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Growing Tradescantia in Water


Tradescantias have an unmatched will to live: they’re fast growers and can survive in various environments. Tradescantia’s exceptional abilities mean that they are great candidates for growing in water.


It’s not as easy as simply placing your mature Tradescantia in a bucket of water (that’s a terrible idea). Instead, you can grow Tradescantia cuttings in water.


repotting tradescantia
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The Benefits of Propagation

Propagating your Tradescantia results in a healthier “parent” plant. How? Every cut you make turns into a ‘joint’: two stems start to grow from that location. The result? A bushier plant that has more leaves to sustain it!


Another obvious benefit: You have more plants! Your rooted cuttings can decorate other areas of your home or turn into a gift for a fellow plant lover.



Pre-Op

Before you start cutting stems off your Tradescantia, you must remember:

  • Only propagate healthy plants. Cutting stems off a Tradescantia that is unhealthy or has pests will cause the parent plant to suffer, possibly killing it.

  • You should select branches that have at least four leaves.

  • Never remove more than ⅓ of your Tradescantia’s foliage.

  • Propagate early in the growing season.


Choosing a Propagation Container

If it can hold water, you can grow a Tradescantia in it. That means you have a wide variety of container options to choose from!


You could purchase a propagation kit, which has everything you need to get started. Many also enjoy using unlikely containers they find at antique stores and flea markets: vases, test tubes, etc. Others repurpose household items, such as essential oil bottles. Channel your creative side and see what you can come up with!


Does the container have to be translucent?

No. The roots don’t need to be exposed to sunlight to grow. But many plant parents feel that seeing the roots is half the fun!



Operation Propagation

Step one: Put on gloves. The stems and leaves of Tradescantias have calcium oxalate crystals, which cause skin irritation.


Step two: Inspect your plant. Analyze your plant’s overall wellness. Select the vines that are long enough to propagate.


Step three: Locate the stem’s nodes on the opposite side of the stem from the leaves. New roots will grow from the nodes.


Step four: Cut. Use clean, sharp shears.


Step five: Remove the lower leaves from the stem. Leaves that are exposed to water will rot, damaging your cutting’s health.


Step six: Place your cutting in a container filled with water.


Step seven: Provide your propagation with bright, indirect light. Never expose a cutting to direct afternoon sun.



Post-Op

After you have successfully propagated your Tradescantia, new roots should appear in 1-2 weeks. To maintain healthy cuttings, top off your container’s water levels every few days and replace the water when it becomes milky.


Water is devoid of the nutrients your plant requires to survive long-term and can encourage fungal infection, so your Tradescantia will eventually need to be potted in soil. When?


When the roots reach 1-2 inches long, you can plant your Tradescantia cuttings. How quickly does this happen? Likely in 1-2 months. Can you grow your Tradescantia in water past this point? It’s risky, but yes.


If you decide to take the risk and grow your Tradescantia in water for the long term, you will need to add tiny amounts of liquid fertilizer to the water. This will provide your cutting with the nutrients it needs to survive for the longest time possible.


How to Pot Tradescantias Grown in Water

Step One: Select a container. Small nursery pots are usually suitable for 3-4 propagated stems.


Step Two: Fill the container with well-draining soil.


Step Three: Water the soil.


Step Four: Place the rooted cuttings in the pre moistened soil.


Step Five: Water your plant thoroughly, which will remove any air bubbles around the roots.


Continue to provide newly planted Tradescantia propagations with bright, indirect light. For the first rewatering, wait until the topsoil is dry and crumbly. For subsequent waterings, follow your regular Tradescantia watering routine: allowing the soil to dry out partially.



FAQ About Propagation


My cutting is brown and mushy; now what?

Your Tradescantia should remain firm, bright, and perky while it’s growing in water. If the stem becomes brown or mushy, it’s a sign of rot. This means that your propagation has failed. You should try again!


If you have propagated a long stem and the end is still viable, cut it off before the node and place it in clean water.


Why are there no roots yet?

Has your cutting been in the water for a few weeks without any sign of roots? As long as the stem still looks healthy and the water is clean, you should remain patient.


Cooler temperatures can slow down root production. If you’ve opted to propagate in the winter, keep your cutting away from cold window sills. During the spring/summer, keep them away from drafty A/C vents.


Should I use rooting gel or powder?

Rooting products sound convenient, but they are not essential to propagating your Tradescantia. The fast growth spurt produced by the product can compromise the health of your cutting, slowing down the whole process.


If you’re feeling experimental and want to try a rooting product, a rooting gel is best suited to growing your Tradescantia in water.




In Review:

It’s simple and beneficial to grow Tradescantia in water for a few months until roots become established enough to plant! Trying to do so “indefinitely” is experimental and won’t last forever. Either way, growing your plants in water is a fun exercise, and we wish you the best!



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