Top Tips & Info
- Care Difficulty - Easy to Moderate
- Provide a bright location with an absence of direct sunlight or deep shade. Too much sunlight will increase the risk of sun-scorch, whereas the latter will result in leggy growth with elongated internodes.
- Keep the soil evenly moist at all times, allowing the top inch or two to dry between waters.
- Fertilise using a 'Houseplant' labelled feed every four waters in the spring and summer, reducing this to every six in the colder months.
- Repot every three years with a 'Houseplant' labelled potting mix; be sure to respect the roots as transplant shock is a big issue that could cause wilting, sudden leaf loss or even death.
- Keep an eye out for Aphids that'll attack the juvenile growth of the plant.
Location & Light
To avoid elongated and leggy growth, be sure to provide a bright, indirect light away from excessively dark locations. Not only will the reduced rates of natural lighting cause an increased chance of root rot, but the loss of variegations (foliar patterns) dramatically increases.
Sunny locations should also be avoided; prolonged exposure to the sun or dry soil will result in pale leaves, stunted growth and crisping foliage. Remember, if it's too hot for a chocolate bar, it'll be too hot for the plant, too! The ideal location for Tradescantia is somewhere that boasts near overhead lighting - for example, a sill or bay windows. More than two metres from a light source could result in leggy internodes.
Tradescantia craves moist soil. Once the pot begins to feel light when lifted, it's time for another water. Although pouring water directly through the foliage is acceptable if situated in a sunny location, irrigate using the bottom-up method to be extra sure. Place the pot on a saucer of water (25% submerged) until thorough absorption to provide deep hydration. Wetting the foliage every time you come to hydrate the plant will allow excess moisture to settle, causing the leaves to yellow and rot away. Under-watering symptoms include crispy/curling leaves, a grey, washed-out appearance, yellowing leaves and a lack of new growth. These issues are commonly down to either too much heat/light forgetfulness. Dehydration is the number one issue among growers, so always keep an eye out for drying soil. Over-watering symptoms, on the other hand, include yellowing lower leaves, little to no growth and a rotting stem or leaves. Never allow a Tradescantia to endure long periods of soggy soil or a dark location as both will significantly increase the chance of over-watering and death. Finally, if you water your specimen from the top (over its foliage into the soil), be sure to blow the excess moisture from the leaves' cubbyholes to avert the risk of rotten foliage.
Average humidity found in the home is more than enough to occupy a Tradescantia. If the leaf-tips begin to brown over, it could be a sign of too low humidity; either finely mist the foliage weekly or introduce a humidity tray to keep life happy.
Feed every four waters during the growing period and every six in the autumn and winter, using a 'Houseplant' labelled fertiliser. Never apply a 'Ready to Use’ product into the soil without a pre-water first, as it may burn the roots and lead to yellowed leaves.
Common Issues with Tradescantia
Under-watering is the biggest issue. Typical signs of this include wilting, sunken and yellowed leaves and stunted growth. If the plant is in direct sunlight, relocate it to a slightly shadier area. Increase the number of waters, as Tradescantia tend to grow along moist forest floors that rarely promote droughts. As long as you keep an eye out for drying soil, success is inevitable.
Those situated in direct sunlight or within three metres of a radiator are most likely to suffer from this issue.
Too much sunlight will lead to sun scorch, with typical signs including browning or crispy leaves, dry leaf-edges, sunken leaves or stunted growth. Although too little light will cause over-watering issues, too much sunlight will be a detriment, too. If yours has fallen short of this, reduce the amount of the sun considerably and always be mindful of environmental shock (when two locations offer too different growing conditions). Remove some of the affected leaves and increase waters slightly.
Never situate it within four metres of an operating heat source, for instance, a heater or fireplace. Due to the heightened temperature, the plant will soak up far more moisture than those situated in cooler locations, increasing the chance of droughts and browning leaf-edges.
A loss of variegations and leggy growth are caused by too little light. Although Tradescantia can be used in slightly dark areas, it'll come at the cost of the variegations. If you're not entirely bothered about this, simply skip this step. Move the plant into a brighter location to allow the patterns to re-develop on the new growth. Alternatively, extreme variegations that hinder the plant's green appearance is caused by too much sunlight.
Root rot is another common issue. Typical symptoms include rapidly yellowing leaves, stunted growth and stem collapse. Those situated in darker locations and/or too-soggy soil are most likely to be hit with this issue. Take the plant out of the pot and inspect its root systems - if they sport a yellow appearance, you're okay, but if they're brown and mushy, action must be taken immediately.
Yellow central leaves are the result of excess moisture settling on the foliage, typically promoted by dark locations. Instead of pouring water directly onto the foliage, irrigate at the soil line by lifting the foliage at the side to prevent wetting the leaves.
