How to Propagate Wandering Jew (4 Ways With Tips!)
True to its name, the wandering Jew is a plant that tends to spread quite wildly unless pruned regularly. So if you want to have more pots and hanging baskets filled with its gorgeous foliage without buying new ones from the nursery, use those pruned stems for propagation!
A wandering Jew plant can easily be propagated by 1) soil, 2) water, 3) division or 4) air layering. This plant is most commonly propagated using 4-inch stem cuttings with leaves and nodes which root quickly. Roots can start developing from the nodes within 2–14 days, while new shoots will grow after at least 1 month.
Most people think that the wandering Jew can only be propagated using cuttings—the conventional way. However, there are actually other less common ways this can be done. If you are a garden geek like us, you probably know some of them. But do you know all of them?
1. Soil Propagation (5 Steps)
More often than not, herbaceous wandering Jew cuttings are propagated in soil. This is done by 1) selecting a healthy stem with leaves, 2) cutting at least 4 inches of stem below the node, 3) trimming the leaves from the lower half, 4) preparing the medium-filled propagating container, and 5) placing the cutting 1 inch into the rooting medium.
If you’ve ever experienced propagating other houseplants such as pothos and peperomias, then you’re probably familiar with how to do this already.
Still, I encourage you to go over these simple steps to propagating wandering Jew (Tradescantia spp.)—also known as spiderwort and inch plant. Doing so will help you remember important details that could help you avoid failure!
1. Select the Stem
For successful propagation, carefully check the parent plant and select stems from the wandering Jew shoots that have the best condition and color.
Now, I know that many people think that just getting any stem will do for propagation. However, it’s important to keep in mind that this can not only affect the success of propagation but also the development of the cuttings in the long run.
Propagating plants like wandering Jew from cuttings will result in new plants that are identical to their parent plants. In other words, growing new plants from healthy stocks will produce good-quality clones!
You want to look for shoots that are not mushy. It might sound weird but wandering Jew stems are naturally tender but firm. Unlike other plants, they don’t have woody stems because they are succulent plants.
The leaves on them should be full and have vibrant colors—be it green, yellow, purple, pink, white, or a mix of all that. As much as possible, don’t use stems with discolored leaves.
Pro Tip: Use gardening gloves while checking wandering Jew for the perfect cuttings to prevent contact dermatitis.
Closely inspect each stem for possible pests that you might not be able to notice at first glance. If necessary, you could use a Jeweler’s loupe or magnifying glass to really see whether unwanted guests are living in your spiderwort.
2. Cut the Stem
With an ideally sterilized or clean knife or gardening scissors, cut 4–6 inches of wandering Jew stem below a node at roughly a 45° angle. A single cutting should have 2 nodes and 4–6 leaves.
Regardless of the exact tool you’re going to use, it’s crucial to make sure it’s completely clean before using it to get cuttings from your parent wandering Jew plant. Otherwise, you may unknowingly spread or introduce diseases and pests.
Pro Tip: Sterilize knives and scissors by dipping them in 70% isopropyl alcohol. Then, you could either let them air dry or pat them dry yourself before using finally using them.
This does not apply if you, like myself, just end up using your kitchen scissors (as for my indoor plants I am often in a rush). Those scissors should not carry any plant-affecting disease.
Find out other ways to properly clean garden tools in our article on cleaning after root rot.
For this step, you should keep your gloves on since the sap can be especially irritating. You don’t want it to come into contact with your skin.
Then, you could start cutting away as much of the tips or sections of the stem as needed. Some only take 2–3-inch (5–7 cm) cuttings of wandering Jew plants. Tips and section stem cutting will both work for spiderwort.
However, experts recommend having all cuttings that are a minimum of 4 inches (10 cm) long for higher chances of successful propagation.
At least 2 nodes should be present in each cutting because that’s where the roots will grow from. There should also be at least 2 leaves left to allow for the cuttings to continue growing thanks to photosynthesis even after they are separated from their parent plants.
3. Trim the Leaves
Trim the leaves from the bottom half of all wandering Jew cuttings while making sure to leave at least 2–3 leaves at the top half of the stems. These leaves will allow the plant to still convert sunlight into energy and growth.
