How to Propagate Wandering Jew or Spiderwort (Tradescantia) Plants: Cuttings, Division, and Seeds

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Tradescantia, commonly called Wandering Jew or Spiderwort, is a beautiful versatile houseplant genus that can bring colorful foliage and texture to any indoor space. These plants originate from tropical and subtropical regions, but have become worldwide favorites to grow inside due to their low-maintenance nature.

These plants can have a mounding, trailing, or tangled mat-like habit depending on the species, and can be easily propagated through cuttings, division, and seeds. Each method has its own advantages and disadvatages. Let’s explore each method and the recommended varieties for successful propagation.

Propagation through Cuttings:

Taking stem cuttings is arguably the simplest and most common propagation technique for wandering Jew plants. In spring or summer, select 4-6 inch sections of new growth stems, removing leaves from the bottom half.

Make sure you are using sharp pruning shears sterilized with rubbing alcohol to make clean cuts and also take stem cuttings that contain leaves and nodes. You can also trim the leaves of the cutting, leaving only 2 or 3 small ones at the top to focus energy on root growth.

Soil Propagation

Root cuttings directly in a pot of moist soilless mix in a warm spot with indirect sun. Roots will emerge within 2-4 weeks. Here, the roots tend to establish more quickly allowing cuttings to be potted up faster. Additionally, the plants may adapt easier when transplanted since their roots developed in a soil environment.

Planting directly in a potting mix also requires less maintenance than water propping- you just insert the stems and wait.

However, there is a higher risk of stem rot if the soil stays too moist without good drainage. It is also harder to monitor root growth without being able to see below the soil line. Fungal issues are also more common. Fungal issues are also more common.

Water Propagation

You can also root cuttings in water, changing it every few days. Once well-rooted plantlets develop, transplant each cutting to its own small pot. Within months you’ll have a bounty of new wandering jews from just a few starter cuttings!

The major advantage of water propagation is that it allows you to easily observe root development without disturbing the plant. Cuttings are also less likely to be damaged when transplanting since their fragile new roots weren’t disturbed.

The downside is that requires a lot of work to change the water. The cuttings are prone to bacterial growth in the water if not changed frequently enough. The roots may be more delicate initially once transplanted, requiring extra care.

Recommended varieties for propagation through cuttings:

  • Tradescantia zebrina (Purple Wandering Jew)
  • Tradescantia fluminensis (Small-Leaf Spiderwort)
  • Tradescantia pallida (Purple Heart)
  • Tradescantia Nanouk (Fantasy Venice)
  • Tradescantia Pink Panther (Callisia repens “Pink Panther”)

Propagation through Division

Division involves separating a mature Wandering Jew plant and its roots into smaller sections. This method allows you to quickly obtain a sizable plant but it can be labor-intensive and may cause damage to the plant.

Above-ground runners refer to the long, trailing stems that grow horizontally along the soil surface. Species like Tradescantia zebrina are especially prolific at producing these runners, which develop their own root structures as they spread outward from the mother plant.

When dividing runners, you’re essentially harvesting established sections that have grown independently from the main clump. These can be gently pulled or cut away with roots still attached, then replanted as their own individual plants.

Root clumps form at the base of the mother plant as it sends out vertical shoots and stems that fill in beneath the soil over time. Species like Tradescantia pallida are good examples.

To divide a root clump, you dig up the entire clump and use your hands or a sharp knife to gently separate it into smaller crowns containing stems, leaves and their own portion of the root mass. Each new division is then replanted.

Recommended varieties for propagation through division:

  • Tradescantia zebrina (Purple Wandering Jew)
  • Tradescantia spathacea (Moses in the Cradle)
  • Tradescantia fluminensis (Small-Leaf Spiderwort)
  • Tradescantia virginiana (Virginia Spiderwort)
  • Tradescantia sillamontana (White Velvet)
  • Tradescantia ohiensis (Ohio Spiderwort)

Propagation through Seeds

While less common, Wandering Jew can also be propagated from seeds. Allowing flowers to fully develop seeds provides a genetic refresh, though seed starting takes more patience.

Come late summer, stalks hold upright seed pods packed with tiny seeds. Once dried and brown, lightly rub open seed pods over a paper to catch released seeds.

Sow seeds directly onto a moist soil surface and cover lightly with a fine layer of vermiculite or potting mix. Seeds need light and warm 70°F temperatures to germinate within 14-21 days.

Thin seedlings to 4 inches apart once true leaves emerge. Overwinter young plants for transplanting as houseplants the following spring.

Recommended varieties for propagation through seeds:

  • Tradescantia virginiana (Virginia Spiderwort)
  • Tradescantia sillamontana (White Velvet)
  • Tradescantia ohiensis (Ohio Spiderwort)
  • Tradescantia zebrina (Purple Wandering Jew)
  • Tradescantia spathacea (Moses in the Cradle)
  • Tradescantia fluminensis (Small-Leaf Spiderwort)
  • Tradescantia zebrina (Purple Wandering Jew)
  • Tradescantia fluminensis (Small-Leaf Spiderwort)
  • Tradescantia pallida (Purple Heart)

Tips for Successful Propagation

Here are some top tips for the successful propagation of your Wandering Jew Plant (Tradescantia):

  • Use stem cuttings from healthy, actively growing plants free from pests/disease. Cut just below a node.
  • Remove lower leaves so cuttings don’t expend energy on full leaves before rooting.
  • Use a sterile tool to avoid spreading contamination. Disinfect between cuttings.
  • For divisions, cut or separate entire root crowns with their own roots/stems intact.
  • Maintain warm 70-80°F temperatures to speed rooting. Provide humidity by ziplocking or using a propagator dome.
  • Change water daily for water propagation, disinfecting container between uses.
  • Use a well-draining soilless mix for soil propagation. Aim for consistent moisture without sogginess.
  • Monitor cuttings closely for signs of rotting. Repot/change water if they yellow/wilt excessively.
  • New growth indicates success! Rooted cuttings may take months to adjust after transplanting.
  • Time division for spring/summer when plants are actively growing to reduce shock.
  • Label everything clearly to track different varieties as they develop.

Patience is key with propagation projects. Following these best practices will help your wandering jew cuttings, divisions and seeds thrive so you can enjoy multiplying your plant collection!

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