Tradescantia varieties belong to the Commelinaceae family, a collection of about 85 evergreen blooming decorative garden plants originally naturalized in southern Canada, the West Indies, some parts of Argentina, and North America. Several other names, including Spiderworts, also known as Wandering Jews, Inch Plants, and Day Flowers.
They are unmistakable; even a newbie gardener would easily recognize them. Growing as tall as 12 to 24 inches (30-60 cm) at maturity, they bloom blue, purple, pink, and white deeply colored flowers that hang on slender, elongated spikey pointed Zebra-outlined leaves.
Propagating Tradescantia Plants
Tradescantia varieties or Spiderworts are preferably maintained in a wall-hanging basket where their lovely Zebra-like gorgeous leaves can fall off their stems in an endearing cascade. Several varieties of Spiderworts are quite invasive, whether crawling or climbing, especially when not pruned or propagated frequently.
I always propagate my Tradescantia plants to keep them in check before they gradually crawl onto other garden plants nearby, competing with them for the available resources. They can be propagated as indoor decorative plants, such as T. spathacea and T. zebrina; they are also commonly grown as outdoor garden plants.
They’re easily propagated by Layering, but some traditional gardeners like the old-fashioned stem cuttings rooting method. Let’s compare both and see which will work for you.
Quick Fact: Several Tradescantia varieties tend to bloom lovely flowers which will only survive for one day. These eye-catching flowers wake up in the morning and die off by evening. How wonderful it must be to witness that happen.
Propagating Tradescantia Plants by Layering
It’s good that your stems also have some buds or leaf nodes on them; without the nodes, there’s no point of growth for the new roots; the stem should also be bendable to touch the surface of the potty.
It works best for pots that aren’t moved about too often. This, for me, is an effective method of propagating them because the stems are still attached to the main plant, so there’s no risk if it fails. Before starting, ensure you’ve pinpointed the overgrown stems that have developed terminal buds and 3-4 mature leaves.
Get your potting mix ready for the Layering, and also get the stem ready by digging a hole 2-3 inches on the potting soil surface, right below the scion.
Peel off about 1-inch diameter around the scion (layering stem) so that the outer bark is removed around the peeled area and pin it to the surface of the potting soil, right at the spot we peeled it from; the aim is for the peeled surface to touch the potting soil mix.
Fix the stem in position using a peg, chopsticks, or binding wire and cover it up with more potting soil. Continue to water and sun it regularly; it will be rooted after 3-4 weeks. Then, you should cut it off and grow it in a separate new pot.
Propagating Tradescantia Plants by Stem Cuttings
Stem Cuttings are taken from well-developed leggy shoots that look healthy and have well-grown leaves. Each stem requires a leaf node to grow its new shoots and leaves. Ensure your cuttings have 1-2 nodes and 3-4 leaves, and make as many cuttings as you need from the same plant if it has grown too leggy.
Make 6-8 inch cuttings of your selected stems; the younger and closer they are to the main plant, the better. Pluck off the residual leaves nearest the edge of the cut tips and leave on those at the apex tips. Your cuttings can be rooted in water or a potting soil mix after they’ve healed properly.
To root them in water, pour clean water into a glass jar or potting vase and immerse the cuttings. They will root easily after 1-3 weeks as you place them in a perfect spot with sufficient filtered sunshine and you always change the water every week.
Rooting Tradescantia Cuttings in a Potting Medium
It’s less stressful to the plants if they’re rooted in a potting soil mix; they won’t be perturbed about transplanting them after they’ve rooted, like rooting in a water jar.
With your cuttings ready, pour some prepared potting soil mix into the small or medium-sized pot until it’s almost full, then make little planting holes at the surface, wide enough to fit the cuttings.
Plant your cuttings in the holes and add more potting mix for better strength. A spray bottle may help to lightly water the pot before positioning it for some indirect sunlight; it’ll begin to root after 2-3 weeks.
Tradescantia Sunshine Requirements
Most Tradescantia varieties like the Inch plant, Purple Heart, Tradescantia sillamontana, and Virginia Spiderwort can be propagated under the unfiltered bright and warm sunshine. They strongly like sunlight brightness because it is essential to keep their colorful leaves and blooms healthy and appealing.
It’s necessary to always keep a close eye on them to know when the sunshine they’re receiving is getting excessive and the leaves start turning brownish due to scorching. You should be ready to move them away from direct sunlight when the intensity gets very high, usually in mid-summer.
Spiderworts that are propagated indoors will thrive brilliantly under the bright, unfiltered illumination of your indoor lighting. They will also benefit from the indirect ultraviolet rays of the sun when placed near a west or North-facing window.
You can propagate them in a partially or completely shaded area, and they’ll flourish effortlessly as long as they receive up to 6 hours of bright ultraviolet light daily. Too little sunshine amounts, and the outline of their leaves will begin to fade off; too much sunshine and they’ll get scorched, so getting the right balance is the goal of every successful propagator.
Getting the right Potting Mix for Tradescantia Plants
Spiderworts are such easy-care, easy-to-grow, low-maintenance garden plants that won’t be specific about the right potting mix to grow in; they’ll do well in any general-purpose potting soil mix. It would be best if you watched for the soil mix to be lightweight, well-aerated, and fast-draining.
Getting a commercial cactus potting mix, orchids mix, or succulents soil mix will provide all their nutritional needs. Still, you can create an enrichment blend by adding some Peat moss, vermiculite, Perlite, and pebbles to the mix for better grit and aeration.
Watering Tradescantia Pots
Most Spiderworts typically prefer to be kept moist and warm at all times, and any imbalance in the atmospheric conditions will hamper their growth. They need a lot of water to keep their elegantly colored foliage bright and shiny; they won’t mind allowing the potting soil mix to dry before the next watering cycle begins.
Unlike most succulents, you should water your Tradescantia plants in winter, as frequently as needed, to keep them moist and hydrated; they have a low tolerance for droughts and low-humidity environments. They enjoy staying in water for a tiny fraction of the time, so do well to indulge them by watering from the bottom.
Their leaves contribute immensely to their beauty, and they also like to keep them misty. Don’t hesitate to mist them whenever they appear dehydrated. It’s also possible to overwater your Spiderworts, especially from the roots, when the potting soil doesn’t have good drainage. They may soon begin to rot from the roots or look pale, bloated, and discolored from the shoots and leaves when they’re over-watered.
If you’re noticing yellowing leaves that look crumpled and bend-over, that’s a sign the plants are excessively dehydrated and need more water. Have a consistent watering plan that allows them to receive adequate moisture from misting, watering, or spraying.
Air humidifiers are a great assistance to keep them moist indoors. Always ensure the excess water drains off completely before returning them to its growing spots.
Are Tradescantia Plants Toxic?
You can consume the leaves of most Tradescantia Plants without any adverse effects, but most of their other parts will cause varying degrees of toxication from mild to severe.
Some of their popular varieties, like the Wandering Jew, are also toxic to dogs and cats. Some of the symptoms of their toxication in humans include skin and mouth irritations, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
Spiderworts are highly effective in treating several terminal diseases, including microbial infections and certain malignant tumors. They’re known to possess certain organic bioactive materials that may be useful in several medical conditions that don’t have cures today.
Researchers are currently studying several of their varieties for their ability to be used as bioindicators that can identify Mutagens in the environment. In many Tropical African homes, the Oyster Plant variety, Tradescantia Spathacea, is a common household treatment option for nasal bleeding, whopping cough, and sore throats.