9 Reasons Why Wandering Jew Drop Leaves (With Solutions!)

One of the features I love the most of tradescantias is their striking foliage, especially varieties that are variegated. So as you can imagine, it’s never a fun experience to see a wandering Jew plant lose its leaves!

A wandering Jew plant will generally drop and lose leaves because of 1) overwatering, 2) underwatering, 3) low humidity, 4) high temperatures, 5) low humidity, 6) excess light, 7) lack of light, 8) overfertilization, and 9) insufficient nutrients.

Ever wondered whether it is normal for a wandering Jew plant to drop its leaves? Well then, you’re in luck because I have the answer to your question and much more!

1. Overwatering

Once overwatered, the leaves of a wandering Jew plant will begin turning yellow from the base and it will readily drop, especially when touched.

Though it’s only one of the many causes of leaf drops in tradescantias, it is also one of the most common reasons—even more so for potted indoor plants.

You see, overwatering can lead to a lot of other problems that can result in rather serious issues for your lovely inch plant.

Overwatering can result in waterlogged soils which reduce the oxygen in the soil, making the plant more prone to developing diseases such as root rot. It also makes the plant weaker, causing leaf drops. This is also exacerbated by soil compaction over the months.

Because of this inch plants that are affected by overwatering may also fail to put out their dainty little blooms. They will, instead, likely collapse on themselves.


Check that the drainage holes of your potted wandering Jew plants are not clogged. If they are, remove the roots and debris blocking the hole to allow for drainage. This is important especially if the planter has very small drainage holes (a few millimeters in diameter).

Be very mindful of watering as well. Always check the soil with your finger or a wooden chopstick to see whether the top 2 inches (5 cm) of the soil has already dried. Only water the spiderwort then.

2. Underwatering

When it is left underwatered, the wandering Jew plant will start becoming leggy alongside leaf dropping.

Despite being relatively drought-tolerant, leaving the soil of the inch plant to dry out for far too long as a result of extreme underwatering will cause it to lose its once-healthy leaves.

Keep in mind that even though it requires well-draining soil, its growing should never become bone-dry.

Most, if not all, spiderwort plants thrive in moist soil. In other words, underwatering can be incredibly damaging for them in the long run.

Underwatered tradescantias not only start losing leaves, but those left on their succulent stems will also begin displaying burnt tips, and they will soon become spindly and unruly.

Discover other common reasons behind leggy inch plants! 


Create a good watering schedule for your wandering Jew to avoid underwatering it. It will require more frequent watering in summer and little to no water in the winter when dormant.

When the top 2 inches (5 cm) of its growing medium is already dry, water it enough until all the excess water spills out of the drainage hole.

3. Low Humidity

The wandering Jew plant can drop and lose leaves when the humidity level around it drops way below 40% for extended periods. Avoid very dry places with little to no air circulation as a sunny windowsill.

Different native species of tradescantias can be found across the Americas—from north to south. So they can thrive in a wide variety of growing environments.

For the most part, however, tradescantia plants need a moderately humid environment of at least 40–50% to grow strong and lush.

Otherwise, the lower leaves of the inch plant will turn yellow and easily drop, with or without direct contact. Their tissue may also start becoming brown by their tips and edges.

Why does spiderwort turn brown? Find out now! 

This can happen pretty fast when they are instantly moved from one place to another, especially when there are vast differences in the growing conditions, including humidity.

Leaf drops can also be expected as the seasons change, as with drier cold air during the fall and winter months. In such cases, leaf drops are normal and new growth can be expected by spring.

Even air conditioning indoors during hot summer days can greatly dry up the air around your inch plant.


When moving wandering Jew plants from one place to another, do so gradually to avoid shocking the plant.

Furthermore, one can use a room humidifier or water-and-pebble tray to boost humidity around the plant. It can also be grouped together with other tropical plants to create a more humid microclimate in the house.

4. High Temperatures

Excessively high temperatures above 86°F or 30°C can cause long-term damage to wandering Jew leaves that will eventually be dropped. Hence, exposure to intense summer sunlight, especially during noon, should be avoided.

Sure, most tradescantias are considered tropical plants. However, this doesn’t mean that they like insanely hot weather all day every day.

Having hot air directly blowing on your inch plant can cause leaf browning and dropping. It may even cause your plant to die if the heat is intense enough.

Dropped Dry Brown Leaves From My Inch Plant
Dropped Dry Brown Leaves From My Inch Plant

As such, it won’t be a good idea to place them near radiators, heating vents, or any other heat source—whether or not it has an open flame.

Keep in mind that such areas are likely to have dry air as well, which as I’ve already explained can be detrimental to the growth of this plant.

In fact, continuous exposure to high heat can stop the growth of your inch plant!


Monitor the temperature in the area you’re growing your wandering Jew plant.

The temperature needs to stay within the 65–75°F (18–23°C) range for rapid but healthy development.

Placing it in shadier areas can also help keep it cool during very hot summer days.

5. Low Temperatures

After being exposed to freezing temperatures below 50ºF, wandering Jew plants are at risk of dropping leaves, growing leggy, sustaining frost injuries, and stunting.

Even though some species native to North America, like smooth spiderwort (Tradescantia ohiensis), can withstand cooler weather, they still don’t handle frost all that well.

So if your potted spiderwort is outside by your garden or porch, they are at risk of dropping leaves when left unprotected as fall sets in with much cooler day and night temperatures.

Wandering Jew Drops Leaves in Low Temperature
Wandering Jew Drops Leaves in Low Temperature

But keep in mind that more cold-tolerant varieties like the smooth spiderwort—which is hardy to zones 4–9—can still lose leaves as a natural consequence of the change in season.

