It might surprise you to learn that “the wandering Jew” isn’t a single plant, its name used to describe a collection of plants in the Tradescantia genus.
Many countries around the world view the wandering Jew as an invasive species. Therefore, you won’t find many of them as regular additions to gardens. However, the vine makes for an excellent indoor plant.
The Varieties of Wandering Jew Plants
The wandering Jew refers to three different plants in the Tradescantia genus. The three varieties are the zebrina, fluminensis, and the pallida.
The zebrina is the most common of the three species, and it features dark-green foliage that contrasts against the brilliant-white three-petal flowers the plant produces.
As you can imagine, the plant also gets part of its name from the zebra-like foliage. The center of the leaf id has a creamy-white color, and the outer trimming of the leaves has a silver lining.
This wandering Jew species features white flowers, and it’s a trendy indoor plant around the world. The species originates from the southeastern region of Brazil. It’s an evergreen perennial plant that flowers all-year-round and lasts for many years if the owner takes care of it correctly.
The oval-shaped foliage of the Fluminensis is green in color and has a glossy look. The leaves attach to fleshy stems, and the stem nodes quickly put roots down into the soil, allowing for the rapid spread and growth of the plant in ideal growing conditions.
When the plant flowers, it produces a set of flowers with three white petals. The flowers don’t bear any seeds, and they might also emerge in clusters. There are various sub-species of this plant as well, and some types, such as variegate, feature different leaf colors, such as yellow or cream streaks in the leaves.
The plant does best in USDA zones 9 to 12, as it loves the additional humidity in these regions as well. The wandering Jew doesn’t do well in colder climates, so stick to planting in the southern states.
The wandering Jew also prefers full sunlight during the day, and you’ll need to feed it a reasonable amount of water throughout the week. The plant doesn’t enjoy being dry for long periods.
This variety originates in Mexico, and it’s the most attractive of the three Tradescantia genus. This wandering Jew produces long, pointy leaves that can reach lengths of 7-inches. The leaf will eventually turn a purple color, but the tips might remain red or green during the color transition.
There are visible segmentations on the stem of this wandering Jew, and it’s for this reason that many countries classify this plant as invasive.
The segments break easily, but they root readily, evolving into two plants with little care. Fortunately, for fans of the plant, it also makes it easy to grow the plants for cuttings as well.
Tradescantia pallida don’t like the cold, and it will die back in colder environments in the Northern states, especially if it grows outside. This wandering Jew produces small flowers that bloom in colors of pink, lavender, and white. The flowers feature three petals, and while they aren’t show-stopping, then do add a beautiful aesthetic to the plant.
Natural Air Cleaners
One of the reasons why the wandering Jew is such a popular house plant is its natural air-cleaning properties. The wandering Jew is an excellent “air scrubber,” and it removes bacteria and VOCs from the air inside your home, exchanging it for fresh air that enhances your home.
Some research also shows that the wandering Jew can assist in soil remediation, as well. The plant can remove heavy metals from the soil, helping restore the root health of other plants in the same flowerbed or pot.
Caring for Your Wandering Jew Plant
All varieties of the wandering Jew are easy to care for, provided that you grow them in the right climate and conditions. As long as the plant receives regular watering and pruning, it will thrive, and you’ll also manage to control the growth as well.
If you plant in a sunny spot in your home, then you can expect your tradescantia to last for many seasons. It’s also important to note that the plant might not flower it in its first season. However, by the third year, you should see plenty of flowers that emerge in the summer months.
As mentioned, the wandering Jew prefers sunny planting locations. The plant prefers later afternoon sun to morning sun, but it does well in any sunny area around the home. The more light you give the plant, the more flowers it produces in the flowering season.
If your wandering Jew does not get sufficient sunlight, you’ll notice that the color of the leaves starts to fade. Move the plant to a sunny spot, and it should recover in less than a week.
The wandering Jew enjoys a balanced moisture level in its soil. Don’t let the earth get too dry, as it might cause burning in the tips of the leaves. Likewise, the wandering Jew does not enjoy excessively wet soil either. The plant is susceptible to forming root rot if you “keep its feet wet.”
To check if it’s time to water your wandering Jew, push your finger about 1-inch into the soil. If it feels dry, then give your plant some water.
You must ensure you use a rich, loamy soil that drains well when planting your wandering Jew. When planting in a pot, make sure you add a layer of gravel at the bottom of the pot to enhance drainage. Add perlite to the soil to assist with drainage as well.
You can get away with using a standard potting mix when planting indoors, and other soil enhancements we recommend you add are the following.
- Coarse sand and perlite for drainage
- Humus or peat
- A light dusting of lime
- A few handfuls of rich organic compost
You want the soil to retain water but still allow optimal drainage.
During the growing season, fertilize your wandering Jew plant using a liquid-based fertilizer product. Make sure that you dilute the fertilizer to 50-percent strength.
Strong concentrations can result in burning in the tips of the leaves of the plant. You can also add a granular slow-release fertilizer to the soil once a year at the start of spring.
The wandering Jew grows quickly, and it might take over its pot in one or two seasons, depending on the size of the container. Therefore, you’ll need to pull up the plant and divide it from year-to-year, depending on its growth rate.
If you choose to re-pot your plant, make sure you use a pot that’s at least 50-percent larger than the old one. Line the pot with potting soil and a few handfuls of rich organic compost. Dig around the edges of the existing container to loosen the root ball. After loosening, pull the base of the plant to release it from the pot.
Move the plant to its new pot, and then fill with potting mix to cover the roots — Pat down the soil, and then water lightly.
Wandering Jew plants require regular pruning. The plant grows quickly, and if you don’t prune, then it can overtake the pot fast. Pruning also helps the stem, from getting “leggy,” meaning that the plant starts to look bare at the base. Pruning keeps the plant healthy and growing at an optimal rate.
All; you need to do is prune back any stems and pinch the stem tips. The wandering Jew will then send out two new shoots from the pinched top, helping your plant spread out into a bush-like appearance.
The wandering Jew is easy to propagate. This plant grows quickly in a variety of conditions, which is one of the reasons why most countries list it as invasive. You can propagate your cuttings after your pruning session, without much effort.
Remove all of the leaves but the top set after pruning the stem. Place the cutting in another smaller pot with moist potting soil. Leave the container in the sun, and you should find that the cutting roots in a month.
Being an indoor plant, the wandering Jew does not get much attention from pests. However, spider mites can be a problem for your plant if you don’t take care of it and watch for the presence of pests.
Spider mites are tiny spider-like bugs that form a web around the inside of the leaves of the plant. If left unmanaged and untreated, they might start to cause yellow spots in the foliage. The wandering Jew might also fail to flower in the summer months as well.
Over-watering your wandering Jew plant can result in the onset of diseases like root rot. Ensure that you have a well-draining soil mix before planting your wandering Jew. Provided that you do everything you can to ensure your soil drains well, you should never have a problem with root rot in your wandering Jew plant.