Tradescantia zebrina Care Guide (Inchplant)

Last Updated on May 4, 2021 by Sophie

One of the easiest to grow house plants is that of the Tradescantia zebrina, which is also known as the Inchplant thanks to its ability to vine incredibly quickly. Here’s your complete Tradescantia zebrina care guide, including watering advice, the best substrate to use and how to propagate this beautiful vining plant.

Please note that the Tradescantia zebrina is sometimes referred to as Wandering Jew (indeed this remains one of the most common nicknames for the plant). However, this is an offensive term that should be phased out of your vocabulary (and will be discussed at the bottom of this post).

The Inch plant is also known as Spiderwort and is characterised by its green and purple striped leaves which appear to glitter and sparkle when placed under direct bright light. Incredibly easy to grow and propagate, this is one of those plants which will add a beautiful pop of colour to your collection, all the while not taking too much care or effort to maintain.

The plant derives from Mexico, the Caribbean, and parts of South America, it’s worth noting that the term ‘Spiderwort’ actually refers to around 75 species of the genus Tradescantia.

Though Tradescantia zebrina is prized for its beauty as a houseplant, many other Genus of Tradescantia are regarded as a weed (quite like Oxalis Triangularis is often considered to be a weed). The flowers of this plant are purple, pink, and white, though they rarely bloom indoors.

Tradescantia zebrina


Tradescantia zebrina Plant Care & Watering Guide

Watering your Inchplant

The Inchplant doesn’t like to dry out and should be kept moist at all times. If the Tradescantia dries out between waterings, then it will soon become sad and lose many leaves, from which it will be harder for the plant to recover.

Equally, the plant, like many houseplants remains prone to root rot and so should not be allowed to sit in water as there is little chance of the plant to recover if it develops root rot. Ideally, make sure that the top inch or two of the soil is dry before rewatering the plant.

When watering your plant, it’s a good idea to occasionally also spray the leaves so as to help keep them free from dust and dirt. If you live in a small apartment like I do, then you can also bring your plants into the shower and wash their leaves off that way.

Like many indoor plants which originate from jungle environments, the Tradescantia zebrina enjoys high humidity levels. This can become a problem during the winter months when central heating can dry out the air in your home.

In order to combat this you can group plants together or mist the Tradescantia every few days. If the zebrina plant is not receiving high enough levels of humidity, then the leaves will start to go brown and crispy around the edges.

Tradescantia zebrina Care Guide

Best soil conditions for the Spiderwort

Much like other house plants, the Tradescantia zebrina does best in a well-draining soil mix which contains some organic material as well as loose rocks or sand. Though there is no perfect recipe for a substrate mix, if you want to purchase one as opposed to creating a soil mix for yourself, you can typically purchase soil mixes for indoor houseplants at your local gardening or DIY store that sells indoor plants.

When it comes to fertilising the Inchplant, the plant should be fertilised every two weeks or so during the growing season (i.e. spring and summer) due to how much growth it puts on during this period. When fertilising, make sure that the soil is not bone dry prior to fertilisation as this can lead to root burn.

Zebrina pendula

Best light conditions for the Tradescantia zebrina

Though many advertise the Tradescantia as a plant which will do well in lower light conditions, this is not necessarily the case. After all, if you want a thriving plant then you should be sure that the plant is exposed to plenty of bright, indirect light, such as an East facing window or several feet away from a South facing window.

In order to maintain the bright purple tones on the leaves, you’ll want to ensure that the plant acquires adequate sunlight. If it doesn’t then the leaves can start to lose coloration and new leaves will grow in a dull green. If this happens, make sure that the plant is placed into a brighter position immediately. 

Best light conditions for the Tradescantia zebrina

How to prune the Tradescantia zebrina

One issue that plant owners may face with the Spiderwort plant is that it becomes leggy and the vining parts of the plant can become straggly. In order to combat this, you should prune the Tradescantia zebrina in order to maintain plant health and to keep the plant looking full.

When pruning, simply cut off the ‘straggly’ looking two or three inches of the vine and make sure that at least several inches on the stem remain. Older plants will start to lose foliage at the top of the plant, close to the soil and so in order to maintain a fuller looking plant, you can propagate the pruned pieces of the zebrina plant and root them back into the bald spot of the plant.

How to prune the Tradescantia zebrina

Tradescantia zebrina Plant Propagation

Avid plant propoagtors will be delighted to discover that it is incredibly easy to propagate the Inchplant. You simply need to take a piece of the vine which is several inches long and cut it from the plant with a clean pair of tools.

Remove the bottom leaves and stick the cutting in water. Within a month or so, roots should start to form (though roots can take longer to form if the plant cutting is taken during the winter months). Once the roots of the cuttings are several inches long, you can pot up your plant into a small nursery pot with the correct soil material (discussed above).

The main key to growing a full and healthy plant is to have a lot of cuttings in the pot. What this means is placing as least five or six rooted cuttings into any new potted up Tradescantia zebrina. You should also be sure not to overwater any newly potted cuttings as the root system will be small and delicate when first planted.

Tradescantia zebrina Plant Propagation

Why you should stop referring to Tradescantia as Wandering Jew

Racism in botany is nothing new and there are many examples of this throughout the centuries. But one of the most pervasive offensive nicknames is that of the Wandering Jew, which is often used as a nickname for Tradescantia zebrina.

The term refers to an anti-semitic apocryphal myth that finds its roots in the 13th-century. The legend tells of a fictional character (who is sometimes not named but at other times referred to as Ahasuerus or Cartaphilus) mocking Jesus on the way to his crucifixion.

As a result, the Jewish man was doomed to walk the earth until the second coming. There are different versions of the story, some in which the man is a shoemaker, other times a tradesman. What is clear is that the story of the Wandering Jew was concocted so as to spread anti-Semitism in Europe throughout the Middle Ages. It was then used by the Nazi party as anti-Semite material.

As you can see, the name is incredibly offensive and so should be phased out of your vocabulary. Tradescantia can be a mouthful to say but the terms inch plant and spiderwort (common nicknames) for Tradescantia zebrina are incredibly easy to say!

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Tradescantia zebrina Care Guide (Inchplant/ Spiderwort)

About Author

Sophie Nadeau is a travel, pizza, and history lover who is currently based in Paris, France. A keen indoor gardener, she spends her time at home reading books, looking at too many dog photos, and growing an indoor jungle in her tiny flat!