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Things to Know Before Buying a Tradescantia

There are not many prettier plants out there than a Tradescantia Tri-Color. Pink, purple, and green hues combine in cascading vines, putting this plant on the top of the wish list! If you are debating whether to purchase a Tradescantia, here are some care tips to consider beforehand.

Things to Know Before Buying a Tradescantia
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1. Plant Origins

The many varieties of the Tradescantia Cerinthoides come from Brazil and Argentina. In their home territory, they grow abundantly on the roadside, cliffs, and rock faces. Many people consider them to be little more than a roadside weed because they grow and multiply on any soil remnants they can find.

While the extra colorful, Variegated Tradescantia Bubblegum/Lilac is more demanding than their Brazilian relatives, understanding your plant's origin will help you make educated care choices in the future!

2. Soil & Potting

Care tips for the Tradescantia must start with the soil. These plants need to stay evenly moist without ever being soggy. To achieve this, use well-draining potting soil and opt for more frequent watering. (More on watering to come!)

As noted above, in their natural habitat, these plants cling onto minimal amounts of dirt. For a houseplant, this translates into the size of pot you choose for your plant. Choosing a container that is too large for your plant will contribute to overwatering and root rot. Remember, while these plants are fast growers, their root system does not require much soil to sustain them. Choose a pot that is 1/2 inch larger than the plant's current root ball. Doing so will ensure the root system will soak up the moisture quickly, preventing the plant from setting in soggy soil.

A few last Tradescantia care tips: Select a pot with a drainage hole. Opting for a terracotta or clay pot (with frequent watering habits) is also beneficial because the clay wicks moisture out of the soil. In contrast, ceramic or plastic pots retain water in the dirt, potentially contributing to soppy roots.

3. Lighting and Temperature

Tradescantias require bright, indirect light and average household temperatures. The vibrant hues of your plant are caused by variegation. If your plant is experiencing extreme temperatures or improper lighting, it will start to lose its color.

Placing your plant in direct sunlight can sunburn its leaves, causing brown spots and edges and bleaching your Tradescantia's coloration. Bleached leaves will appear faded in color and pattern, looking whiter in appearance.

However, if you place your Tradescantia in a dimly lit location, you will face even more issues. Lack of light will cause the coloration and pattern to fade, with the leaves appearing dull and dark. However, the more urgent problem is that the stems require adequate lighting to grow healthy and strong.

As noted above, average household temperatures of 60-80° are suitable for the Tradescantia. Remember to keep your plant away from air vents to avoid extreme temperature changes.

4. Watering

How frequently and thoroughly you water depends mainly on the potting soil and pot you have selected. Tradescantias must remain moist, never soggy, and be allowed to dry out in the winter months.

If you have opted for fast-draining soil, you will need to water your plant more frequently. Monitor your soil closely, as your plant could need watering once or twice a week during the growing season. Allowing your soil to dry out totally between watering’s will damage your plant: causing brown edges and dropping leaves.

However, if you have selected a more traditional potting mix or a water-retaining pot (plastic or ceramic), you will need to water less often. In this case, err on the side of caution. Remember, your plant is susceptible to root rot. Allow the top layer of soil to dry out before rewatering. Consider using a chopstick or water meter to check the deeper layers of soil to prevent yourself from waterlogging your Tradescantia.

How To Water Your Tradescantia

If you water your Tradescantia from overhead, the setting water will cause the stems of your plant to rot. The solution?

Water the soil-only by using a watering can with a small spout. Another option is to water from the bottom by placing your potted plant in a dish of water. In about 15-30 minutes, the plant will have soaked up all the moisture it needs.

If you opt for a bottom-watering routine, remember to "flush" your soil out every so often with an occasional top-watering. Otherwise, minerals and impurities will set in the dirt for months, causing damage to your plant's root system.

5. Humidity

After reading that your plant's stems can become damaged by setting water, you might conclude that you should not mist your Tradescantia. Think again!

Tradescantia's love humidity and benefits from regular, light misting. Use a fine mist, and make sure not to over-mist, soaking the plant to its stems. The goal is to provide a little extra moisture to the surface of your Tradescantia's leaves.

Another Tradescantia care tip? If misting sounds too daunting, place your plant next to a humidifier, remembering to put it outside the direct stream of mist.

6. Pruning and Propagation

These fast-growing plants require regular pruning, which encourages them to become bushier and lush. If you fail to prune your Tradescantia, it will appear stringy.

Tradescantia also has a relatively short life expectancy. No matter how well you care for your plant, your Tradescantia will start to deteriorate in about a year. Thankfully, these plants are quick regenerators!

If you keep up a good routine of pruning and propagating, you will be able to continue your Tradescantia’s legacy for years to come

How to Prune and Propagate:

Prune your plant by cutting long stems before the node. It is essential to keep the node intact because new roots will grow from it.

Quickly propagate your cutting by removing the bottom 3-inches of leaves and placing the stem in water. If you time your pruning around your watering routine, you can also place clipped stems directly in the moist soil.

An important Tradescantia care tip: Choose where you cut the stem of your Tradescantia carefully. Two limbs will regenerate from wherever you cut the stem. The regrowth of cutting a long stem near its end will be too heavy for the branch, and it will break. Ensure that the stem will be able to sustain the extra weight before you cut!

Putting this forethought into the purchase of your Tradescantia will ensure that it has a healthy outcome, beautifying your home for years to come!

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May 15, 2021

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Sep 23, 2023
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I found 2 this year. One in the grocery store and another in a nursery. I hope they grow in Ohio. I am originally from California and they grow like weeds. Make beautiful hanging baskets also. We shall see what kind of luck I have with them. I have wandering Jew and will treat it as such. It is a lovely plant. Thanks for sharing your information. Mary

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