Wandering Jew (Tradescantia Zebrina)

The Wandering Jew plant is a perfect addition to most types of vivariums. Known for its resilience and easy-going attitude, this plant is extremely flexible and great for any level hobbyist. This vine is an awesome plant for those looking to add a dash of color without introducing more difficulty. Today’s article will take a closer look at Wandering Jew, providing a complete understanding and care guide to growing one.

Quick Stats:

Scientific Name: Tradescantia zebrina

Family: Commelinaceae

Common Names: Inch Plant, Cockroach Grass, Purple Wandering Jew, Silver Inch Plant, Striped Trad, Striped Wandering Creeper, Striped Wandering Jew, Wandering Zebrina, Zebra Plant

Habitat: Tropical

Height: 6in

PH Range: 5.0 to 6.0

Temperature: 60°F to 80°F

What Is A Wandering Jew Plant?

Wandering Jew is an easy, fast-growing plant known for its distinct leaf coloration. It is a very popular houseplant in the Commelinaceae family, also known as spiderwort. There are several other similar species of plants that also use the common name Wandering Jew. However, this one can be distinguished by its variegated purplish-green leaves.

Wandering Jew is often described as a succulent like trailing, stemmed plant. In other words, it falls under the category of vines. A vine can be defined as any plant with a growth habit of creeping or trailing stems. It is extremely tough and will thrive in almost any situation when grown indoors.

Wandering Jew (Tradescantia Zebrina) Care Guide

Wandering Jew Facts

Wandering Jew is botanically called Tradescantia zebrina. As mentioned before, the name Wandering Jew is used for a number of different plant species under the Tradescantia genus. This genus is made up of at least 75 different perennial species. Some are seen as obnoxious weeds, some are cherished as outdoor garden plants, and three of them are mostly coveted indoor house plants. These are the ones generally known as wandering Jew plants. The genus name was given in honor of John Tradescant and his son John Tradescant. They were both botanists and successive gardeners to Charles I of England. Meanwhile, the specific “zebrina” epithet simply means zebra-striped.

Common names of these vines include Inch plant, Wandering Jew, Cockroach Grass, Purple Wandering Jew, Silver Inch Plant, Silvery Inch Plant, Striped Trad, Striped Wandering Creeper, Striped Wandering Jew, Wandering Zebrina, Zebra Plant, and Zebrina. The common names of the plant were given to it due to its ability to grow and spread extremely quickly. In fact, the plant will need very little care or aid from humans in order to thrive.

The Inch Plant name is more of a play on words. The idea comes from the plant stem’s ability to grow approximately an inch every week, and the skill to propagate itself using only an inch of its stem.

Description

Most varieties of Wandering Jew are very similar and share most of the same characteristics. They are vining plants that have eye-catching zebra-patterned leaves. The top side of the leaf will have a variegated look of purple, green, and two thick silver stripes aligned to the central axis. Purple coloration will represent new growth, while the green marks the older growth. The underside of every leave will be a consistent plum color.

The leaves are bluish-green, thin, oval, fuzzy, and about 2 inches long. They produce clusters of small, three-petaled flowers in spring and summer. The flowers are usually purple-pink colored. Overall, Tradescantia zebrina is a low lying, succulent like perennial known for forming dense mats. Its foliage will usually grow up to 6 feet tall, and crawl to 2 feet wide or more.

Habitat

Wandering Jew is a species of plant native to the Gulf Coast region of eastern Mexico, which includes Central America and Colombia. However, it can also be found in Belize, Panama, El Salvador, and even the Caribbean Islands. Throughout the years, it has also been naturalized and adapted in parts of South America, Australia, numerous oceanic islands, Africa, and Asia. So, it can pretty much be found all around the world.

In the wild, this vine can be seen growing in bushes in the rainforest and wetland. It will often be found growing on stones in open and shaded areas or riverbanks with elevations of 2000 meters or less. Wandering Jew is not frost-tolerant and likes to grow in a constantly warm temperature between 60 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. The colder the temperature, the slower that the plant will grow and propagate.  Anything below 50 degrees will damage the leaves and ultimately kill the plant.

PH Preference

The PH level of soil measures the relative acidity or alkalinity based on a scale of about 0 to 14. A PH of 7 represents neutral levels, meaning neither acidic nor alkaline. Even though the hypothetical range of PH is actually a lot wider, when it comes to plants the range used is typically between 4 (highly acidic) and 10 (highly alkaline).

Most plants grown indoors prefer neutral to slightly acidic PH levels of around 6.5. However, the vast majority of them will tolerate a variance of a few points. Wandering Jew falls right around those ranges. The ideal PH for the plant’s success will range anywhere between 5.0 and 6.0, but it will tolerate a slight difference.

Vivarium Type

Tradescantia zebrina will do quite well in a variety of vivarium types. Even though there is no one set enclosure that it must grow in, some will be better fitting for the plant’s needs. The best and easiest way to decide on the perfect enclosure will be to keep in mind the plant’s natural habitat. Be sure to go with setups that have tropical, but well-drained terrestrial areas. Here are recommended vivariums it will do well in:

  • Paludariums – Half aquatic/ half terrain-based enclosure.
  • Terrariums – Fully terrain-based enclosure with little to no aquatic features.

