Can Wandering Jew Survive Outside in Summer? I Tested It!
I’ve always heard people saying that placing wandering Jew plants outside during summer can help them grow better. However, I always wondered: is it really true? Well, I just did it for you! I love doing plant experiments and sharing the results with all my readers!
A wandering Jew plant that is left outdoors in the summer with partial shade can 1) grow twice its size even faster and 2) have improved coloration within just 1 month. Except for small-leaf spiderwort, most tradescantias can also be grown or transplanted outdoors in the ground within zones 5–8 as a ground cover.
As much as some people would like you to believe that you can keep them in a dark corner of your room forever, wandering Jew plants actually thrive in full sun in cool weather. But there are some things you need to consider before doing this. Learn more below!
Wandering Jew Plant Sample
In this 4-week experiment, I chose a very bushy pot of wandering Jew plant to ensure its survival despite the change in its environment.
This is an established plant that I have been keeping indoors ever since I had them. All of its stems are sturdy and growing mostly upright, full of colorful hairy leaves.
At the end of each stem, you can also clearly see new growth. So, yes—I’d say I did a pretty great job at looking after and keeping this lovely tradescantia healthy and lush. I mean just look at it!
Just like the rest of my inch plants, I had this one in a relatively thick black plastic pot with numerous tiny drainage holes at the bottom. It measures around 8 inches (20 cm) in diameter and 6 inches (15 cm) in depth.
While I still had it indoors, I kept it by a southwest-facing window so it was getting lots of light. I also made sure to its soil moist by watering it whenever the top inch or so went dry.
It’s also worth mentioning that its growing medium is a mix of packaged potting soil and some coco coir, perlite, and vermicast. Meaning, it retains moisture well without getting easily compacted or waterlogged!
Learn about your different options in our article on growing mediums!
Experiment Setup for Drying Out the Wandering Jew Plant
A lush pot of wandering Jew plant was placed under the shade of two large trees by the southwest portion of the garden for 1 summer month. Outdoor air temperatures ranged between 77–97°F (25–36°C) while humidity was around 40–100%. Watering was done whenever the topmost inch of soil was dry and skipped whenever it rained.
In this case, I didn’t really have to wait for at least a week before bringing my potted tradescantia outdoors since I’ve been keeping it in our stairwell.
For context, the stairwell in our complex is pretty open so the conditions in there were basically the same as it was outside. Plus, it was already warm out for a couple of months before I started this so there was unlikely for my spiderwort to experience shock.
There have been times when summer temps can reach 100–105°F (38–41°C) in my area (much like in Florida and Texas).
As such, I opted to place the potted plant under some trees. Otherwise, the tradescantia would burn with full sun and such high temperatures.
Check out how bad the damage can get in our experiment on drying out inch plants!
Thankfully, the highest it got during this experiment was only 97°F (36°C).
Nevertheless, by keeping the plants under the protection of tree foliage, they received at least 2–6 hours of dappled sunlight. In short, it wasn’t completely kept under heavy shade.
On some days, it became pretty cloudy in the afternoon. There were also days when we got some light to heavy rains for a couple of hours. So there were a few times when I didn’t have to water it for a couple of days during the whole experiment.
The Experiment Results: Dried Wandering Jew Plants
Within the first week of bringing a potted wandering Jew plant outside in a partially shaded area during summer, the plant noticeably started spreading out. At the end of the 4-week experiment, the plant grew by about 1 ft (30 cm) with its longest stems trailing down and rooting at several nodes. Its foliage has also become more vibrant.
You know, I honestly knew that wandering Jew plants can thrive even when grown outside during the heat of summer. Provided, of course, that it’s properly cared for.
But I definitely didn’t expect to see such drastic changes in my beautiful wandering Jew plant in just a single month!
Week 1: Spreading Out
A few days into the experiment, I already noticed how my very compact pot of wandering Jew plant started spreading out more.
Its taller stems, which have become rather top-heavy from all their leaves and new growth, started leaning toward the edge of the pot. This happened all around the tradescantia, and not just one side.
Some were even leaning on the wall behind the pot, either looking for more soil to grow on or something that can support them.
Under natural lighting, I realized that the leaves of the wandering Jew plant I previously kept indoors had a lighter coloration than I initially thought.
Week 2: Trailing Down
By the second week of the summer experiment, I rotated the pot of wandering Jew plant I had placed outdoors under partial shade. Its color has obviously deepened a lot.
Once I turned it, I noticed that the longest stems in the pot stretched out a lot more. In fact, it seems that some have already grown at least twice as long as they originally were.
They trailed down the pot and were starting to creep across the gravel underneath them, likely in search of more soil to latch onto for growth.
Week 3: Rooting at Nodes
I rotated my potted inch plant again for the third week of the experiment and noted rooting at several nodes.
Besides that, it’s also grown a lot more scraggly. However, as you can see from the pictures, it isn’t sparse at all. It’s still quite full and the color has deepened even more.
