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Repotting Tradescantia

We are used to the luxury of finding the perfect size and fit of clothes before we make a purchase. Sadly, our Tradescantias do not have the same opportunity to slip in and out of a potential outfit: repotting is a major health risk. How can you successfully repot your Tradescantia?

repotting tradescantia
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The Proper Season for Repotting Your Tradescantia

Repot your Tradescantia at the beginning of its growing season. When is that? April.

Remember that these plants, like many others, are dormant during the Fall-Winter. Repotting your Tradescantia during dormancy is inadvisable because the roots are not actively growing. This will lead to shock and premature plant death. Upgrading to a larger container during dormancy also contributes to root rot.

The Proper Signs

In their natural habitat of Argentina and Brazil, Tradescantia grows on rocky roadsides. These plants do not require much soil to fuel their bushy leaves and long stems. Why is this notable?

Just because your Tradescantia is growing does not mean that you need to repot it. New growth is a sign that your plant is flourishing in its conditions.

What are some of the correct indicators? Roots growing out of the drainage hole or slower growth are both signals that your plant needs a larger container.

Do not repot your plant frequently or for no apparent reason. Wait to see the evidence. If your Tradescantia is growing at its normal rate, leave it until next Spring.

Container Selection

Tradescantias are susceptible to root rot and should never be allowed to sit in soggy soil.

You must select a planter that has drainage holes and does not retain excessive amounts of moisture. For example, terra cotta pots are known for being “moisture-wicking,” while thick-walled concrete or ceramic pots are “water-retaining.” Well-draining is another requirement to maintaining a healthy Tradescantia.

The selection of your Tradescantia’s soil and container determines the environment it will be living in. Why is this important? Making the wrong choice can potentially kill your plant.

If you are upgrading your plant’s pot to a bigger size, the new container should be 1-2 inches wider and deeper than the one you currently use. If you are upgrading a more substantial plant, select a planter that is 3-4 inches larger.

On a practical note, Tradescantias have shallow roots and are top-heavy. For a large plant, consider selecting a shallow pot with a wide base, such as an Azalea Pot. This will prevent your Tradescantia from falling over, keeping pets and children safer. As an extra layer of protection, consider placing Sticky Putty on the bottom of your plant’s pot. It will reduce the risk of it getting knocked over, and is non-toxic to people and pets.

Instructions for Repotting Your Tradescantia

If you have determined that it is the correct season and have seen clear evidence that your Tradescantia has outgrown its container, follow these steps to repot your plant. Wait until your plant needs water before you start this process. Otherwise, you will damage your plant by overwatering it.

  1. Water your plant thoroughly. Doing so lessens the chances of root damage during repotting.

  2. Wear gloves. Tradescantias excrete a skin-irritating sap that causes itchiness.

  3. Lay your pot horizontally. Carefully pull your Tradescantia’s vines to one side so that they will not be damaged. Gently tap the pot on a soft surface, loosening the topsoil and roots. If the plant is still clinging to the sides of the pot, insert your gloved hand between the root ball and container-wall, gently going around the pot’s edges.

  4. Untangle the rootball. Be gentle but firm, inserting your fingers into the rootball, removing excess dirt.

  5. Place a layer of well-draining soil on the bottom of your container, put your plant in the center of the pot, and fill in the sides. Your soil should stop ½ to 1 inch before the brim of the container.

  6. Over-head water your plant. This will serve to remove excess dirt and settle the plant in the soil. Keep in mind, soil-watering or bottom-watering are the recommended ways to water your Tradescantia on a routine basis, because they are susceptible to stem-rot.

  7. Propagate. If there are broken stems around the repotting site, remove a few leaves from the stem, and place it in the freshly-watered soil. You can also water-propagate the stems by placing them in a glass of water in a brightly lit window.

  8. Place your Tradescantia in a well-ventilated, bright area to prevent stem-rot. Never place your plant in the direct sun. However, bright-indirect light will aid in the evaporation of excess liquid, drying off your plant’s stems more quickly.

  9. Do not fertilize. Why? Fertilizer encourages roots to grow. But, your newly potted plant is not rooted yet! Allow a month or two for your plant to root in its new pot before fertilizing.

Remember, these plants have a short lifespan compared to other houseplants. No matter how successfully you repot your Tradescantia, it will need to be replaced in a year or two. Propagation is the only way to continue the legacy of your original plant. Either place propagations in the soil of your “mother plant” or start anew. Doing this will ensure that your Tradescantia will last for years to come.

While your Tradescantia does not have the luxury of trying its new pot on before it’s too late, it does have you. By discerning the evidence, you can make the smartest choice of when to repot your plant.

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