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Tradescantia Tricolor Care Guide: To the Rescue!

Tradescantia Tricolor glorifies your home with banded and multicolored leaves, but their foliage can deteriorate when stripped away from care.

Offer Tradescantia Tricolor caring optimity by bestowing 6 to 8 hours of dappled light, temperature around 60°F to 80°F, moderate humidity, and monthly fertilization. The plant enjoys well-draining soil, weekly watering, occasional pruning to remove the leggy growths, and repotting in early spring. 

Let us look at the basic care requirements for the Tradescantia Tricolor plant.

Tradescantia Tricolor: Plant Overview

Tradescantia Tricolor is a cultivated variety of Tradescantia fluminensis. The genus was first named after John Tradescant, a young gardener and botanist.

Later, the Tradescantia species spread worldwide through plant trade, and many varieties are now available through selective breeding.  

Let us look at the basic features of this plant.

Scientific NameTradescantia fluminensis 'Tricolor'
Common NameSpiderwort, Wandering Jew, Wandering Trad, Small-Leaf Spiderwort, Giant White Inch Plant, Speedy Henry, Wandering Willie, etc.
HabitLifespan: Evergreen Perennial Herb

Growth Type: Trailing or Creeping Succulent
Native RangeCaribbean, Mexico, Central and South America
EcologyInvasiveness: Considered invasive in some countries

IUCN Red-list: None
SizeHeight and Spread: 6" to 9" × 12" to 24"
Foliar SeasonMid-Spring to Early Fall
(April to June)
Leaf CharacteristicsShape: Ovate to lance-shaped with pointed apex

Color: Striped leaves with green, purple-pink, and creamy white coloration

Size: 3 to 6 centimeters long
Flowering SeasonSummer (June to August)
Inflorescence (Flowers)Type: One-sided Cyme

Color: White

Shape: Star-shaped

Size: < 1 inch
Grown ForOrnamental décor
ToxicityMildly Toxic to Pets and Humans

Tradescantia Tricolor: Basic Care Guide 

A brief overview of the cultural requirements for Tradescantia is as follows.

Summary of care requirements for Tradescantia Tricolor
Briefly summarized care requirements for Tradescantia Tricolor

1. Light and Temperature

Tradescantia Tricolor thrives in bright indirect sunlight and optimal temperature, helping keep the colors of its variegated foliage.

The best place to locate your Tradescantia is near an east-facing window for 6 to 7 hours of feeble direct morning-to-afternoon sunshine and an indoor temperature of 60°F to 80°F.  

Keep the plant three feet away from the south-facing windows to give it dappling sunlight, as too much light can increase the temperature, which in turn can curl and burn its leaves.

Weak light can cause the leaves to lose their tone due to low temperatures and kill the plant. It can also promote leggy growths resulting in the elongation of stems.

But, Tradescantia is winter hardy species in the USDA zones 9 to 12. So, a temperature around 50°F won’t bother your plant.

Tradescantia can grow beside a chilly window, but it’s mindful of bringing the plant indoors or covering it with a frost blanket in winter.

2. Watering and Humidity

Tradescantias prefer moist soil as their roots are very sensitive to waterlogging and can immediately catch root rots.

To prevent root rot, water your plant once a week in spring and summer while reducing watering schedules to every two weeks in fall and winter.

Additionally, it’s better to let the topsoil dry between the watering bouts, which you can check by performing a finger dip test on the soil.

A moderate humidity of around 30% to 40% is enough for better growth. If the indoor air is dry in spring or summer, you can mist the plant more often to keep it cool.

You can group the plants together or place them over a pebble tray for better humidity. Also, move the plant away from air vents or radiators to maintain optimum dampness.

Overwatering and high humidity will cause root rot, resulting in a musty smell reeking from the soil.

Underwatering and low humidity will dry out the leaves, make them curl, turn them yellow, and later crispy brown.

3. Soil and Fertilizer

You can fertilize Tradescantia with half-strength fertilizer every 2 to 3 months in fall and winter when the plant is resting.

Spiderworts enjoys well-draining, moisture-retaining, and organic soil with a pH level between 5 and 6. Supply the soil with balanced NPK liquid fertilizer monthly in spring and summer.

Overfertilization during dormant times can lead to fertilizer leaf burn and aggregation of white fertilizer salts on the soil’s surface.

Similarly, low fertilizer can make the plant nutrient deficient.