Vivarium Placement

Wandering Jew is a very versatile plant when it comes to placement. Where exactly the plant is placed in a vivarium will be up to the person growing it. However, there are certain setups that will showcase its beautiful foliage better. For instance, placing the vine towards the top of the enclosure in a bucket like structure will allow it to freely cascade down. This will create what looks like a lush curtain of vines and leaves full of vivid colors.

Another option would be to place the plant all the way down. Its dense growing habit will allow Tradescantia zebrina to cover the ground in a carpet like fashion. Also, two things to keep in mind with the placement of the Wandering Jew are lighting and humidity. First, make sure that the plant is always above water. With that being said, it will require a good amount of humidity and light to properly grow and thrive. Make sure that where ever the vine is being placed, it is able to receive both.

Substrate

Wandering Jew prefers moist, yet well-drained substrate. A peat-based soil mix is usually the number one recommendation. Try mixing 2 parts peat and 1-part perlite or sand. The peat moss will help maintain dampness in the soil, while the perlite or sand will ensure there is proper drainage. Commercial potting soil can also be ideal as long as the sand is added for drainage support. Waterlogged or soggy soil can lead to rotting roots and eventually the plant’s death.

Lighting

Tradescantia zebrina will need bright, but indirect sunlight in order to thrive. The plant will need plenty of light in order to keep its variegated and vivid colors.  If it does not receive enough light, then the purple and silver coloring of the leaves will begin to fade. On the other hand, if too much light is provided, especially direct sunlight, the leaves will end up scorching. Fortunately, the issue of too much lighting is not something to worry about when growing in a vivarium. It is basically only caused by excessively exposed locations outside during midsummer. Seasons won’t really matter inside an enclosure.

When setting up lights inside of a vivarium LED or fluorescent lights will do the trick just fine. Try to go for cooler colors that resemble a bright, but shaded day. This will assure the plant is receiving all the light it needs, without being harmed. You might also want to avoid any strong UVB lights since they will replicate direct sunlight.

Buy Wandering Jew

Wandering Jew is a fairly common houseplant and should be pretty easy to find in local stores or online. Either way, there are a few key indicators you should be on the lookout for. These will make sure you are buying the best quality plant. The plant should be insect free along with any other types of pest. In addition, the purchased plant should be green, vibrant, and healthy-looking. Try to avoid any yellowing or wilting leaves. Those are usually signs of poor health and could make it harder for the plant to survive. Click the image below to find out more about the current price and other relative info of this plant:

Wandering Jew Care and Propagation

Wandering Jew is a very easy-going plant. Overall, they will not be too demanding when it comes to their upkeep. However, there are still a few guidelines that should always be followed. Tradescantia zebrina should always be provided with ample indirect light, high humidity, and proper drainage to reach its full potential. As long as those needs are met, there is not much more to worry about. This will help guarantee the plant always maintains its healthy, lush, and vivid look.

How to grow

Wandering Jew plants can all be easily propagated through the use of stem cuttings. The plant has an extremely high success rate of 98% when it comes to regrowth. Simply take a healthy adult plant and cut 4-6 inches off the top of the stem containing at least one leaf. The new pieces should then be re-planted somewhere moist and warm in order to grow. Make sure to also water well and then just watch it sprout away.

Watering

As to be expected with most hardy plants, Wandering Jew can cope quite well with some droughts and a little waterlogging from time to time. Do not make such a careless watering approach a habit though. Even though this plant is very tough, it will still begin to deteriorate if it is consistently neglected. Tradescantia zebrina prefers to be watered moderately.

The plant appreciates moist soil, at least during its growing period where it grows so quickly it uses a lot of water. An easy way to know whether or not the Wandering Jew should be watered is by dipping your finder in the topsoil and feeling for moisture. Keep an eye out for limp stems, since they are usually a sign that the vine is lacking water.

Plants Similar To Wandering Jew

When adding different types of vivarium plants, it is important to make sure that they can all co-exist. There is no use in finding all these beautiful vegetation if they all have different care requirements. Sooner than later, some of the plants will end up dying if placed in the same enclosure. One way to avoid this would be by finding similar plants to the Wandering Jew.

As mentioned before, there are a few different varieties of Wandering Jew. Although they will all be slightly different in appearance, their requirements will be almost identical. Choosing to incorporate some of those variations will help provide diversity to the tank, while also making sure that all plants will easily coexist… Here are some other vine plants you might find may do well with or in the place of Tradescantia zebrina:

Asparagus Fern (Asparagus Aethiopicus)
English Ivy (Hedera Helix)
Aluminum Plant (Pilea Cadierei)

Conclusion

Overall, the Wandering Jew is a great addition to most vivariums with terrestrial features. Whether you are just getting started or simply looking for something new to add to your planted tank, this vine will not disappoint. I would consider this plant as a beginners’ level when it comes to care and reproduction. It can tolerate a wide variety of conditions and does not require a lot of attention. To top it off, this plants’ quick growth and vivid color will help bring life and attention to otherwise neglected areas. Have you ever used Wandering Jew in your vivarium? What was your experience like?