Too-low humidity will cause the browning of leaf tips with yellow halos, commonly caused by nearby operating radiators. As dry air is a big issue among households during the colder months, introducing a humidity/pebble tray will help deter this issue, along with providing better growth. Although this won't help with the already-affected leaves, its new growth will look as good as new. The use of artificial humidifiers is only needed whilst the radiators are operating.
There are over seventy-five species of Tradescantia that originate right across the Americas. The genus was first described in the 1750s by Carl Linnaeus, who named it in honour of the 17th century English father and son due of John Tradescant Snr. and John Tradescant Jnr. The latter went on three voyages to America, being of the first to bring live specimens of Tradescantia back to the UK in 1629. The most popular species, T. fluminensis, comes from the Latin word for 'rivers' which refers to their natural habitats along riverbeds.
10° - 30°C (50° - 86°F)
H1b - can be grown outdoors in the summer whilst the nighttime temperatures are above 10°C. If you decide to bring this houseplant outdoors, do not allow it to endure more than an hour of direct sunlight a day as this will burn the leaves. Regularly keep an eye out for Aphids, especially when re-introducing it back into the home.
Up to 3m in length and width, when given enough space. The ultimate height will take between 3 - 6 years to achieve. The growth rate is rapid - some cases can see specimens grow up to 50cm per year!
Pruning & Maintenance
Remove yellow or dying leaves, and plant debris to encourage better-growing conditions. While pruning, always use clean utensils or shears to reduce the chance of bacterial and fungal diseases. Never cut through yellowed tissue as this may cause further damage in the likes of diseases or bacterial infections. Remember to make clean incisions as too-damaged wounds may shock the plant, causing weakened growth and a decline in health.
Via Seed or Vine Cuttings.
- Choose the healthiest, most established vines from the leading growths. This propagation method can be taken from spring to summer, using between three to six leaves, with the vine being at least 8cm (3 inches) in length. Remove the bottom half of the leaves to aid the production of roots.
- Cut directly below a node (leaf), using a clean knife to reduce bacteria count. Have a look at the image above if you're stuck.
- Place the bottom half of the cutting into water to root - this process will be quick and should only take a few weeks. Once small roots surpass 3cm in length (1 inch+), it's time to prepare the soil and pot.
- Use a 5cm (2 inch) pot that has good drainage holes - plastic or terracotta are both acceptable in this instance.
- Set the cutting's rooted half into a well-draining compost, for example, 'Houseplant' or 'Multipurpose' labelled compost, keeping the foliage above the soil line.
- Avoid direct sunlight and offer good humidity by placing the potted plants into a transparent plastic bag for the first couple of weeks.
- Open the bag every two days for half an hour for the prevention of disease. After a month of being placed in soil, remove it from the bag and treat like an ordinary houseplant.
Tradescantia will readily flower in the summer if its previous dormancy period has been served well. Small, delicate flowers will develop at the vines' terminals that can last up to several weeks. The quality of its blooms largely relies on the quality of the dormancy period served in the previous winter.
To replicate its dormancy period over the course of autumn and winter:
- Reduce temperatures down to around 15°C (59°F) from late autumn until early spring, with little hydrations or fertilisation.
- Allow all of the soil to dry out for at a fortnight in between irrigations thoroughly, and never apply cold water as this may damage the roots.
- Provide a few hours of off-peak direct sunlight with one fertilisation throughout this period, until the first bud develops at the end of spring.
T. albiflora - Flowers during the spring or summer, producing white clusters of flowers along the stem.
T. fluminensis - Produces white flowers from spring to summer, spanning up to two weeks.
T. minima - Small pale-coloured flowers will develop close to the foliar line, lasting several days once opened.
T. pallida (Purple Heart) - Red-tinged flowers will develop in late spring, for a summer show.
T. spathecea & nanouk - Produces small pink and white summer blooms that sit close to the foliage.
T. virginiana - Deep-blue flowers will develop along the shafts of the plant in the spring or summer, lasting up to two weeks.
T. zebrina - Dark-pink or purple blooms will develop periodically throughout the year.
Repot every three years in spring using a 'Houseplant' labelled compost and the next sized pot with adequate drainage. Tradescantia are far better being potbound for several years due to the heightened risk of root rot and repotting-issues (like transplant shock), so only repot if you feel it's wholly necessary - restricted root growth will also increase the chance of blooms, too.
Hydrate the plant 24hrs before tinkering with the roots to prevent the risk of transplant shock. For those situated in a darker location, introduce an extra amount of perlite and grit into the deeper portion of the pot to downplay over-watering risks.
Pests & Diseases
Keep an eye out for spider mites, mealybugs, aphids, whitefly, root mealybugs, scale & thrips. Typical diseases associated with Tradescantia are leaf-spot disease, botrytis, powdery mildew & root rot.
Not known to be poisonous when consumed by pets and humans. If large quantities are eaten, it may result in vomiting, nausea and a loss of appetite.