Counter this issue by using terracotta or plastic planters with drainage holes to offer a well-percolating potting environment that can leach out the excess fertilizer.

If you use garden soil, it can later hamper the roots by bringing in various diseases.

You can prepare your own DIY mix by blending 60% sterilized garden soil, 20% sand, 10% peat moss, and 10% compost.

A rule of thumb is to supply a fertilizer that has a proportional balance between nitrogen (N), phosphorous (P), and potassium (K) to get an even growth.

You can either dilute the fertilizer by adding water or fertilize the plant while watering to seep the nutrients evenly within the soil layers.

Look below for the commercial soil and fertilizers you can buy online.

The Andersons PGF Balanced 10-10-10 FertilizerMiracle-Gro Indoor Potting Mix
Triple 10 All Purpose Liquid FertilizerSun Gro Horticultural Black Gold Potting Soil
GreenView Multi-Purpose FertilizerMiracle-Gro Houseplant Potting Mix
Southern Ag Fertilizer 10-10-10 Granular FertilizerBack to the Roots All-Purpose Potting Mix

4. Potting and Repotting

Tradescantia Tricolor has an aggressive growth rate, due to which it can become root bound quickly.

Roots nudging from the drainage holes, stunted growth, lanky vines, and loss of leaves are some noticeable symptoms to repot the plant.

Tradescantia prefers a new pot once a year in spring, lowering the risks of repotting stress during this growing period.

Since the plant can rapidly become root bound within a year, you must use a new terracotta pot with drill holes about 1 to 2 inches wider and deeper.

A wider and deeper pot can carry on the plant’s growth for the ensuing seasons and generously soak up the moisture up to the root zone.

When the spring arrives, check the plant for root-bound symptoms and repot as necessary. Make sure to water the plant 1-2 days before repotting.

Uproot the plant from the old pot, place it in the new planter with fresh soil, and gently add soil from the sides. The topsoil line must remain 1/2 inch below the brim. 

Water the soil thoroughly and give the plant some time to recover from the repotting stress in 2 to 4 weeks.

5. Periodic Pruning

Due to the fast growth rate of Tradescantia, you may need to prune it frequently.

Gently trim the plant back to its shape to give it a bushier guise using sterilized pruners year-round, except in winter.

You can cut above a node to remove the stems after trimming the leaves, and the cut node will grow new stems during spring.

Some common bugs like spider mites, mealybugs, aphids, and scales bother Tradescantia often.

Cast them off with gentle sprays of water or remove them using q-tips dipped in neem oil.

Likewise, root rot is often a common disease in Tradescantia, which is caused by overwatering.

You can avoid further damage by pruning the damaged roots and keeping the healthy ones intact.

Also, spray a good copper-based fungicide once a month on the soil or foliage to deter the fungal spores.

Tradescantia Tricolor: All About Growth Rate

The common name “Wandering Jew” of Tradescantia Tricolor hails from its trailing habit as the plant loves to spread rapidly.

However, the quick outspread of the plant comes to a halt after 1 to 2 years when it stops growing due to its short lifecycle.

Nevertheless, Tradescantias can adorn beautiful variegated purple-pink and creamy white, smooth leaves with pointy apex mingling with green foliage along the stem.

Likewise, Tradescantias can grow to a height of 6 to 9 inches but spread about 12 to 24 inches under adequate care.

Tradescantias keep on getting new from mid-spring to early fall while leaving the flowering duty under the care of hot summer.

Details about the flower structure of Tradescantia Tricolor
Tradescantia Tricolor bears a white and star-shaped flower sitting inside a leafy bract.

Tiny stellar and white blooms remain unnoticed, hidden inside purple-pink leafy bracts. But, to induce flowering, you need to keep the plant outdoors.

Tradescantia Tricolor: Toxicity

Tradescantia fluminensis varieties, including “Tricolor,” are mildly toxic to pets and humans.

According to ASPCA, the plant is toxic to dogs, cats, and horses, evoking dermatitis-like symptoms.

If your pets accidentally nib on the plant, they may encounter symptoms like belly discomfort, redness between the toes and around the muzzle, conjunctivitis and persistent itching.

Humans can get toxins from the plant’s sap on the skin that can cause irritation, while ingestion can cause nausea, vomiting, and a bad tummy.

The sap contains a mix of certain phytochemical ingredients, which can be poisonous in raw form. So, it’s important to take precautions like wearing gloves, and masks, while repotting and pruning Tradescantias.

