Tradescantia tricolor (trad-es-KAN-tee-uh TRY-kull-lur) is an herbaceous perennial hailing from the Caribbean, Central America, South America, and Mexico.
In the United States and many parts of the world, this cheery little plant is kept as a houseplant and is commonly called “Wandering Jew” but also:
- Striped Wandering Jew
- Flowering Inch Plant
- Wandering Willie
- Wandering Gypsy
- Wandering Jew
- Purple Queen
- Inch Plant
The plant is a member of the Commelinaceae plant family.
The genus name, Tradescantia, refers to John Tradescant, who was a gardener and botanist during the 17th Century.
The specific epithet, tricolor, refers to the plants’ coloration.
Tradescantia Tricolor Care
Size & Growth
Striped Wandering Jew is a fast grower and typically attains a height of 6″ to 9″ inches with a spread of 1′ or 2′ feet.
- T. Callisia has boldly striped green and white leaves.
- T. Zebrina pendula has striped, reddish leaves.
- T. pallida has solid purple leaves.
Flowering & Fragrance
There are several species of Tradescantia, and the triangular-shaped flowers vary in color from one species to the other.
They typically come in shades of white, pink, rose or purple.
The scentless flowers bloom perpetually.
Light & Temperature
Tradescantia does well in bright, indirect sunlight.
Too little sunlight will result in faded leaves with little or no variegation.
Excessive sun causes leaf scorch.
All Wandering Jew species perform best at temperatures ranging from 65° – 75° degrees Fahrenheit (18° – 24° C); however, they can withstand higher temperatures.
If the temperature drops below 50° degrees Fahrenheit (10° C), the leaves will suffer.
All species of Tradescantia are winter hardy in USDA hardiness zones 9-12.
All do well as houseplants in any climate.
Watering & Feeding
As with most plants, Flowering Inch Plant likes soil neither bone dry nor soggy.
Allow the soil to almost dry out before watering thoroughly.
Generally speaking, a weekly watering during the growing season (Spring-Fall) and reduced watering in winter makes a good schedule.
Inch Plant is not a heavy feeder and may not need feeding at all.
If you do decide to feed your plant, give it a half-strength dose of time-release, water-soluble houseplant fertilizer no more than twice a month.
Too much fertilizer causes leaves to lose variegation.
Soil & Transplanting
Wandering Jew does well in any good quality potting mix.
It is not picky about pH levels and appreciates a bit of sand mixed in for improved drainage.
Repot to the next size container annually in the springtime.
Grooming & Maintenance
Tradescantia earns its common names because it likes to wander.
The plant grows quickly and rambles freely and has a tendency to get leggy.
To maintain a full, bushy shape, pinch or trim back the stems regularly.
The plants tend to be fairly short-lived, but they easily replace themselves because of cuttings root enthusiastically.
How To Propagate Tricolor Tradescantia
Spiderwort cuttings are rooted in fresh potting soil or water.
Take a cutting at least an inch long with a minimum of one leaf.
Remove any leaves from the lower part of the stem.
Poke the stem into clean, moist potting soil or put it into a little jar of water.
You’ll see roots within a week.
If rooting in water, go ahead and put the cutting into the soil when several strong roots have grown.
Tradescantia Tricolor Main Pest or Disease Problems
- Too much water will cause root rot.
- Be sure to provide well-draining soil, and take care not to water too often or too much.
- Wandering Willie may have problems with spider mites and aphids.
- If you see these pests in residence, give your plant a good shower to wash them off.
- If they persist, use a concoction of pesticidal soap or neem oil to combat them.
- Variegated leaves may become pale and monochrome in reaction to excessive fertilizer, low temperatures, or too much sun.
- Be sure to provide the right setting and care for the best leaf performance.
Is The Tradescantia Toxic Or Poisonous?
Tradescantia sap is irritating and may cause gastric distress in cats who ingest the leaves.
For more check out our article on the question – Is Wandering Jew Poisonous?
Direct contact with the sap can cause skin irritation.
If you believe your cat or dog has eaten Wandering Jew or rolled in a patch of it, watch for vomiting and check to see if your pet is experiencing dermatitis.
Symptoms usually manifest in these areas:
- Around the mouth
- In the groin area
- Under the chin
- On the belly
Contact your vet and/or poison control for assistance in treating these symptoms.
Is The Tricolor Tradescantia Plant Invasive?
Although Tradescantia is not listed as invasive by the state of Florida, it bears watching if you have it planted outdoors.
It flourishes as an outdoor plant in any tropical or semi-tropical setting.
The plant grows and spreads rapidly and could easily become invasive.
Suggested Tradescantia Tricolor Uses
As a houseplant, Wandering Gypsy is a great choice for hanging baskets or containers placed on pedestals or high shelves.
The plants’ rambling habits allow it to dangle prettily in these situations, as long as there is plenty of bright, indirect sunlight to be had.
As an outdoor plant, Flowering Inch Plant is used as an ornamental ground cover in a wide variety of settings, including the tropics and subtropics, Mediterranean and temperate areas, and even in the desert, as long as ample water is provided.