Over the years, I’ve been told to do this and so I simply follow it. But more recently, I found out that there was actually an important reason behind this.
I mean, sure—having several leaves will generally ensure quick rooting in plants. However, too much of anything can be a bad thing. This is true for fresh cuttings with tons of leaves as well.
Keeping all the leaves on spiderwort cuttings, especially really lush and bushy ones, will result in excessive water loss. As a result, the cuttings may quickly wilt and go to waste.
This happens because plants lose a lot of the water they absorb through their leaves. During the early stages, it’s important to prevent this as much as possible since the cuttings can die from losing too much water—even more so in dry environments.
But don’t worry, the solution to this is pretty easy!
As a good rule of thumb, all inch plant cuttings should have the leftover leaves from their bottom half (2–3 inches or 5–7 cm) removed with clean pruning shears.
Leave 2 cuttings at the very list so that the cuttings can still photosynthesize after they are severed from their stock plants. Doing otherwise could result in wasted time and effort as a leafless wandering Jew cutting is likely to wilt and die.
4. Place Cutting in Soil
Clean 3–4 plastic pots should be filled with ideally but not necessarily sterilized propagation medium such as moss, perlite, and soil. Leave 0.5–1 inch of space below the rim to avoid spillage.
To be clear, you don’t have to buy brand-new nursery pots every single time you want or need to propagate plants. You can simply reuse old ones after cleaning them thoroughly.
Some even use recycled plastic cups and other similar containers such as yogurt cups, plastic cups, bottom halves of water bottles, etc. Do not be afraid to reuse old material hanging around your place!
However, if you don’t have any extra pots at home I recommend getting this pack of small 4-inch (10 cm) nursery pots with drainage holes and humidity dome covers from Amazon!
Others have also been able to have several cuttings root quickly even when several are planted in bigger 6–8-inch (15–20 cm) wide pots. So just do what’s best for your time and budget!
More importantly, you want to create a good growing medium so that your wandering Jew cuttings will root and grow well. Don’t just use regular potting soil which provides way more nutrients than necessary for a very young plant that’s starting from a cutting.
Rather, home gardeners should strive to create a propagating medium that allows for good aeration, drainage, and moisture retention. Oftentimes, a mix of peat moss, perlite, and soil works great to encourage rooting at the nodes.
When you’re not sure of whether the medium is sterile or not, just moisten it and lay it on a baking tray. Then let it heat up to about 150–200°F (65–93° C) for at least 30 minutes.
Discover other methods in our article on 8 ways to sterilize soil!
5. Place Cutting in Soil
Insert the wandering Jew cutting at least 1 inch deep into the moistened propagating medium. Then, lightly press the soil around it to ensure that it can stand on its own.
Normally, you’ll hear many people recommend applying rooting hormone at the ends of your cuttings. However, this isn’t necessary for wandering Jew cuttings since they will root quickly without it.
Also, it’s best to let the basal stems of certain species—like the T, fluminensis, T. zebrina, and T. padilla—dry and callus over for 1–3 days before continuing with this step.
If, however, your inch plant doesn’t need to scab over where it was cut from the parent plant, you can go ahead and lightly water the propagating medium so that it becomes moist.
Remember, the role of your propagating medium—whatever it may be—is to not only support wandering Jew cuttings but to also keep it adequately moist. So if you don’t water it beforehand, the cutting will wilt just a few days after being put into the soil.
Your spiderwort cutting should be inserted by more or less 1–2 inches (2–5 cm) into the medium so it can stand by itself. Gently pat down the soil around the cutting to help it stay in place.
Once you’re done with everything, you can expect roots to start growing in as little as only a week—provided that it is kept with ideal growing conditions.
Learn how to grow mature plants in our care guide for wandering Jew.
2. Water Propagation (4 Steps)
Similar to soil propagation, herbaceous wandering Jew cuttings are needed for water propagation. Do so by 1) selecting healthy stems, 2) cutting a 4-inch stem below the node, 3) trimming leaves from the bottom half, and 4) placing the cutting into a container filled with clean lukewarm water.
