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Tradescantia zebrina (Inch Plant)

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Tradescantia zebrina 'Violet' (Also known as: Tradescantia pendula, and Zebrina pendula)

Overview

Uses: Indoor Plant, Patio Plant, Outdoor Plant (in appropriate tropical climates)

Benefits: Air purifier—removes toxins and VOCs from the air. Super easy to grow. Convenient size.  The best indoor plant for hanging baskets and perfect for pots. 

Zones: 10 - 12

Sun: Indirect (full sun may cause leaf burn)

Life Cycle: Perennial 

Mature Height: 6" (branches typically fall over above this height)

Mature Width: 4' (branches can trail around 2' long)

Bloom Season: Intermittent, but most predominant in spring and summer. 

Summary 

Inch Plant—commonly referred to as Wandering Jew (we choose not to use this name)—is a very popular and hardy houseplant within the spiderwort family (Commelinaceae) of plants.

Its vining purple and green variegated foliage with hints of silver looks great in a standing pot or a hanging basket.

Extremely easy to care for, this air-purifying, trailing plant thrives in a variety of light conditions and is a great addition to any home! Although it doesn't grow much higher than 6", it's known to trail up to 2'+. 

Care

Tradescantia zebrina Care

How To Water Tradescantia zebrina

We suggest watering an indoor Inch Plant every 5-7 days between spring and fallattempting to keep the soil moist but not wet.

The plant will not drink as much during periods of slow growth such as winter, during which it's suggested to shift the frequency of watering to a weekly to bi-weekly schedule, making sure to allow the upper 1/3 of soil in the pot to dry between watering. 

Like many other plants, too much watering will result in the yellowing of stems and leaves, eventually followed by root rot should the wet conditions persist.

It's advised to not water the crown (top) of the plant as crown rot may result, so we suggest trying to water the soil directly and trying to not get water on the foliage.

This plant is relatively drought tolerant, but too little water or infrequent watering will result in the browning of branches, potentially followed by death should the dry conditions persist.

How Much Humidity Does Tradescantia zebrina Need?

Inch Plant prefers moderate to high humidity (above 50% RH) and does well with daily misting.

Humidifiers and pebble beds may be used to supplement humidity around the plant.

Be careful not to mist too heavily as puddled water in the foliage may promote crown rot.

How Much Sun Does Tradescantia zebrina Need?

Avoid placing Inch Plant in areas that receive extended periods of strong, direct sunlight.

The best lighting is provided by bright indirect light as direct light could cause leaf burn.

Tradescantia zebrina also does great with lots of shade, but should get a few hours of bright to medium indirect sun every day.

Too little light will result in gangly stems, discoloration, poor growth, and possible death.

What is the Best Temperature for Tradescantia zebrina?

Inch Plant prefer warmer temperatures and will likely die in extended periods of weather that's 50°F or cooler.

It's best to keep this plant in temperatures above 55°F to ensure its beauty and the integrity of its growth; however the optimal temperature range of this houseplant is between 65°F and 85°F.

As such, Inch Plant thrives outdoors year round in USDA zones 10-12, and will likely not survive living outdoors over winter in USDA zone 9 or cooler, as it is not frost-resistant. 

What is the Best Soil for Tradescantia zebrina?

Inch Plant prefers well draining, sandy, loamy soil mixes. It thrives in our potting soil.

What is the Best Fertilizer for Tradescantia zebrina?

Inch Plant does phenomenal when fertilized with our Slow Release Fertilizer. We suggest using 1/2 to 2/3 of the full strength amount and applying twice a year—once in the early spring and again in mid-summer.

Fertilization is not required over winter when the plant is resting, but may be given if diluted to 1/4 of its full strength.

If using a traditional, balanced liquid fertilizer or fish emulsion, we suggest Tradescantia zebrina be fertilized on a bi-weekly to monthly basis between early spring and late fall.

Winter fertilizations may be required on a less frequent basis if the plant is in an environment where the temperature and the amount of light that it's exposed to don't promote fast growth. 

Be careful not to overfertilize. 

How to Trim and Maintain a Tradescantia zebrina

It's suggested that you trim your Inch Plant on an annual basis or as required to keep it looking its best.

Trimming is best done in the spring, and is accomplished with the use of a clean and sharp trimming scissors.

Stems may be cut as close to 4" from the soil, although it's advised to only cut them to half of their length (assuming their length is over 8").

Cuttings may be used for propagation. 

We suggest lightly fertilizing after any extensive pruning. 

A bushy plant can be also be encouraged by trimming or pinching new growth from the tips of the stems, which will signal the plant to sprout lower growth. It's advised to trim any abnormally long stems to keep the plant looking its best and to ensure plant density. 

Like most other plants, it's advised that any dead or dying leaves and stems be removed from the plant to keep it as healthy and clean as possible. 

How to Repot a Tradescantia zebrina

Inch Plant is extremely tolerant of its growing conditions and can spend several years in the same pot.

Ideally speaking, it's suggested that you repot your plant if its roots begin to crowd its pot—typically every one to two years. 

You can repot your plant by placing the entire root ball into a larger pot then softly breaking up its root structure around the edges of its root ball prior to surrounding it with a lightly packed, medium porosity potting mix—such as our potting soil. It's advised to only slightly increase the pot size when repotting.

In situations of severe root bounding without the desire for a larger pot and/or plant, it's possible to remove your Inch Plant from its pot and to trim away the side/lower roots and to replace their space with new potting soil. 

How to Propagate a Tradescantia zebrina

The propagation of Inch Plant is easily accomplished by placing a cutting in a glass of water or a pot of moist/wet soil, possibly with a slight amount of liquid fertilizer and/or rooting hormone (although neither are necessary).

The bottom cut should be on a slight angle just below a node.

This plant is known to be quite easy to propagate.

Change water as required to maintain its cleanliness.

It's best to provide propagation cuttings with ample light, but to keep them out of strong, direct sun. You'll want the cutting to be of one to two leaves with approx. 1"-2" of stem.

Roots should begin to emerge from the cutting after 2-3 weeks, at which point the plant should be placed in soil that is kept slightly moist until the plant becomes established.

Leaving the cutting in water/wet soil for too long after the establishment of roots will cause rotting and death.

Size

What Size of Tradescantia zebrina Do You Sell?

We ship our Inch Plants in a 4" Grow Pot. They will be appropriately sized for their pots.

How Big Do Tradescantia zebrina Grow?

The size of Inch Plant at maturity is typically no larger than 6" high. It can trail up to 2' long, making it great for a groundcover (in appropriate areas) or in a hanging basket. Its leaves are usually 1"-3" in length.

Additional Information

Common Names of Tradescantia zebrina

  • Inch Plant

  • Wandering Jew (we choose not to use this name due to its anti-Semitic origin)

  • Wandering Dude (a PC spin of Wandering Jew)

Toxicity and Risks of Tradescantia zebrina

Inch Plant is known by some to have a very low level of toxicity to both pets and people.

The cause of its toxicity is from calcium oxalate crystals in its leaves, stems, and sap which may irritate skin and cause negative reactions when eaten such as excessive salivation, redness of the mouth, and internal pain.

Consumption of large amounts of Tradescantia zebrina may cause more serious effects such as organ damage, internal bleeding, and possible death.