Growing tradescantia (also known as spiderwort) might cause flashbacks to the 1970s, but it still merits its popularity as a houseplant or groundcover. This tough tropical plant can have trailing or upright stems and colorful foliage. Depending on the species, tradescantias are typically purple and often variegated with silvers, greens, creams, pinks, and occasionally gold. Many light-foliage varieties have dark purple undersides, creating a dramatic effect. Though not the main reason they are grown, many varieties produce small flowers that grace the attractive foliage. These three-petal blossoms are pink, purple, or white and typically appear at the stem tips or in oyster-like clusters at the base of the leaves.
- Genus Name: Tradescantia
- Common Name: Tradescantia
- Additional Common Names: Spiderwort, Inch Plant
- Plant Type: Annual, Houseplant
- Light: Part Sun, Shade, Sun
- Height: 6 to 12 inches
- Width: 1 to 3 feet
- Flower Color: Pink, Purple, White
- Foliage Color: Blue/Green, Gray/Silver, Purple/Burgundy
- Special Features: Good for Containers, Low Maintenance
- Propagation: Division, Layering, Stem Cuttings
- Problem Solvers: Groundcover
Where to Plant Tradescantia
If you’re planting tradescantia indoors, place it near a window that receives bright, indirect sunlight. For outdoor planting, it is important to check the variety you have before deciding on the location. In general, tradescantias thrive in full sun (except in very hot summers) but also do well in shade.
Tradescantia Care Tips
Members of the Tradescantia genus are some of the simplest plants to grow, requiring little maintenance. They are also super easy to propagate, making them a wonderful pass-along plant for friends.
Light: Tradescantias are quite tolerant of different sun exposures. For the best coloring, plant them in full sun, which produces the most blossoms. Indoors, they tolerate any light level, but in shade, they may appear washed-out. Insufficient sunlight can lead to leggy growth with few leaves. During summer, indoor plants benefit from spending warm, sunny days outside.
Soil and Water: Provide tradescantia with general-purpose potting mix and ensure good drainage. When planted in the garden, most tradescantias prefer moist soil with a pH of 5 or 6. In warmer climates, they work beautifully as groundcover, with trailing varieties forming dense mats that root wherever they touch the ground. Tradescantias can withstand occasional drought due to their fleshy stems. If they wilt, they usually recover quickly after a good watering. In containers, water these plants regularly to maintain consistently moist soil.
Temperature and Humidity: Tradescantias thrive in temperatures between 60-80°F, similar to what most people prefer. If grown outdoors, bring them inside before the first frost, which can be fatal.
Fertilizer: Tradescantias don’t require regular feeding, but they will grow more robustly with a little fertilizer. Add fertilizer in the spring and summer. Use liquid fertilizer at half strength each month or controlled-release fertilizer during planting time.
Pruning: Although not necessary, occasional pruning and grooming of tradescantias enhance their appearance. Some types tend to lose their lower leaves, resulting in unattractive naked stems. This can be remedied by pinching the growing tips to encourage more branching.
Potting and Repotting: When planting tradescantia in a container, choose a pot with drainage holes and fresh potting mix. Repotting is not required frequently, but if you notice roots poking out of drainage holes, move the plant to a slightly larger container. The best time to repot tradescantia is in the spring.
How to Grow a Huge Tradescantia!
Pests and Problems
The biggest pest for tradescantia is aphids, which can be washed away with a strong spray of water. Other than that, these plants are relatively free from issues. Monitor the leaves for signs of bugs, but diseases are rare for this genus.
How to Propagate Tradescantia
Tradescantia can be propagated by division or from cuttings. Older plants with significant growth are perfect for starting new plants from cuttings. Snip off a few inches of stem, remove the lower leaves (leaving a few at the tip), and place the cutting in water or damp soil. Once roots emerge, transplant the cutting into evenly moist soil if started in water. Cuttings taken during summer and fall respond best to replanting.
To propagate tradescantia through division, carefully remove the plant from its pot or dig it up from the garden. Gently separate the plant into smaller clumps, ensuring that each division has roots attached. Replant the divisions in fresh soil, water thoroughly, and provide appropriate care.
Tradescantia is a versatile and low-maintenance plant that adds beauty to both indoor and outdoor spaces. With its colorful foliage and charming flowers, it brings a touch of nature to any setting. Whether you choose to grow it in a pot or as groundcover, tradescantia is sure to thrive with proper care and attention. Enjoy its vibrant presence and the ease with which it can be propagated and shared with others. Happy gardening!