How I Saved Dying Wandering Jew Plant (It’s So Easy!)

As it turns out, the thought of saving dying wandering Jew plants is a lot more overwhelming for others—so much so that they considering buying new ones instead. But I don’t want you to do that! Save your lovely plant and your budget by helping your burnt spiderwort recover!

A dying wandering Jew plant that was sunburnt and not watered for a few weeks can recover within the first week of revival. It needs to be 1) moved to an area with partial shade or dappled sunlight, 2) watered thoroughly and deeply, and 3) trimmed for a full recovery. In 1 month, it will have improved coloration, new growth, and double in size.

Many people think that it’s much easier to kill a plant than it is to revive it. I do somewhat agree with that. However, with such a hardy plant like the wandering Jew, recovery isn’t as impossible as some make it out to be. It can bounce back in just a few weeks!

Burnt Wandering Jew Plant Sample

Now, if you’ve been reading our articles for a few months now, you’ll remember that I previously took the liberty to see how fast inch plants can suffer after being left in the sun.

Yeah, I know—I damage my own plants! But that’s the only way to show you what a plant sunburnt really looks like. At the end of the day, we want you to learn and nothing beat an experiment!

As you can see from the pictures I took, it was pretty much dead.

The stress from not being watered as well as getting exposed to direct afternoon sunlight and temperatures over 86°F (30°C) almost killed my potted tradescantia.

What My Burnt, Dying Wandering Jew Looks Like
What My Burnt, Dying Wandering Jew Looks Like

More than half of the entire plant dried up and died completely from the harsh experiment conditions we had before.

Only the lower-lying stems around the rim of the 8-inch thick plastic pot were left hanging on to their dear life.

See how it all went down in our experiment article on drying out inch plants!

Even the leaves and stems that survived, however, were noticeably not in great health. Many have weakened and gotten very pale—even their once-vibrant purple underside lost its color.

Besides the obvious yellowing and browning of the leftover leaves, there’s also clear curling on them. Much of the new growth has entirely burned off as well.

Experiment Setup for Saving Dying Wandering Jew Plant

Considering the previous experiment we did, this most recent experiment was done with the objective of understanding how to revive dying wandering Jew plants. From the results, I hope to encourage other home gardeners not to give up on saving their plants too soon.

The dry and damaged potted wandering Jew plant was moved under a tree in the southwest part of the garden. It was only getting 1–4 hours of dappled sunlight. During the 1-month experiment, the temperature was around 79–97°F (26–36°C) and humidity was about 40–99%. It was watered whenever the top 2 inches of soil was dry.

I was planning to slowly revive my heavily sunburnt inch plant outdoors and not indoors to avoid shocking it too much.

Considering how bad its condition already was, I wanted to avoid putting more unnecessary stress on it which could further make it worse and prolong its journey to recovery.

Dying Wandering Jew Plant Moved to Partial Shade
Dying Wandering Jew Plant Moved to Partial Shade

So I didn’t want to put it too close to the tree trunk where it would mostly stay in the shade with little to no direct sun. It still needs some light to recuperate and produce new growth. But, at the same time, it still had plenty of protection against the intense afternoon sun.

Providing shade during such hot days—which was 97°F or 36°C for the whole month—is also important when it comes to protecting this plant.

Review the ideal conditions for growing sprawling tradescantias!

During the last two weeks, it was pretty rainy so I didn’t even have to water it myself. Overall, the humidity also stayed way above 40% so it drying out again wasn’t a worry.

How I Revived a Dying Wandering Jew Plant: The Results!

At the start of the experiment, the dying wandering Jew plant was moved to the shade and watered deeply before the dead and deteriorating leaves and stems were cut off. By the second week, it already had numerous new shoots and leaves growing on the surviving stems. In the end, the wandering Jew plant recovered with better coloration and growth.

This hardy beauty definitely exceeded my expectations again and again. I honestly thought that it would take at least 2 months for it to fully recover seeing as it was in really poor condition beforehand.

So if you have a tradescantia that was in a similar condition, be more optimistic. Don’t go to the nursery immediately and give your suffering little plant baby some love!

Week 1: Perking Up

After taking out my heavily damaged wandering Jew plant out of the sun, I left it alone for one whole day before finally watering it deeply.

By watering it deeply, I mean watering it two times in a row a few hours after each one early in the morning to make sure it can absorb all the water it needs. Each time, I made sure to let all the excess water drip out of the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot.

With just these two things alone, my once-dying tradescantia already looked much better and healthier in just a few days.

Week 1 of Saving Wandering Jew Experiment – What a Recovering Plant Looks Like
Week 1 of Saving Wandering Jew Experiment – What a Recovering Plant Looks Like

After that, I gave it another full day for a break before doing anything else to avoid shocking it. This includes trimming it because cutting it back by more than half can be very stressful.

Cut Off Dead Tradescantia Leaves and Stems, Save Healthy Shoots
Cut Off Dead Tradescantia Leaves and Stems, Save Healthy Shoots

Only after that did I finally get rid of all the dead and dying plant parts. I opted to directly pull out completely dried, discolored, dead shoots and then carefully cut the curly browning ones.

