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Spiderwort (Tradescantia)

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Part of the Commelinaceae family

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    1 Review
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      04.07.2011 17:28
      Very helpful



      One of my favourite plants

      Tradescantia plants are a very popular choice for indoor display, and are at their best (I think) when hanging, or trailing downwards. They are very easy to grow and look after too, making them an attractive and suitable starter for the house plant novice. You can train them to grow on a frame, in any direction you like. Very versatile!

      **What do they look like?**

      Often called a Wandering Jew, Inch plant, Spider Wort, and in my neck of the woods, a Wandering Sailor, Tradescantia come in a few different varieties. You get one with plain green leaves (often with pink/purple undersides - this seems to depend on how much light the plant gets). Another is a variegated version, and the leaves on this are generally a bit smaller, and can be anything from completely creamy coloured to mostly green with some cream striping (this is variegation in plant terms). Another popular variety is 'Zebrina', so named because the patternation of the leaves is similar to a zebra! The undersides of this variety are always a solid deep purple colour, and the uppers generally have a lighter border around the edge with the middle being darker. Quite difficult to describe, but the Dooyoo picture is of this variety, so you'll see why 'zebra'!

      Leaves do not feel particularly sturdy, neither do the stems. This plant is indeed quite fragile and you will find pieces break off quite easily. However, this is not a problem as none of these bits need go to waste (see ''Propagation'). In terms of physical characteristics this plant is delicate, but in terms of care it is pretty hardy.

      **How do I look after them?**

      They like a well drained soil, but can deal with being a little waterlogged. While this should be avoided, don't worry about it, just keep your eye on the plant and don't water for a while until it dries out again. A good tip is to stick a pencil in, if it comes out clean the soil is dry most of the way down. They don't like too much direct sunlight on a windowsill, as this comes with a lot of heat. They are happy with a lot of light in not so hot areas though. Conversely, they are not too happy with too low temperatures either.

      As with all house plants, it is good to avoid watering with straight tap water if possible. The things that make it safe for us are not great for plants, but it won't kill them outright. One thing that can happen is the leaf tips will go brown and a little crispy. This isn't harmful to the plant, though it's not the most aesthetically pleasing.

      If you have an aquarium watering with the water from that will be better (as it should be treated; it will also contain waste which will feed your plant), or you can treat water specifically or use mineral water. As I said though, using plain tap water isn't an awful thing to do, just not the best.


      This is delightfully easy. You can simply snip cuttings off (just above leaves is a good place to cut) and place them in water, and you should see roots sprouting from the joints in the stem within a week. Alternatively, you can put cuttings directly into moist soil and they will root (so long as you don't let it dry out too much). This is why none of those broken off pieces I mentioned earlier need go to waste. If starting a new plant, you'll notice the cuttings grow longer and longer - if you wish to make the plant bushier, just do as above - keep taking cuttings and replant them until you have the thickness you desire, then let them all grow nice and long. Can seem quite time consuming, but it is worth it.

      **My own experiences with these plants**

      I have mature plants of all three varieties I have described here (and many baby plants), and they are so beautiful and easy. I have found that if they get too hot, they dry out quite quickly (probably due to the leaves not being super thick) and a lot of leaves will go crispy, sometimes parts of the stem will too. When this happens, the remainder of the stem will still be healthy (you'll see the dead bits amongst the healthy bits) so you can salvage plenty of cuttings. I found this happened when it got too cold in Winter as well, so I moved said plant from it's hanging position near a window. As easy as they are to grow and cultivate, they do have a sense of fragility too. I have started many new plants from my original ones (and even sold cuttings mail order). It is worth noting though you may lose some cuttings, as some just don't take. I have found they thrive in bright-ish rooms, and don't need direct light. I believe they produce flowers, but I have not had this pleasure yet, despite some of my plants being very large and mature.

      I would definitely recommend any indoor plant enthusiast get some of these. They are striking, and grow pretty fast once you get going, giving you striking display plants. I saw a well established large plain green one in Homebase for only £5. It came in one of those little plastic hanging baskets, so would need repotted but it was gorgeous and already mature. And on a final note, these are safe plants to use in reptile and amphibian enclosures!


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