Green Glow
- Moses in the Cradle (Tradescantia spathacea)
- Nanouk (Tradescantia fluminensis)
- Tricolor (Tradescantia fluminensis)
- White Velvet
Tradescantia Light Needs
Place Tradescantia is bright indirect light. This beauty loves lots of light, and near a South-facing window is a good spot. Direct sunlight can burn the leaves and cause the foliage to lose its vibrant hues. Subdued colors are a sign of too much light. Address faded leaves by moving the plant further back from a window or hanging sheer curtains to diffuse the sunlight.
Plants in low light can become leggy or have large spaces between leaves. Pruning can help regain control over a straggly plant but move the Tradescantia to a brighter spot to prevent leggy growth in the future.
How Often to Water Tradescantia
Tradescantia plants have medium water needs. This plant likes moist conditions, but wait until the top couple inches of soil is dry before watering. Feel the soil and only water when necessary to prevent overwatering. Tradescantia care changes slightly in the winter when the plant is dormant. Allow the soil to dry throughout the container before watering during the fall and winter.
Best Soil for Tradescantia
Root rot is a common problem for Tradescantia, so well-draining soil is a must. Most potting mixes provide good Tradescantia care. This plant prefers soil with a neutral to acidic pH and some organic content to support growth.
Temperature for Tradescantia
The ideal temperature for Tradescantia care is between 65° to 75° F. This plant can live in warmer temperatures, so move it to a covered porch or patio in the summer, but get it back inside before the temperature dips below 50° F.
Tradescantia plants absolutely love humidity. Above-average humidity is necessary for excellent Tradescantia care. Expect rapid growth when this lush beauty is in an area with a lot of moisture in the air. Kitchens and bathrooms are suitable spaces for Tradescantia. Browning along the edges of the foliage indicates the air is too dry for the plant. Bring in a humidifier or a pebble tray with water if your home has low or even average humidity.
While this plant appreciates a nutritional boost, it’s not always necessary. Tradescantia plants are fast growers and do so with little help. You can give your plant a hand by applying a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer every two weeks during the growing season. The foliage will lose its variegation if the plant is overfed, so scale back the feedings if the leaves appear faded.
Do Tradescantia Bloom?
Yes, Tradescantia bloom. Most cultivars set three-petaled flowers in pink, purple, or white hues. Flowers emerge in the curl of a leaf. The tiny blooms are cute, but the foliage is the real draw of the Tradescantia. Houseplants do not normally bloom, but you may see flowers if you move your plant outside during the summer.
Tradescantia can easily become leggy or straggly. Pruning is an essential part of Tradescantia care. Pinch back stems to encourage branching, creating a full plant. Tradescantia is a fast-growing plant that can handle aggressive pruning.
When to Repot Tradescantia
Repot Tradescantia annually. This fast-growing plant can quickly outgrow its container, so select a new pot about one inch larger. Plan to repot in the spring, so your Tradescantia can start the growing season with fresh soil and room to grow.
Propagating Tradescantia is easy and a great way to fill a container with more plants or share the wealth. Trim sections of stem using sharp, clean shears. Each cutting needs to be at least one inch long and have one set of leaves. Place cuttings in water or lay them on top of the soil. Roots will emerge in a few weeks.
Water-propagated cuttings can be moved to soil when the roots are about an inch long. Recently transplanted cuttings or cuttings propagated on potting mix need more consistent waterings for a couple of weeks until the plant is settled.
Is Tradescantia Pet Friendly?
Tradescantia plants are not pet safe. These plants are mildly toxic, so while not fatal, eating any part of Tradescantia can cause cats and dogs to have an upset stomach and gastrointestinal discomfort.
Tradescantia Styling Tips
Hanging planters and tall shelves allow for effortless Tradescantia plant styling. Let the vines cascade, creating a curtain of velvety foliage. Containers in neutral colors that do not compete with the showy leaves are a good choice.
Tradescantia Care Tips
The most difficult part of Tradescantia care is finding a good location. Once you have the lighting and humidity squared away, this plant does not require much effort. Tradescantia is a prolific grower, so don’t be afraid to give the plant a trim, and remember to propagate those clippings so that you can gift plants to your friends and family.