Having the colorful wandering Jew at home is a sure and easy way to brighten up the room without needing to care for high-maintenance flowering plants. But for you to boost their growth and not just hang around with a couple of leaves a year, you need to take care of them properly!
Ideal growing conditions for wandering Jew plants are 1) 8-inch wide clay pots with drainage holes, 2) moist well-draining soil, 3) regular watering when the top 2 inches of soil is dry, 4) 6 hours of sunlight or 12 hours under 15W grow lights, 5) temperatures between 65–75°F, 6) humidity around 40–70%, and 7) a diluted 20-20-20 fertilizer applied 1–6 times yearly.
Although they are considerably low-maintenance houseplants, they can still die if they are not taken good care of. This is especially true for certain varieties that necessitate more specific growing conditions. So avoid wondering and worrying over why your spiderworts keep dying by familiarizing yourself with what they want and need for optimal growth!
It’s best to grow wandering Jews in clay or plastic pots that are relatively shallow but at least 8 inches wide. This allows them to grow thick and trail whether kept indoors or outdoors. The planter should have drainage holes.
As you may or may not know, the inch plant tends to trail on and off the soil it grows on. So it’s indeed normal for it to spill over pots, especially hanging baskets even when grown in optimal conditions.
However, this wandering plant still needs plenty of room in its growing container for it to anchor itself into the soil by forming roots along the nodes of its succulent stems and shoots.
Most wandering Jew or Tradescantia plants grow very thickly, reaching 2–3 feet in both length and width. Even the boat lily, Tradescantia spathacea, can grow 2 feet wide despite its upright growth.
Because of this, you’ll also need to go up by 1–2 inches once you need to repot your wandering Jew. If you don’t, you’ll be left with a scraggly spiderwort.
Now, you can also grow this trailing foliage plant in your yard if you want to add pops of color. However, be mindful when using this as a groundcover as it can grow quite wildly and become highly invasive.
Wandering Jew is considered a noxious weed not only in the southeastern region of America but also in Australia and New Zealand. So owners are strongly recommended to keep it controlled in a container even when placed in gardens.
Additionally, if you live in a drier area, opt for plastic pots as they help retain moisture in the soil. On the other hand, home gardeners living in more humid areas can grow their inch plants in clay pots to allow for good drainage and aeration.
Either way, make sure that your spiderwort has at least one drainage hole to prevent water from standing in the pot, which could result in root rot. You will also want a catch plate so the excess water won’t come spilling out of the planter.
Most wandering Jew varieties and cultivars can tolerate a wide range of soil conditions. They can grow in sandy, loamy, and clay soils that are acidic, neutral, or alkaline. Regardless, their soil is best kept moist yet well-draining.
The wandering Jew, unlike many other houseplants, is not picky when it comes to the soil it likes to grow on. It grows fast almost anywhere, from mountainous regions to coastal areas all around the Americas—starting from Canada, going all the way down to South America.
However, there is a difference between surviving in a corner of your house with little water and light and thriving producing lush purple and green leaves. Who doesn’t love to let their inch plant shine?
When grown as an indoor plant, however, you can use ordinary ready-to-use potting mixes for houseplant for your wandering Jew. I personally like this organic mix from Amazon.
Still, there are a few big no-nos if you want to keep a wandering Jew happy and healthy in the soil. First, it doesn’t tolerate soil well. Besides that, it doesn’t like constantly wet soil.
Does adding rocks at the bottom of pots prevent waterlogged soil? Let’s find out!
As such, make sure to check the soil condition of your inch plant from time to time. Otherwise, you may only notice that something’s wrong once it has already started wilting significantly.
Prevent your soil from becoming too wet by choosing mixes containing perlite and vermiculite. You can also add them to your regular soil mix. Alternatively, you can go soil-free to virtually eliminate all chances of getting and spreading soil-borne diseases.
Pro Tip: Many houseplants, including wandering Jew plants, do well with soil-less growing mediums composed of 60% sphagnum moss, 20% perlite, and another 20% vermiculite.
As it is a moderately drought-tolerant foliage plant, the wandering Jew plant must only be watered once the top 1–2 inches of its soil has dried out. If unsure, then it’s recommended not to water it.
Similar to how it is with soil, the wandering Jew isn’t fussy with water either. If you really want to get into it, you can use regular tap water, well water, distilled water, rainwater, and even melted snow.
