Wandering Jew Plant: Types, Care, and Growing Guide

A friend recently shared cuttings from her Wandering Jew Plant with me. And just like their name, I found their appearance to be very quirky. However, one thing is certain – they are definitely the easiest types of plants to grow.

In this guide, let’s discuss the different types of wandering Jew, how to grow them, and maintenance tips to keep them thriving for years.

Types of Wandering Jew Plants

Types of Wandering Jew Plants

The name wandering Jew does not refer to a single plant – but a group of different plants from the genus Tradescantia. The three main varieties of the genus includes:

Tradescantia Zebrina

Zebrina is the most common type of wandering Jew. It features dark green foliage with a creamy-white stripe in the center and an outer border of silver. The plant produces ravishing white three-petal flowers that bloom all year-round.

Tradescantia Fluminensis

The evergreen perennial plant originates from Brazil and is a popular houseplant for its hardiness. The oval-shaped foliage of the plant is glossy-green with flushed purple stripes. The Tradescantia Fluminensis produces white three petal flowers throughout the year.  The flowers don’t have any seeds and may bloom in clusters.

The plants have various sub-species as well with variations in the color of leaf. They are fast growing plants and when given the right conditions – they will shoot up to 60 cm tall on leafless stems.

Tradescantia Pallida

This variety of the wandering Jew originates from Mexico and is one of the most attractive of the three Tradescantia described here. The plant shoots upwards to a length of 7-inches. The leaves turn purple as the plant matures but the tips maintain a red or green coloring.

Flowers for this plant bloom in pink, lavender, or white. The flowers feature three petals and add a unique aesthetic on the purple backdrop.

The Tradescantia Pallida is highly susceptible to cold. In fact, avoid keeping the wandering Jew plant outdoors in regions that get a lot of cold. They will probably die or remain dormant.

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Wandering Jew Plant Care

When provided with the right environment, all varieties of wandering Jew are easy to care for. Just give them plenty of water and an area that gets partial sunlight or the indirect sun to watch them thrive into a beautiful houseplant.

Sun

As mentioned above, wandering Jew plant prefers bright but indirect sunlight. Remember, the brighter the light is, the more flower your plant will produce. However, some varieties of the wandering Jew don’t bloom until well after the first year.

Your plant may also lack the required light if you notice the color of the leaves fading. Moving to a sunnier location will revive back the color of the foliage within a week.

Hardiness Zone and Temperature

The houseplants are hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 8 to 12.

The average indoor temperature is ideal for their growth while in winters they are unable to survive long periods of cold weather below 45 degrees Fahrenheit.

Soil

The standard houseplant potting mix does well for the wandering Jew. You can also add a bit of organic matter to enhance growth.

Personally, I prepare a soil mixture by taking equal parts of:

  • Peat or humus
  • Perlite or coarse sand
  • Garden soil
  • Dusting of lime
  • Rich, organic compost

I also recommend adding a layer of gravel to the bottom of the pot in order to enhance drainage.

Water

The wandering Jew prefers balance when it comes to moisture levels. So don’t let it remain too wet or too dry.

Water only when the soil is at least ½ inch deep dry. Give it a good watering to boost the drainage.

Fertilizer

During the growing season, fertilize the plant using a liquid-based fertilizer. Be sure to dilute the fertilizer to 50-percent strength, as strong concentrations can burn the tip of the leaves.

You can also add a granular slow-release fertilizer to the soil once a year. Ideally, the fertilizer should be applied at the start of the spring season.

Repotting

The wandering Jew grows quite rapidly and might take over its pot in one or two seasons. Therefore, you will need to pull up the plant and repot in a new one to enhance growth.

To repot, select a pot that is 2-inches wider than the one you are using. Layer the sides with fresh potting soil. Remove the root ball and place it in the new one. Add soil to 2-inches below the pot’s rim.

Pruning

Pruning is an essential part of wandering Jew plant care. Since they are fast growing, they have a tendency to get leggy, so you must prune them regularly if you want to maintain its healthy appearance.

Simply trim the stems and pinch of the tips. New growth will appear from the pinched area, helping your plant spread out and appear bushier.

Protection from Frost

Frost and cold weather are intolerable by the wandering Jew. Therefore, taking a few extra precautionary steps during the winter season is important for your wandering Jew’s survival.

When frost is expected, water your plant to hold heat in the soil and insulate its cells. You can also cover it with a woven fabric such as burlap or old bed sheet to provide it with the warmth it need.

Bringing it indoors is another option if you have a potted wandering Jew.

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Wandering Jew Plant Propagation

Wandering Jew Plant Propagation

You can propagate wandering Jew in either soil or water. Both methods are so easy and quick that you don’t even need to use a special rooting hormone to encourage growth. And they spread so fast that you can gift some to friends and family as well.