Propagating spiderwort cuttings in water isn’t really that much different from propagating them in soil. However, there are key differences between the two. Learn more about this as you continue scrolling through the article!
1. Select the Stem
Although you can virtually propagate any stem you prune off the parent plant, they won’t have equal chances at successful propagation.
Check your parent wandering jew plant to pick out the shoots with the best growth. Only select tender but firm shoots to take cuttings from. Their leaves should also be in good condition and color.
2. Cut the Stem
Using regular gardening scissors, collect wandering Jew stem tips or sections that are 4–6 inches (10–15 cm) long by cutting each one at a 45° angle below the lowest node.
Ideally, each cutting should have 2 nodes in total and about 4–6 leaves along the entire stem. However, it’s better to have most if not all the stems by the top half.
3. Trim the Leaves
Remove excess leaves from the lower half of all your wandering Jew cuttings. This is important for preventing excessive water loss as the cuttings cannot properly absorb water until they grow roots.
Again, it’s best to have most if not all leaves by the top half of the cutting so they don’t sit on water and rot during the propagation period.
4. Place Cutting in Water
Wandering Jew cuttings propagated in water are best kept in narrow-mouthed containers for support. This prevents them from getting fully submerged in water.
For this method, you don’t really need to use any “special” water such as distilled water which can be bought by the gallon. More often than not, regular room-temperature tap water can be used.
If, however, you want to be extra careful, you can simply use dechlorinated or filtered tap water. Rainwater will do quite well too if you have any stored at home.
Personally, I think sterilized old glass bottles are the best containers to use for water propagation. Their narrow mouths are wide enough to let the lower half of wandering jew cuttings come into contact with water.
At the same time, the narrow mouths of glass bottles prevent the colorful foliage of inch plants from drowning and rotting in water. Remember, you only want to keep the nodes underwater for rooting, not the entire cutting.
Just keep in mind to regularly top off or replace the water as well to prevent the buildup of bacteria and other nasty—probably harmful—microorganisms in your propagation water. Do so every 1–3 days.
When you’re done with all that, you can start seeing root growth from the nodes in as little as 2–4 days. However, it’s best to let a cutting’s root system fully develop for a couple of weeks before transplanting it into a soil-filled pot.
Alternatively, water-propagated wandering Jew cuttings can be grown permanently in water to avoid transplant shock. This is possible through hydroponic systems like the simple Kratky method.
3. Propagating by Division (4 Steps)
Propagate mature wandering Jew plants using division during spring by 1) completely taking out the plant from the pot, 2) gently sectioning it off by 1–3 shoots, 3) trimming each division, and 4) placing each division in individual containers.
What many people seem to be unaware of is that the beautiful wandering Jew plant can be propagated without taking cuttings and waiting for them to root. In fact, a single spiderwort can be readily divided into multiple rooted plants!
1. Take Out the Entire Plant
Carefully ease the wandering jew, along with its well-developed root system, out of its original container. Don’t just pull it out with brute force!
This is most easily done with plastic pots as they can be repeatedly—but softly—squeezed until the root and soil inside have loosened up. Others have also used butter knives to loosen potted inch plants from their containers by scraping them against the inner walls.
Either way, as mentioned earlier, it’s best to wear gardening gloves while doing this. It will help you avoid suffering from skin irritation.
2. Divide by the Roots
Using your hands, gently pull apart the clumps of soil and spiderwort roots you’ve unearthed from the pot. Remember to do this only after the wandering Jew comes out for a period of activity. Simply put, it’s best to divide wandering jew plants for propagation during spring.
To avoid having all these messing up your home, I suggest dividing your spiderwort in the garden, garage, or inside a collapsible plastic playpen or kiddie pool.
Even a simple old baking tray will do well in catching all the loose dirt and plant material that will accumulate as you work on sectioning out your wandering Jew. Each section should ideally have 1–3 shoots or stems and as many roots retained as possible.
If you still can’t properly divide each section with your gloved hands alone, you can either use a clean knife or spade. Just be careful not to damage too many roots.
