How to Grow and Care for Tradescantia Zebrina (Inch Plant)

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The Tradescantia zebrina plant is a houseplant that belongs to the Commelinaceae family and is native to the tropical areas of southern Mexico. In this post, we will talk about this stunning and vibrant plant, covering aspects such as care, common problems, and addressing frequently asked questions.

Tradescantia zebrina, also known as Inch Plant or Wandering Jew, is a herbaceous perennial that is often grown as a houseplant for its unique and attractive appearance. The plant features variegated foliage with slightly fleshy leaves, bluish-green in color, with two longitudinal silver-green stripes and a completely purple underside.

The leaves are ovate in shape and clasp the stem at the base. The upper leaf surface is green to purple with two wide, silvery-white stripes, while the lower leaf surface is a uniform deep magenta. The foliage color can vary depending on the light exposure, with the color intensity being greatest in full sun.

Size and Growth

Tradescantia zebrina has a trailing growth habit, making it a good choice for hanging baskets or as a groundcover. The stems of the plant are succulent and can root at the nodes, allowing the plant to spread and form dense mats of foliage. The stems can also break easily at the node. The plant can grow to a height of 6-12 inches.

The zebrina is fast growing and may need to be pruned from time to time to make it bushier and bushier. Its perfect for keeping suspended in hanging baskets or pots and decorating windows, shelves, balconies and exteriors of all kinds.

Flowers and Bloom Time

While Tradescantia zebrina can produce flowers, they are relatively inconspicuous and appear infrequently indoors. The flowers are small and have three petals, usually in a lavender-purple color and are gathered in flattened terminal cymes.

They arise in the leaf axils, which are the points on the plant where leaf stalks branch out from the main stem. The plant may bloom sporadically throughout the year, although flowering is more common in outdoor settings.

Tradescantia Zebrina Care

This plant is a popular choice among plant enthusiasts due to its attractive striped leaves and is generally considered an easy plant to care for because of its low maintenance requirements. Here are some care instructions to help you keep your Tradescantia Zebrina thriving:

Water

Tradescantia zebrina likes regular watering to keep its soil lightly moist. On average, water once every 7 days, though this may vary depending on factors such as humidity, temperature, and light conditions. In more humid environments, you may need to water less frequently, while in hot or dry conditions, you may need to water more often.

You can stick your finger into the top inch of the soil to check for moisture. If it feels dry to the touch, it’s time to water the plant. Another method is to check the weight of the pot. It will weigh more if it is still too wet. But this second method can be used only if you have some good experience or spend a good ammount f time with your plants.

The plant will not be happy if we water it too little or too much. Overwatering can lead to root rot, while underwatering can cause the plant to wilt or develop brown patches on its foliage. The ideal will be to maintain a healthy level of humidity, avoiding waterlogging and total drought.

When watering, ensure that you provide enough water to moisten the top inch of soil. Avoid leaving standing water in the plant pot, as this can lead to root rot. It’s recommended to use a pot with drainage holes to allow excess water to escape.

Light

Place your Tradescantia zebrina in a spot that receives bright but filtered light, ideally, near a north-facing window or a shaded area of a south-facing window. This plant benefits from 12-14 hours of light per day. If thats not possible where you live, you can supplement natural light with artificial grow lights to ensure the plant receives adequate light. When grown in low light, the silver variegation can fade and growth may also slow down.

Avoid direct sunlightas it can cause the leaves to burn and wilt. If you grow your zebrina outdoors, it is preferable to place it in a semi-shaded area to protect it from the sun’s rays. Some direct sunlight can be beneficial for the plant, but we should avoid prolonged intense exposure.

With enough light, your zebrina will bloom more and also maintain the vibrant coloration and stripes on the leaves. Its flowers are small and delicate, and although they do not stand out particularly, they will add a touch of joy and color to the plant. Insufficient light can cause the stripes to fade.

Temperature and humidity

Tradescantia zebrina prefers average to warm temperatures, ranging from 55 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit (13 to 27 degrees Celsius), although they can adapt to warmer temperatures. However, it is better to prevent them from dropping below 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius).

It prefers moderate humidity levels to maintain its lush appearance and turgor pressure. Aim for a relative humidity of 50-60% to keep the plant in its prime.
Low humidity can cause the leaves to brown, so misting the plant frequently or using a humidifier can help increase humidity levels.

Similarly, you should avoid excessive humidity, as it can lead to fungal issues and hinder the plant’s ability to breathe. If you water it properly it shouldn’t have any problems. Of course, you must be careful that the substrate does not dry completely.

Substrate

This plant is not very picky when it comes to soil requirements and can develop perfectly in a common universal substrate. However, providing the right soil conditions can help promote healthy growth and overall plant vigor.

You can opt for a well-draining soil mix that allows excess water to flow out easily. This helps prevent waterlogging and root rot, as its roots tend to rot easily. A good option is to use a well-draining potting mix specifically formulated for indoor plants. To improve drainage, you can add 20 or 30% perlite to your mix.