Moreover, chlorine and fluorine in city water are generally harmless to plants. But if you want to be 100% certain, check with your local provider.
All it asks for is evenly moist soil that will let its roots grow well and strong. You can do so by using a slender-spouted watering can like this copper one from Amazon. This will help you avoid getting the foliage excessively wet.
Find out what to look for in our article on choosing the right watering can!
Having said that, it’s important to never let spiderworts in either condition wilt. On the other hand, it should never be left to stand in water—which is why it’s best to go for relatively shallow pots over deep ones.
You will have to adjust your watering frequency based on several factors such as:
- Wandering Jew size
- Container size and material
- Type and amount of light received
- Average local temperature
- Overall humidity
For instance, inch plants grown with sandy soils and hotter temperatures require more frequent watering. Conversely, ones in clay soils and cooler temperatures need less water.
Outdoors, wandering Jew grows best with about 6 hours of direct or partial sunlight each day but it can survive with 4 hours a day if only for winter months. When grown indoors, it can be placed near east or west-facing windows or under LED grow lights that are at least 15–30W.
The vibrant purple, green, and yellow hues of your wandering Jew can be improved and maintained with proper lighting.
Generally, these beautiful colors become more intense as it gets more direct sunlight exposure. At the same time, however, harsh sunlight—as is normal in southern states like Florida—can also cause the wonderful colors of the inch plant to fade.
In other words, you want to strike the perfect balance between the two, especially with wandering Jew plants kept outdoors. But don’t worry, I won’t leave the guesswork to you!
Give your wandering Jew plants about 2–6 hours of full or partial sun exposure before moving them to shadier areas in your garden, balcony, or patio.
Providing wandering Jew plants with some shade prevents them from growing too aggressively and becoming invasive. Even indoors, artificial shading can make it more manageable!
For potted wandering Jews kept indoors, however, a good full-spectrum LED grow light with a power rating between 15 to 30 Watts will be necessary for good growth. Just place the grow light about 1–2ft above the top-most part of the plant and adjust the height as it grows.
Want to see how plants develop under grow lights vs sunlight? We tested it!
To ensure that the light stays on for 12–14 hours, you can use an electric timer. Remember to also regularly rotate the pot so that it won’t become leggy or lopsided.
The wandering Jew plant thrives with moderate cool to warm temperatures, around 65–75°F. It tends to become very weedy in sustained warm temperatures.
Many newbie home gardeners may find it surprising that spiderwort grows quite well with cool temperatures of 65°F or 18°C as it is widely known to be native to Mexico a hot country. In reality, however, you can also find native species from southern Canada to the United States.
As such, it can live and grow even in relatively cool regions. But in such cases, they are best kept indoors where their growing environment can be better monitored and kept regulated.
Simply put, you wouldn’t need to worry much about your wandering Jew dying from extreme cold if you have a working thermostat along with reliable space heaters.
You see, a wide variety of inch plants can be grown in USDA plant hardiness zones 4–12. Certain species though are less hardy. For instance, T. fluminensis thrives in zones 9–12, T. ohiensis in 4–9, and T. pallida in 7–11.
Living in cooler regions? Check out the 8 best plants to grow in zone 5!
On the other hand, it can also handle heat quite well. Although it’s ideal to keep the temperature around it at 75°F or 23°C, the wandering Jew can tolerate even higher temps.
Despite its seemingly restricted temperature tolerance, wandering Jew can be grown from Alaska all the way down to Hawaii. Just remember that it can become invasive in hotter areas.
To put things into an even more broad perspective, its tolerance to not only varying temperatures. Wandering Jews can also withstand different growing conditions. All of these combined have allowed it to become naturalized in virtually all parts of the globe.
Keep moderate to high humidity levels of 40–70% to promote growth in wandering Jew plants. Doing so can help prevent pest problems.
Considering that I just told you they do well in cool climates may confuse you with what I’ll be saying now if it’s new information for you. Sure, cool temperatures normally equate to dry air while warm temperatures correspond with humid air.
But it’s important to keep in mind that these factors naturally fluctuate through seasons and even a single day.
Plus, taking into account that most people grow spiderwort as potted indoor plants, the relation between temperature and humidity isn’t always as linear.