Got a thin plant with few leaves? Learn how to fix leggy spiderwort!
Even from up close, you’ll see little to no sign of the soil underneath all of the variegated foliage.
Week 4: Final Results, Doubled in Size!
Entering the last week of the experiment, I was really happy with how much bigger my pot of wandering Jew grew outdoors with some dappled lighting under the trees.
It basically doubled in size! Before the experiment started, my inch plant was barely even over 8 inches (20 cm) wide. Now, it’s grown to more or less 2 feet (60 cm).
All of the stems that were spilling out of the pot had multiple longer roots on the nodes touching the ground—even though it’s topped with gravel.
The color of the leaves, both on top and underneath, also improved quite a lot. The variegation was much clearer even when it was cloudy outside.
How to Safely Move Your Wandering Jew Plant Outdoors
Safely move potted wandering Jew houseplants outdoors by gradually providing them with more light around spring or summer, when the temperatures warm up to at least 65–70°F (18–21°C). Never place them under full sun exposure straight away. This is called “hardening”.
All tropical plants—wandering Jew, included—that are commonly grown as houseplants across the northern hemisphere will benefit from some time outdoors.
Don’t suddenly just leave it out in the afternoon soon in the middle of summer. Your beloved houseplant might not be able to survive such a drastic change in its environment.
In cooler areas, you can actually give your wandering Jew plant full sun exposure during spring and summer. You’re likely to see more of its tiny flowers with such conditions.
However, it’s best to move them to a much shadier area first, say, under a tree or two. Then, slowly expose them to more and more direct sunlight. Doing so will give them enough time to adjust.
Light from a bright sun-lit window indoors is comparable to the amount of light a plant will get from underneath high-trimmed trees during summer.
Just keep in mind that you’ll have to water it more often outdoors, especially with more sun exposure and higher temperatures.
Dreaming of a massive inch plant? Follow our care guide!
Should You Plant Wandering Jew Outside in the Ground?
Wandering Jew plants can be planted directly in the ground outdoors as groundcover year-round in tropical and subtropical regions. However, certain species, like the Tradescantia fluminensis, are considered invasive in Florida and New Zealand.
Small leaf spiderwort (Tradescantia fluminensis) has a creeping habit which helps it readily root at the nodes. It can get incredibly weedy in warm climates.
Even when they get cut up, they can still easily spread and propagate on their own. Because of this, they are best grown in containers to prevent them from smothering native plant life.
But if you live anywhere else in the US—from zones 8–12—consider selecting another variety instead of this incredibly weedy one.
Go for a Tradescantia zebrina, like mine, to give your garden an interesting pop of color. You could also get some Tradescantia pallida for its bold purple foliage and shoots.
5 Ways to Manage Wandering Jew Plants
The following measures can help manage invasive wandering Jew plants and prevent weedy growth by
- Growing them in contained spaces like border beds
- Discarding or propagating pruned fragments
- Plant native plants to help keep control spread
- Remove unwanted runners immediately
- Apply some 1–2% triclopyr as herbicide
It’s really hard to control the aggressive growth of Tradescantia fluminensis once it’s been established in the ground.
So work smarter and not harder by proactively keeping them manageable, instead of only trying to get rid of the once they’ve become overgrown.
How long can wandering Jews stay outside?
Wandering Jew plants can stay outside as groundcover or container plants all year long in areas such as Florida where there are no harsh winters, from zones 8 to 12. In cooler areas, from zones 4–7, it’s best to only bring potted wandering Jew plants outdoors during spring and summer, once the weather has warmed. Bring them indoors before the first frost.
Can wandering Jew live outside in winter?
Unless air temperatures stay above 60–65°F (16–18°C) in winter, a tropical plant like wandering Jew can’t live outside. Once temperatures dip below 50°F (10°C), tradescantias are likely to become yellow, leggy, and eventually die due to chilling injury caused by frost and low temperatures.
Summary of Can Wandering Jew Plants Survive Outside
When brought outdoors, during hot summer months under partial shade from trees, a healthy and compact pot of wandering Jew plant can grow twice as large in just a month. The color of its foliage also becomes more vivid, with its variegation more distinct.
In warmer regions, it’s best to only give wandering Jew plants partial shade to prevent sunburn. But in cooler regions, they can be placed under full sun for several hours each day with little to no browning and drying of their leaves and stems.
- “Tradescantia fluminensis” by n/a in University of Florida, IFAS Extension
- “Tradescantia zebrina” by Susan Mahr in the Wisconsin Master Gardener
- “Give Your Houseplants a Summer Vacation” by n/a in Cornell University Cooperative Extension, Nassau County
- “Indoor Plants – Moving Plants Indoors & Outdoors” by Debbie Shaughnessy and Al Pertuit in the Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service
- “Care of Houseplants” by Gerald Klingaman and Janet Carson in the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, Cooperative Extension Service
- “Early Detection News – July 2018” by n/a in National Park Service