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Tradescantia is a very prolific grower. They’re even invasive in some areas of America. Tradescantia is known for its gorgeous foliage and they come in a variety of different shapes, sizes, and colors. Most of them are creeping or trailing plants, so they create a very unique look. They are also widely loved in the house plant community. With 85 different species of Tradescantia out there, a wide variety of cultivars have been produced and put on the houseplant market since then.
They are a little bit finicky though. A lot of times what will happen is they will be overwatered, they will start to die off. People will notice that they’re not full and bushy up top, and they’ll start to have issues. We’re going to talk about all those problems today and exactly how to keep your beautiful Tradescantia thriving and full.
The first thing that we always like to talk about with our house plant care guides the origin of the house plant. This particular plant is actually from North America and Central America. Most houseplants are actually from South Africa and South America. This is one of the very few Native to North America that are cultivated so heavily on the house plant market. Although it goes by many other names. It’s also commonly called an inch plant then they have their specific cultivar names.
One of the very first Tradescantia was collected in the year 1629 in North Carolina. sit was shipped out from there into England to be put into cultivation and spread about as houseplants. They have just continued to evolve and thrive from there.
The biggest issue that this plant has as a houseplant is lighting. They love their light. They want as much light as possible. They’re out in the full direct sun outside to keep their beautiful colorations. When they do not get the light that they need, you will end up seeing them revert to just plain green. They will start to lose the brightness and the vibrancy of their foliage, and they’ll just kind of dull themselves back.
If they’re fuzzy Tradescantia, you will notice that they are much less fuzzy when they don’t need as much protection from the sun, because that’s what the hairs do for them. They produce more and more hair, with the more light that they have. So you can end up having beautiful, full, furry, Tradescantia.
If you end up giving them as much light as possible, they’re a very unique, beautiful house plant. Do not scrimp on the lights.
This next thing is the thing that kills them the most watering. A lot of times people will overwater or they will underwater their tradescantia. What you want to do is wait until the leaves become more flexible and less firm like cardboard. As the plants get older and the foliage gets bigger you’ll be able to feel that they’re thicker and more succulent, and you will be able to tell just by the feel of your plant how often it needs to be watered. That and feeling the soil is what you’re going to go by.
When you’re going to water them, bottom water them or make sure to get that watering can deep at the base of the plant. Don’t get water all over the foliage because then you’ll end up getting brown spots on them where the water sits on it. They just don’t like it.
Outside Tradescantia are not as picky, and they grow so prolifically that if you get spots on them, it doesn’t matter. However, in smaller pots in the home, where you’re watching every single leaf as it unfurls. You’re just loving life with this plant and you definitely would notice that half a leaf gets a brown spot on it because you left the water on it.
These plants like it hot and they like it humid. They like North Carolina, and Florida, those types of temperatures. They’re happy to thrive in warm tropical temperatures. They can go down in temperature quite a bit as well though. Unlike most houseplants, they can go down to about 45-40°f. Anything lower than that, when it starts to get to freezing temperatures in the 30s, then they’re not going to be so happy.
They are not frost-tolerant plants. However, if you happen to leave them on your porch a little bit longer than normal, your heating goes out inside your home, or you have a chilly sunroom, then they will be just fine.
These plants are the ones that are not going to shed all their leaves and get cranky because the temperatures went down a little bit. Because they are native to the Americas, they can handle a little bit of a colder temperature and they’re not so picky. They’re not going to be producing any new growth if it’s very cold, but they will be a bit more forgiving than most tropical house plants.
Tradescantia can handle lower humidity. They do not need high humidity. That being said, because they’re creepers and ground crawlers, you will notice that they enjoy humidity. As they grow outwards, they create a huge mat that traps humidity around their root base. If you want them to grow more quickly, give them a little bit more humidity.
They don’t like water on their leaves as we mentioned before, but they don’t mind ambient humidity around them. They’re also really good for terrariums. They’re one of those few plants that are not normally thought about for terrariums, but because they are small and they’re kind of creepers, they tend to make a great ground cover for terrariums as well.
They do grow quickly. Regardless of whether they’re in high humidity or lower humidity, they’re still going to grow for you pretty quickly compared to most other house plants. So, if you’re somebody who likes to see results regularly, this is the type of plant for you.
Speaking of propagating tradescantia, because they are creepers, they tend to kill off the old leaves and continue to grow new leaves as they vine out. They don’t use up a lot of resources, but they end up killing off their old foliage. I many cases, what happens when you have this plant as a hanging basket is, the top will get bare and then the bottom will be nice and full.
So you have to chop the plant. You can re-root in water or you can just make holes up top. Place the little pieces back up top in the soil and it will continue to grow as long as you give it enough light. Make sure to give it a good watering after you have propagated the plant and put them back in the soil.
You can also propagate these plants in any type of propagation box. We have a whole video on that as well. So you could us perlite, sphagnum, stratum, leca, or pretty much anything. These plants are not picky and grow in anything. They are considered invasive in several areas, so they like to grow regardless of the potting medium.
Speaking of the potting medium! Tradescantia has succulent leaves and prefers a succulent mix. This is especially true if you live in a very humid and dark area or are someone who loves to give their plants extra water. If you have a lot of light available or live in a dry home then you can use a more water retentive mix. Generally, a 50% potting mix and 50% perlite combination work well in most conditions.
Tradescantia does not need a lot of fertilizer or a strong fertilizer. A minimum amount of standard slow-release fertilizer or heavily diluted liquid fertilizer occasionally will be fine. Tradescantia does not consume very much as they grow. They tend to shed old leaves instead of absorbing nutrients to sustain them for longer while they grow.
Tradescantia is a very beautiful, fast-growing, houseplant with little care or upkeep requirements. As long as you can give them the light they so desperately desire you will have vibrant colorful foliage cascading through your home.