How to Care for Your Wandering Jew Plant

Updated 08/08/19
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If you’ve ever gone looking for a wandering Jew plant for your home, you probably realized pretty quickly that there are several plants we refer to with this name. The guidelines in this post are applicable to the many species of Tradescantia and Zebrina plants in the spiderwort family referred to as "wandering Jew."

Each of these plants is hardy, fast-growing, and relatively easy to care for, with attractive, colorful foliage that will trail, spread, or climb. Before they were widely available commercially, wandering Jew plants were spread around and shared by indoor plant lovers because they're so easy to propagate.

While there are dozens of similar species, here are a few common specimens with a wide variety of colors and patterns. Tradescantia zebrina has silvery, pale stripes over dark purple leaves with a bright purple underside. Tradescantia padilla ‘Purple Heart’ has solid-colored, dark purple foliage and fuzzy, elongated leaves. Another, Tradescantia albiflora ‘Albovittata,’ has light green leaves with thin white stripes. 

Best Growing Conditions for Your Wandering Jew Plant

While wandering Jew plants are highly adaptable, they thrive best in medium to bright indirect light. If your plant isn’t receiving enough light, the markings on the leaves can dim. If you notice this happening, move your wandering Jew to a brighter spot—just make sure it’s out of direct sunlight. Plants in brighter conditions will also be more likely to produce small, three-petaled flowers in purple, pink, or white.

Plant your wandering Jew in an all-purpose potting soil. Your plant will grow best in a warm, temperate space with temperatures between 55 and 70 degrees. 

Pinch off growth tips at the ends of branches to encourage bushy growth. These can be saved to propagate new plants. 

Wandering Jew plants trail beautifully from hanging planters, window boxes, containers placed on high shelves, or on window sills with a western or eastern exposure. Thanks to their spreading growth habit, these plants make a great cover plant in a large container. 

How to Care for Your Wandering Jew Plant

Wandering Jew plants can do well even with neglect, so you can let the soil just dry out between waterings. Cut back on watering during the winter months. To fertilize, feed your wandering Jew with half-strength fertilizer every two weeks. 

After the first year, your wandering Jew plant may lose the foliage nearest the base of the stems. Rather than cutting back your wandering Jew to make it look fuller, simply take cuttings from healthy branches when it’s looking leggy and root them in the same container with the mother plant. Periodically remove dried-out or discolored leaves.

If your wandering Jew is crowded, you may choose to repot it in spring, but only if the roots have completely filled the inside of the pot. Be careful when handling the fragile, succulent stems during the repotting process. Save any stems that break off to propagate or root in your plant's container. 

Unfortunately, Wandering Jew plants don’t age very well—they typically only last for a few years before they begin to look leggy, bare, and untidy. When your pot is looking overcrowded after the second repotting, you’ll have more success taking cuttings to propagate new specimens and discarding the original plant. 

How to Propagate Your Wandering Jew Plant

Wandering Jew plants are so quick and easy to propagate that you don’t even need to use rooting hormone or a special rooting medium. You can propagate wandering Jew plants in soil or in water

How to Propagate Your Wandering Jew Plant in Soil

Step 1: Take several cuttings at the ends of branches, using a clean, sharp blade to make a cut at a 45-degree angle just under a leaf node. The cuttings should be four to six inches long. Remove the bottom set of leaves from the stem of each cutting.

Step 2: Fill a six-inch pot or hanging basket with all-purpose potting soil to one inch below the top of the container. Poke four holes about two inches deep around the edge of the pot and a fifth in the center. Plant one cutting in each hole, gently patting the soil around the stems to hold them in place. 

Step 3: Water your cuttings and keep the soil evenly moist. In a few months, you’ll have a full, leafy new plant. 

How to Propagate Your Wandering Jew Plant in Water

Step 1: Snip four- to six-inch cuttings from healthy stems of your wandering Jew plant. Remove the bottom set of leaves from each stem. 

Step 2: Put your cuttings in a glass of water, ensuring that at least the bottom leaf node is submerged. You should see new roots begin to emerge within a week or so. 

Step 3: After around two weeks in water, you can plant your wandering Jew cuttings in all-purpose potting mix and care for them as usual. 

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