Propagate Your Wandering Jew Plant in Soil

To propagate, take several cuttings from the end of branches. Makes sure to always cut at a 45-degree angle just under a leaf node. The cutting should be four to six inches long. Remove any leaves that appear at the bottom of each stem.

Next, fill in a six-inch pot or a hanging basket with all-purpose potting soil. Poke four holes about two inches deep around the edge of the pot and fifth in the center. Place one cutting in each hole, carefully patting the soil around the stems to hold them in place.

Water the cuttings every day to find a new plant within a month. You can then, transfer your plant to a bigger container or garden bed.

Wandering Jew Plant Propagation in Water

Take a few cuttings from healthy stems. Put them in a glass of water, ensuring that the bottom leaf node is completely submerged.

Change the water every few days – or when murkiness appears. You should also top off the glass of water with fresh water when it is looking low.

When propagating with water, you will see new roots beginning to appear within a week. However, I usually keep it submerged in water for a couple of weeks before moving them to an all-purpose potting mix.

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Wandering Jew Problems

Wandering Jew Problems

Wandering Jews are generally hardy plants and don’t exhibit many problems if care is optimal. However, a few common problems you may encounter are listed below:

Pests

Since Wandering Jews are indoor plants, pests usually don’t bother them much. The only pest you will have to deal with are the spider mites.

Luckily, they are not problem-creators and will go away with a sharp spray of water. Fungus develops in very rare case. If it does occur, use a systematic insecticide and remove the affected stems to avoid spreading.

Disease

Similarly, the occurrence of disease in wandering Jew plant is very low. And most diseases that you will face will be a result of overwatering.

For starters, root rot is common in wandering Jews. If you do find your plants not growing properly or notice the colors of the leaves fading – Water Less!

You can also add some perlite or coarse sand to your soil mix to enhance drainage. A layering of rocks at the bottom of pot also improves the issue.

Allergic Reaction

In some humans and animals, the sap excreted from the plant can cause an allergic reaction. Especially if you have pets, I suggest keeping it in high areas so they are not exposed to the matter.

Although there are no theories that suggest the sap to be poisonous, it should not be eaten. By you or the pets!

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Wandering Jew History

The wandering Jew has an interesting history. Its name comes from a historical character of Christian folklore from the 1300s when a Jewish man taunted Jesus on his way to Golgotha with the cross. Since then, the man has been cursed to walk the Earth until the second coming. The zebrinas are named after this wandering person.

Wandering Jew Plant Benefits

The wandering Jews are beauties and add an attractive element to your home décor. Interestingly, they also work as air purifiers and help clean the air of allergens, dust, and pollutants as well.

They are also known to have psychological benefits such as reducing stress, lowering blood pressure, and enhancing happiness.

Different countries also use them for medicinal purposes. For example, the Jamaicans consider the greens of wandering Jews to treat high blood pressure, coughs, and other symptoms of cold.

In China, the striped leaves are applied to help reduce swelling while in Mexico, you will find a cold drink that contains lemon and sweetened leaves of the plant.

Unfortunately, in some countries, the plant is considered invasive or even weed as it can prevent the growth of other surrounding plants.

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Frequently Asked Questions

A few questions I often hear people asking about wandering Jews and similar indoor plants include:

Q1. Why is my wandering Jew turning yellow?

Answer: Just like any other houseplant, yellowing leaves indicate problems of overwatering. Wandering Jew does not like ‘cold feet’ and prefers adequate draining soil so the moisture doesn’t retain. If you find the leaves of your plant losing its vibrant coloring, reduce the water intake and only water when the top ½ inch of the soil feels dry.

It is also advised that you water in the morning time so the plant has enough time to dry out.

Q2. Why is my plant turning brown?

Answer: Brown leaves are a telltale sign of problems with the environment. It seems like the air is to dry for the plant to thrive. Try misting it with sprays of water periodically during the day. Also, look for spider mites and dead growth.

Q3. What happens if the plant starts dropping leaves?

Answer: Dropping leaves is a common issue that plant owners face and is usually caused by too high or too low temperatures. If you have kept your wandering Jew plant outdoors, bring it indoors during the winters while average room temperature is ideal during the summer.

Q4. What is the lifespan of a wandering Jew plant?

Answer: The average lifespan of a wandering plant is 2 – 3 years. After that, you will notice the plant slowly declining in health. However, if you continue to propagate plants through cuttings, you can have the wandering Jew indefinitely. And even save some for gifting.

Q5. What is the best way to decorate the wandering Jew indoors?

Answer: For me, wandering Jew works best in hanging baskets or planters. Since the plants are slightly harmful for pets, I preferred to keep mine hanging so the dog doesn’t accidentally nibble on it.

Final Words

Nevertheless, the plant is one of the easiest to care for. Especially if you are just beginning to grow a green thumb, I highly recommend starting with the wandering Jew plant due to its hardiness.

Give it a try and let me know your experience with it in the comments below!

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