How to Care for Inch Plants (Tradescantia)
Inch plants are valued for their vigorous growth and colorful foliage, which can be striped with white, green, silver, or purple! They have trailing vines that flow from their base and are a very easy plant to care for. Here’s how to care for an inch plant in your home.
About Inch Plants
The inch plant (Tradescantia spp.) is a plant with multiple names. It has traditionally been known as the “Wandering Jew” plant, but this nickname has fallen out of favor in recent years due to the anti-semitic nature of the European legend to which the name refers. Today, we prefer to call this plant by its other name—inch plant—given its ability to grow very rapidly!
Inch plants are well suited to life in the home, where they’ll thrive in bright, indirect light and warm temperatures. The two species most commonly grown as houseplants are T. fluminensis, which has green or variegated leaves, and T. zebrina, which has purple- and silver-striped foliage. These are both tropical species native to the Americas, but may be considered invasive species in warm regions outside of their home ranges (including in parts of the southeastern U.S.). For this reason, we recommend growing inch plants indoors or keeping them restricted to containers outdoors.
The genus Tradescantia also includes spiderworts (or “spider-lilies”), though this name is more often associated with species that are native to temperate parts of North America. One such example is the Virginia spiderwort (T. virginiana).
- Grow in all-purpose indoor potting mix in either a pot or hanging basket.
- Select a location that delivers medium to bright light. Keep inch plants out of direct sunlight and out of dark areas, which will cause them to become leggy.
- The room temperature should be between 55° and 75°F.
- Water deeply, but allow the soil to dry partially before watering again. This plant doesn’t like to dry out, but it also doesn’t like to be constantly wet.
- Water less during the winter months, which is the plant’s resting period.
- Provide fertilizer twice a month in the spring and summer; don’t fertilize in fall and winter.
- Aphids tend to be a problem on the stems and leaves. To get rid of them, pinch off the infected stems and spray the plant with water.
- Tradescantia zebrina ‘Tricolor’ (pictured at the top of this page) has beautiful purple and green leaves with shiny silver stripes.
- Tradescantia pallida ‘Purple Heart’ has fuzzy, purple foliage.
- Tradescantia fluminensis ‘Quicksilver’ has variegated white-green foliage.
- Inch plants can easily be propagated by cuttings. Snip off a piece of the plant (the cutting should ideally be 3–4 inches long) and place the cut end in water. In about a week (or less), the cutting should produce roots. A week or so after that, plant the cutting in a pot according to the planting guidelines above.