Having said all that, inch plants thrive with high humidity of up to about 70%. This is in line with the fact that they do well in humid climate zones.
Once you notice the tips of your wandering Jew leaves are turning brown, it’s a sign that it isn’t getting enough humility. So turn it up using a room humidifier because regular misting could do more harm than good for this foliage plant. You could also put it in the bathroom!
By increasing the humidity to at least 40%, you can prevent pests such as spider mites from feasting on and killing your otherwise lush and thriving inch plant. Alongside boosting humidity, make sure to also provide sufficient ventilation for your plants.
Wandering Jaw plants do not require fertilizer to survive for many years. However, the application of one can dramatically boost growth. Apply a 20-20-20 liquid fertilizer for wandering Jew once every 2 months to once a year in the summer months. Dilute 1 1/2 teaspoons of fertilizer will 1 gallon of water.
One thing I want you to keep in mind as we end this article is that the wandering Jew plant isn’t a heavy feeder it only needs 1–6 yearly applications of complete fertilizers like the one below from Amazon. It’s mostly content with optimal lighting, temperature, and humidity.
More importantly, overfertilizing your inch plant could lead to very serious consequences—which does include plant death. The thing is, the wandering Jew has a very low tolerance for salt in its growing medium. So you should also water it before fertilizing.
Oftentimes, the accumulation of salt in the soil is a result of too much fertilizer and frequent bottom-watering which can lead to:
- Stunted development
- Discolored leaf tips
- Leaf dropping
- Damaged roots
So although I gave you a general rule to go by above, I still strongly advise you to double-check the instructions for the fertilizer you’ll be using to be absolutely certain.
When your wandering Jew plants start becoming unruly as a result of regular feeding, get your pruning shears and cut away excess stems. But don’t throw them out.
Instead, propagate them for even more plants which you can give out to fellow plant lovers—heck, send them this care guide too!
Find out the different ways to do this in our article on wandering Jew propagation!
I have a few wandering Jews myself and I honestly never fertilized them. They are doing fine (not thriving by any means) but such a plant is not demanding. So, no worries if you can’t fertilize it. It will still survive as long as its lighting and watering are right!
How long can wandering Jew plants live?
In warm regions, with climates similar to their native habitats, the wandering Jew is an evergreen perennial plant—meaning it can live on and continue growing for several years or indefinitely. However, when grown and kept in much colder and drier areas, the spiderwort lives as an annual plant dying after just one growing season.
What are the common pests of wandering Jew plants?
Common pests of wandering Jew plants include aphids, caterpillars, deer, mealybugs, rabbits, scales, slugs, snails, spider mites, and vine weevils. They can seriously damage spiderwort shoots, especially young ones. However, some species are more resistant to pest damage than others. For example, purple spiderwort, T. pallida, is resistant to deer.
Is spiderwort poisonous?
Spiderwort, also known as wandering Jew or inch plant, can be poisonous to humans, cats, dogs, and horses. It will mostly only cause contact dermatitis possibility due to oxalate crystals in its leaves. However, the Tradescantia spathacea, in particular, can be moderately toxic when it is eaten in large amounts, causing severe stomach pains.
Summary of How to Care for Wandering Jew
The wandering Jew is a fast-growing low-maintenance plant that can survive a wide variety of growing conditions. However, it grows best in even moist well-draining soils container in shallow but at least 8-inch wide clay or plastic pots. It must be watered once the top 2 inches of the growing medium has become dry.
If grown outdoors, the wandering Jew thrives with 6 hours of direct or partial sunlight. Conversely, it needs 12 hours of artificial light indoors from 15–30W LED grow lamps.
Wandering Jew plants grow well with moderate temperatures at 65–75°F or 18–23°C and considerably high humidity of 40–70%. For feeding, it only needs occasional application—as seldom as once per year—of a diluted water-soluble complete fertilizer after it is watered.
- “Tradescantia” by n/a in N.C. Cooperative Extension
- “Tradescantia” by Leonard Perry in Perry’s Perennial Pages
- “Zebrina pendula wandering jew” by Edward F. Gilman in University of Florida IFAS Extension
- “Caring for Houseplants” by n/a in University of Missouri Extension
- “Indoor plants – Cleaning, fertilizing, containers & light requirements” by Debbie Shaughnessy and Al Pertuit in Clemson University Cooperative Extension