3. Trim Each Division
Afterwards, clean up each section by trimming away discolored and dry foliage. Normally, you’ll find these by the lower half of your wandering Jew sections.
When you spot any flowers, it’s best to pinch them off as well. A lot of tradescantia plants are actually sterile and don’t produce seeds. Besides that, varieties and cultivars that do produce seeds from their blooms don’t always grow plants that resemble their parent plants.
So it’s better to remove unnecessary flowers while your spiderwort sections are still recovering. In doing so, the divisions can redirect their energy from flowering to growing.
4. Place Divisions in Separate Containers
Finally, you can plant each wandering Jew division in its own container so that it has plenty of room for growth.
When the nodes of wandering Jew plants meet the soil, they will start growing roots there and develop new shoots to produce bushier inch plants.
Alternatively, you can simply grow a bunch of the sections, a few inches apart, directly in your yard or in a big shallow planter. This will make it look fuller and denser instantly.
4. Propagating by Air Layering (4 Steps)
A wandering Jew plant can be propagated through air layering by 1), selecting a good stem section with 1–2 leafless nodes 2), wrapping moist long fiber moss around the nodes 3) securing moss layer with plastic and strings, 4) cutting the rooted section after 1–2 months, and 5) planting it in a new pot.
Though it’s more commonly used for propagating woody plants and trees that are best grown outdoors, it’s possible to also air layer houseplants like wandering Jews!
Now, some may view this method as troublesome but most experienced home gardeners say that all the hassle is worth the end result. That said, if you think this will take too much time and effort, you can just do any of the earlier techniques I’ve already discussed.
1. Select a Stem Section
When you can, try to find leafless nodes on the shoots of your spiderwort plant. This helps you do away with trimming vibrant leaves that are already in perfect condition.
If you can’t find bare nodes, you’ll have to trim off leaves from 1–2 inches (2–5 cm) above and below the node.
In comparison to layering trees and other plants with woody stems, air layering wandering Jew doesn’t require you to wound the plant at all. The inch plant readily roots as long as its nodes are constantly touching a moist medium. Rooting powder is not even needed!
Plus, a great advantage to air layering is that you can guarantee successful propagation of wandering Jew with little to no risks.
Unlike propagation using cuttings, air-layered foliage plants are unlike to fail. They won’t suffer from water stress and significant carbohydrate loss since they are still connected to the stock plant while forming roots.
2. Wrap Moss Around Node
Rather than going for cut-up sphagnum moss, I suggest you buy dried long-fiber moss instead. Choosing moss with longer strands will allow you to easily wrap them around the node completely.
I recommend this 2-pound bale of dried sphagnum moss from Amazon.
Before you do that, make sure to properly rehydrate the moss you’ll be using first. You can use regular tap water for this as well. Then, squeeze out all the excess water to prevent the plant’s stem from getting too wet.
Once you start wrapping moist moss around the moss, continue until one or two nodes are completely covered by about 0.5–1-inch (1–2 cm) thick layer of moss all around.
3. Secure Moss With Plastic
Despite what other people may make you think, you don’t really need to buy expensive gardening tools and equipment to properly air-layer your wandering Jew.
To ensure constant contact between the node and moist moss, they should be snuggly secured together using a regular clean plastic bag. You can also use some plastic cling wrap. After that, use some strings or twist ties to keep it in place.
But make should this won’t be too difficult to undo because you will need to remoisten the moss regularly. Otherwise, no root will develop on the nodes.
If you do have the money for it, you can opt to use air layering pods (here on Amazon) instead. When we consider long-term use, they may even be the most cost-effective as they can be cleaned and reused multiple times without any issues whatsoever.
4. Cut Rooted Stem Section
In a couple of weeks, you’ll be able to see roots grow from the nodes through the clear plastic wrapped around the stem section’s node. But don’t be in a hurry to cut it.
Wait for about 1–2 months until the root system of your sectioned wandering Jew stem is relatively established. Then, unwrap the plastic and gently remove the moss surrounding the node and the roots.