Learn more about their ideal growing conditions in our care guide for tradescantia! 

The plant can also become dull overall as it enters a period of dormancy while the environment around it is still not conducive for active growth.

However, the spiderwort will put out new shoots and leaves again when spring comes!


When bringing wandering Jew plants in containers grown outdoors inside the house to overwinter, don’t directly bring them indoors.

How to Bring Your Plants Inside to Overwinter! 🌿// Garden Answer

Rather, slowly move it from outdoors to indoors day by day to avoid shocking the plant from the drastic changes to its growing environment.

6. Excess Light

Stress caused by excessive exposure to direct and intense light can lead to foliage burns and leaf dropping.

Generous sunlight exposure can help boost your spiderwort’s growth, regardless if it’s planted in a container or directly in the ground.

Too much intense sunlight, however, can be detrimental to your plant’s development.

Wandering Jew cuttings are at even greater risk of failing with uncontrolled exposure to intense light, be it natural or artificial.

Oftentimes, diffused sunlight will provide enough light and brightness for the plant to continue growing its root system, stems, and leaves.

Inch plants may also bloom under such conditions.


Wandering Jew plants can do well with as little as 2 hours of morning sun exposure every day when it is neither too hot nor too intense.

This resilient plant can also survive with deep shade or little to no direct sunlight exposure.

7. Lack of Light

If it does not receive enough light, the wandering Jew plant will grow weak and develop yellow leaves that can easily drop.

The yellowing will first appear from the lower leaves of your wandering Jew plant, so you might not notice that something’s wrong until even the top leaves are weak and ready to drop.

When abruptly given very little light, its leaves can lose not only their vibrant green color but also their variegation. The stems may also start branching out by their nodes and break easily.

My Potted Spiderwort Branching Indoors
My Potted Spiderwort Branching Indoors

This can easily happen when tradescantia is moved from a high-light environment to a low-light space.

For instance, a lush tradescantia that’s moved from a greenhouse to a dark corner of your office within a day can start dropping leave immediately. They just don’t do well with sudden changes.

It needs enough time to adjust so that even if it does drop a few leaves here and there, your inch plant will still look full and lively.


Stretch out the process of moving a wandering Jew plant from a high-light to a low-light environment over 1 week. This will give it more time to adjust without adverse effects.

Also, consider buying a grow light to provide supplemental lighting if you’re keeping it indoors, especially if it gets almost no direct light exposure at all.

Check out other plants that can be grown in partial shade! 

8. Overfertilization

Salt accumulation resulting from applying too much fertilizer on a wandering Jew plant will cause lead dropping.

Here’s the deal, inch plants aren’t heavy feeders. I have even witnessed some Tradescantia zebrina produce cute purple flowers without any fertilizer application whatsoever.

My own inch plants, as well as those grown by my friends, have been prolific growers without being fed regularly.

At best, the over-fertilized tradescantia will have stunted growth, discolored leaf tips, and easy-to-drop leaves.

But in worst-case scenarios, inch plants that have been fed too many fertilizers too often could have seriously damaged roots and wilt before they finally die.


Application of diluted fertilizer solutions only during spring and summer months is recommended as doing is less likely to cause fertilizer burn as well.

Only fertilize the wandering Jew plant up to 6 times per year. Then, when you notice white salt buildup in potted plants, thoroughly wash it out with water. Excess water on the catch plate should be discarded.

9. Insufficient Nutrients

General yellowing, weakening, and leaf dropping in wandering Jew plants can be caused by insufficient nutrients in their soil. Often, nitrogen is the solution.

I placed this at the very last because home gardeners should first asses whether the first 8 reasons I have explained could be the cause behind their inch plan losing foliage.

Plus, in the case that it could be due to overfertilization, you wouldn’t want to add more plant nutrients and cause even worse damage, right?

As such, if all other growing conditions have been accounted for and are ideal for bushy and rapid-growing spiderwort and it’s still dropping leaves, it may be due to lacking nutrients.

Inch Plant Leaf Dropping Due to Lack of Nutrients
Inch Plant Leaf Dropping Due to Lack of Nutrients

Other than losing foliage, discoloration and weakness can also indicate a need for feeding this plant some fertilizer.


Feed the plant with either a nitrogen-rich or a balanced fertilizer when it shows active growth during the spring and summer months.

If grown as a houseplant, it typically won’t need to be fertilized any more frequently than once every 2 months or so.


Does a wandering Jew come back every year?

The wandering Jew can come back every year provided that environmental conditions, including temperature and humidity, are favorable for its growth. It is also relatively easy to grow wandering Jew plants as perennial houseplants because they are low-maintenance. When, however, damaged by frost outdoors, it may die off completely.

How often should you water a tradescantia?

There is no perfect watering schedule for tradescantia as its needs will depend on many other factors such as temperature. If, for instance, the temperature exceeds 86°F (30°C) in sweltering summer months, it can be water 4-7 times a week. But during freezing winters, it can survive with no water at all. In general, its soil must simply remain moist.

Summary of Causes of Wandering Jew Dropping Leaves

Although seasonal leaf dropping in wandering Jew plants due to factors such as lower humidity and colder temperatures is considered normal, not taking precautionary steps to prevent further damage can result in the plant’s death.

Other common reasons why wandering Jew plants lose leaves include too much water, too little water, very high temperatures, excess exposure to direct light, insufficient exposure to direct light, overfertilizing, and not fertilizing enough.


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