When you find considerably healthy stem portions with leaves intact and some roots growing on them, then save them and plant them back into the pot.

Week 2: Recovering, Branching

Just looking at my recovering inch plant from afar, there’s definitely some improvement. It looks bushier than before, the leaves look well-hydrated, and the color is more vivid.

What a Recovering Inch Plant Looks Like After 2 Weeks
What a Recovering Inch Plant Looks Like After 2 Weeks

However, if you look deeper into the pot, you’ll notice that it’s still relatively sparse. The lower parts of the stems have very little leaves left on them.

On the bright side though, I’ve spotted lots of new growth.

Week 2 of Saving Wandering Jew Experiment – New Growth
Week 2 of Saving Wandering Jew Experiment – New Growth

I’ve seen leaves growing from the terminal ends I’ve trimmed, while I’ve noticed several branching shoots forming along the old stems.

Week 3: Growing Great

By the end of the 3-week mark, my once almost-decimated tradescantia looks almost bushy!

Looking at it from certain angles, some of its stems look leggy from its earlier loss of leaves. Some of the earlier branching shoots, however, help make it much fuller than it actually is.

Week 3 of Saving Wandering Jew Experiment – Lots of Colorful Baby Leaves
Week 3 of Saving Wandering Jew Experiment – Lots of Colorful Baby Leaves

It’s noticeably been growing quite well, with most of its terminal ends now covered with new baby leaves.

The violet tint to its more mature as well as its younger leaves has also returned somewhat.

Week 4: Final Results, Improving Color & Condition

It may not look the best in this picture, but my tradescantia which was on the verge of dying completely just a few weeks ago grew by almost 50%—if not more—by the end of this little experiment.

Week 4 of Saving Wandering Jew Experiment – Full Recovery
Week 4 of Saving Wandering Jew Experiment – Full Recovery

Because of the ways its stems have stretched out in search of more light, as it is in partial shade, it does seem a bit sparse. Trust me though, it’s grown a lot!

The violet stripes on the topside of the leaves are markedly more violet and the contrast between the variegated colors is much more striking too.

Saving Wandering Jew Plant Experiment – Before and After
Saving Wandering Jew Plant Experiment – Before and After

Here, you can a clear—massive—difference between what my dying wandering Jew plant was like before and after I tried to save it.

Revived Dying Wandering Jew Plant
Revived Dying Wandering Jew Plant

7 Tips to Save a Dying Sun-Burnt Wandering Jew Plant

Now, just to be clear, things can go wrong if you go about reviving your dying heavily sun-damaged wandering Jew plant. As such it’s important to remember the following tips.

Save sun-burnt wandering Jew plants with:

  1. Watering—deeply water soil until it has fully moistened but don’t overwater after.
  2. Mulching—add a 2–3-inch layer of organic or plastic material to retain soil moisture.
  3. Weeding—get rid of any weeds that may have made their way into the soil as they will compete for resources like water and nutrients.
  4. Pruning—remove the dead parts will force it to grow new shoots and leaves.
  5. Shading—when no shady spot is available a shade cloth can help protect it from harsh sunlight and keep it about 10 degrees cooler.
  6. Amending—mix in some organic material to help the soil hold water better.
  7. Repotting—move your plant into a thicker light-colored plastic container if you still want to have it outdoors in the sun afterward.

In the event that you’re only able to save a few healthy stems, cut them off and propagate them separately in smaller containers or together in a slightly bigger pot.

Tradescantia Rehab | Propagating a whole new plant

At the end of the day, what I want you to remember from this simple little experiment of mine is that some dead leaves and shoots don’t make your inch plant a goner.

With enough time and your wonderful care, it’s quite easy and quick to save a dying tradescantia!

If you want to safely grow wandering Jew plants outdoors in summer, do it safely!


Should I cut my dying wandering jew back?

If there has been extensive damage on a wandering Jew plant, all the injured parts can be cut back to prevent further deterioration and also induce new growth. Doing so early in the spring or sometime around will help the plant recover as it grows actively during the season.

Why are the leaves on my Tradescantia zebrina turning brown and crispy?

The leaves of a Tradescantia zebrina can turn brown and crispy due to various reasons. However, one of the most common causes is excessive sun exposure, especially on very hot and dry days. Worst-case scenario, they will burn and die off completely.

Summary of Save Dying Wandering Jew Plant

After being transferred to an area that is partially shaded, a dying sun-burnt wandering Jew plant can recover provided that it is watered thoroughly and the dead parts are trimmed off. By the second week, new shoots and leaves will be growing on the leftover stems. Once a month ends with improved conditions and care, it will improve in color, shape, and size.

Severely sun-burnt, underwatered, and overheated wandering Jew plants on the verge of dying from such harsh conditions can still be saved with proper watering, mulching, weeding, pruning, shading, amending, and repotting.


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