Using clean pruning shears, cut off the air-layered spiderwort shoot below the developed root ball of the stem section. You also want to softly lift the roots so that you can trim the excess stem hidden within the root ball.
5. Plant in New Pot
After cleanly cutting off the air-layered stem section along with the formed root ball, the propagated wandering Jew plant can now be planted and grown in its very own pot.
But to ensure that it doesn’t wilt after being separated from the mother plant, keep the newly potted spiderwort section loosely covered with a clear plastic bag for a whole week or so.
This will act as a mini growing tent to maintain moderate to high humidity for the developing plant.
3 Important Care Tips for Rooting Wandering Jew Cuttings
Wandering Jew cuttings should be provided with 1) diffused light from southern windows, 2) warm temperatures between 70–75°F, and 3) 60% humidity. These conditions should be maintained while the spiderwort cuttings are rooting.
I’ve heard some say that light is not necessary for good rooting. However, this is not true. Rooting wandering Jew cuttings do well with bright but diffused indirect light. This can be replicated indoors by placing your cuttings near south-facing windows.
Providing little to no light to propagating wandering Jew cuttings will result in slow rooting. Conversely, intense and direct sunlight exposure will cause leaves to burn or drop.
Keeping the rotting medium warm and no colder than 70°F or 21°C using seedling heat mats will also encourage rapid rooting for this colorful foliage plant.
While maintaining warm temperatures for your inch plant warm, it’s also important to provide relatively high humidity to keep the medium moist. The medium should never dry out completely during this period.
That said, you don’t want to cut off airflow completely. Otherwise, the cuttings may start rotting away. So when you place a plastic cover for humidity retention, make sure to air it out every now and then.
If you keep all of these things in mind while you propagate your own inch plant at home, you can expect to see new succulent shoots and colorful leaves growing after 1–2 months.
When should you get wandering Jew cuttings?
Herbaceous stem cuttings from wandering Jew plants are best taken during seasons when it’s actively growing. More specifically, wandering Jews are best propagated from cuttings anytime between spring and summer. If possible, the parent plant should also be watered the day before cuttings are taken from it.
Can you propagate a wandering Jew from just a leaf?
Wandering Jew plants cannot be propagated from leaves alone. Propagating from the leaf alone will only be a wasteful failure as it does not grow roots from its leaves. Generally, a cutting with at least 1 node along with 1 set of leaves is needed for propagation as roots grow from that area of the wandering Jew.
Do wandering Jew plants like to be rootbound?
Contrary to popular belief, wandering Jew—and any other plant for that matter—does not like being root or pot-bound. Rather, it will require repotting. Plants that are typically grown in containers such as wandering Jew experience stunted growth when root-bound. More importantly, root-bound plants are more susceptible to root rot and plant death.
How fast do wandering Jew plants grow?
Wandering Jew is a creeping perennial plant that most experts consider fast-growing. However, some varieties and cultivars may have more rapid growth than others. It is estimated that this plant can grow up to approximately 1 inch (2 cm) per 1–2 weeks, earning its other nickname—the inch plant. Propagated cuttings typically root within a week too.
Summary of How to Propagate Wandering Jew
Wandering Jew plants can easily be propagated using stem tip or section cuttings left to root in either a soil-based growing medium or clean lukewarm water. These are the most popular and common ways of propagation for inch plants.
To ensure the successful growth of more mature wandering Jew sections after propagation, home gardeners can opt to divide or air-layer established plants instead. New inch plants obtained from such methods are less likely to die compared to cuttings.
If grown in an environment with diffused light, warm temperatures, and relatively high humidity, wandering Jew cuttings can grow roots from their nodes within 2 weeks. Well-kept cuttings are also likely to develop new shoots and leaves 1–2 months after propagation.
- “Tradescantia” by n/a in N.C. Cooperative Extension
- “Ornamental Production” by n/a in Aggie Horticulture
- “Home Propagation of Houseplants” by n/a in University of Missouri Extension
- “Propagating Houseplants” by Gerald Klingaman and Janet Carson in University of Arkansas System Extension
- “Plant Propagation” by Susan M. Bell in University of Idaho Extension