To retain moisture in the soil, you can consider adding a moisture retainer such as vermiculite or peat moss to the potting mix. Tradescantia zebrina prefers slightly acidic to neutral soil with a pH range of 6.0 to 7.0, so ensure that the soil pH is within this range for optimal growth.

Fertilizer

It is not strictly necessary, but you can fertilize your zebrina once a month, during its period of active growth (warm months), with a liquid fertilizer diluted in the irrigation water (it is better to reduce the dose by half to avoid the risk of overfeeding ).

The best fertilizer for Tradescantia zebrina is a well-rounded fertilizer that provides balanced nutrients. Follow the instructions on the fertilizer label for proper application rates and methods. Be careful not to over-fertilize, as this can lead to nutrient burn and damage to the plant

Tradescantia Zebrina Propagation

Tradescantia Zebrina can be propagated using several methods but most common and successful methods include stem cuttings and division.

You can root the cuttings in the water and wait for the roots to emerge or plant them directly in soil, especially if the already have aerial roots protruding at the nodes.

How to prune tradescantia zebrina

The best time to prune tradescantia zebrina is during spring and early summer, as this is when its active growth period occurs. Pruning is carried out, first of all, by removing dry branches and leaves. are then cut to encourage new growth.

Look for the thinnest, longest, and scraggliest vines that are missing leaves or have become too long and leggy and cut them back to the desired length, leaving a few inches of the vine intact. As you prune, also remove any dead or yellowing leaves to keep the plant healthy and tidy.

Discard the pruned vines and leaves properly. You can compost them if you have a compost bin or dispose of them in the green waste bin or use the leftover cuttings to propagate the plant.

Tradescantia zebrina: Common problems

Pests

Although they are not very prone to pests, tradescantias can be affected by aphids or mites, among others. It is important to check the leaves regularly for signs of infestation. If your plant has been affected by a pest, it is important that you separate it from the others as soon as possible and apply a specific treatment.

You can manually wash off the bugs with a sprayer and follow up with insecticidal soap. Sticky traps can also help monitor the pest population. If pests are in the soil, consider repotting the plant into fresh soil.

Curled up leaves

Curled leaves may mean a problem with watering or drainage. Let your plant dry out thoroughly before watering again, and make sure to check the dryness of the soil several inches down. Also consider repotting since the drainage isssue may also be related to the substrate or een the pot itself.

Loss of color

Color loss is almost always due to lack of light. Tradescantias need to be located in a very bright place to be able to grow and develop their bright colors. Without enough light, the plant will look duller.

Prolonged and intense exposure to the sun can also cause color degradation. Move your plant to a bright spot with indirect light, away from intense sunlight or heat sources.

Dry leaves

Brown and dry leaves on tradescantia are often due to lack of watering, although it can also be the opposite. This problem arises from imbalances in the humidity of the substrate. Underwatering, overwatering, or insufficient drainage.

Is Tradescantia zebrina toxic to pets?

According to the ASPCA , Tradescantia plants are mildly toxic to cats and dogs. The plant contains sap within its stems that can cause digestive issues if ingested by pets. While the leaves of the plant are usually not toxic, it is still recommended to prevent pets from consuming any part of the plant to avoid potential risks.

Symptoms of Tradescantia zebrina poisoning in pets may include vomiting, diarrhea, and lethargy. In some cases, pets may also experience dermatitis-like skin irritation if they come into contact with the plant. It is important to seek prompt veterinary care if you suspect your pet has ingested or come into contact with Tradescantia zebrina.

FAQs

What is Tradescantia Zebrina used for?

Tradescantia Zebrina, also known as Inch Plant or Wandering Jew, is commonly used as a decorative houseplant. Its trailing growth habit makes it suitable for hanging baskets, while its vibrant and variegated foliage adds aesthetic appeal to indoor spaces.

Does Tradescantia Zebrina need full sun?

While Tradescantia Zebrina prefers bright, filtered light, it does not require full sun. Placing it near a north-facing window or in a shaded area of a south-facing window is ideal. Direct sunlight should be avoided, as it can cause the leaves to burn and wilt.

Is Tradescantia Zebrina toxic to humans?

Tradescantia Zebrina is not typically toxic to humans. However, it is mildly toxic to cats and dogs. The plant contains sap within its stems that can cause digestive issues if ingested. It is recommended to prevent pets from consuming any part of the plant.

What country does Tradescantia Zebrina come from?

Tradescantia Zebrina is native to the tropical areas of southern Mexico.

What is the lifespan of Tradescantia Zebrina?

The lifespan of Tradescantia Zebrina can vary, but with proper care, it can live for several years as a houseplant. Regular maintenance, such as pruning and appropriate watering, contributes to its longevity.

What is another name for Tradescantia Zebrina?

Tradescantia Zebrina is also known by other names, including Inch Plant and Wandering Jew.

How fast do zebrina plants grow?

Tradescantia Zebrina is known for its fast growth rate. It can quickly spread and form dense mats of foliage, making it necessary to prune it from time to time to maintain its desired shape and size.

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