If you or your pets show visible signs of contact or ingestion, call any helpline numbers to resolve the issue.

Propagation Methods for Tradescantia Tricolor

Tradescantia Tricolor propagation can be propagated via stem cuttings and by layering from mid-spring to early summer.

Although the plant produces seeds, they are unreliable to grow a new plant as it takes time.

So, stem cuttings are versatile propagating materials as you can root the cuttings in the water in a few weeks and transplant them into the soil later after they grow new roots.

1. Propagation via Cuttings

Propagate your Tradescantias from stem cuttings by following these sequent steps.

  • Take a healthy 6-inches long stem without lower leaves, a few nodes and 3-4 leaves at the top.
  • Place the cuttings in a jar filled with distilled or rainwater and add optional rooting hormone
  • Cover the cuttings with a see-through plastic bag to secure humidity and temperature, and place them in an area with bright indirect light.
Change the water every 3 to 4 days when it turns dirty.
  • Cuttings may take 4 to 6 weeks to root, and the roots grow about 1 to 2 inches long.
  • Following this, place the cuttings individually in a new pot with a fresh potting mix about 2 to 3 inches deep.
  • Shield the cuttings with a plastic bag and offer dappling sunshine.
  • When the soil starts to dry out faster than normal, or the plant gets new leaves, remove the bags and provide the cuttings with usual care.

2. Propagation via Layering

You can perform layering in Tradescantias by following these simple tips.

  • Fill a new pot with a fresh mix with the topsoil line up to 1/2 inch below the brim.
  • Take the old plant and remove the leaves from the top of a stem to expose its nodes.
  • Pull the stem with nodes and place it in the topsoil of the new pot, with nodes touching the soil.
You can use small floral pins to hook the stem in its place.
  • Cover the nodes with soil and spray water to keep the soil moist. Roots may take 1 to 6 weeks to grow.
  • If a new plant grows from the stem above each node, remove the pins and snip the stem to detach it from the old plant.
  • Consider offering your Tradescantia all the basic care.

Check this video to learn the methods of propagating Tradescantia Tricolor in soil.

The process of layering is also possible for fruit trees, and since winter is here, get prepared to take cuttings from Raspberries and propagate them in spring!

Tradescantia Tricolor vs. Other Plants

Tradescantia Tricolor shares similarities and differences with Tradescantia Nanouk.


Some similarities between both varieties are as follows.

Difference between Tradescantia Tricolor and Tradescantia Nanouk
The leaves of Tradescantia Tricolor share similarities in color and some differences in shape with another variety, Tradescantia Nanouk. 
  • Leaves of both varieties have a similar hue.
  • The foliage of both varieties is at risk of burning by strong sunlight.
  • Both varieties can be propagated successfully via stem cuttings.
  • They both have similar soil requirements.


Although both plants are cultivars of the same species, they have a fair share of differences. Let us look at some of them.

FeaturesTradescantia 'Tricolor'Tradescantia 'Nanouk'
LeafSize and Shape: Shorter and egg-shaped leaves

Texture: Smooth and glossy
Size and Shape: Longer and elongated, knife-shaped leaves

Texture: Rough
Growth RateOverall Growth: Slower

Growth rate slows in cold weather
Overall Growth: Faster

Growth rate is not much affected by cold weather
Root Growth in WaterWithin 4 to 6 weeksWithin 2 to 3 weeks
Stem SizeThinnerThicker

FAQs About Tradescantia Tricolor

Let’s answer some burning questions about Tradescantia Tricolor.

1. Can Tradescantia Tricolor Live in Water?

Tradescantias is a brisk grower and can sprout faster roots in the water than in the soil. The plant is very flexible and can sustain for a long time in a vase with a refill of water every few days.

2. How to Get More Pink Shade Leaves in Tradescantia Tricolor?

Place the plant in bright indirect sunlight to keep up the pink color on the Tradescantia leaves, while 45 minutes of direct morning sunlight is also fair.

3. Do Tradescantia Tricolor Love to Climb?

Tradescantia Tricolor are trailing plants and can climb higher if you guide their extending stems to a support or moss pole. 

4. Is Tradescantia Tricolor a Succulent?

Although Tradescantia Tricolor is not a succulent like cactuses, it has leaves and stems that can hold a fair amount of water.

5. Can Tradescantia Tricolor Grow Under Artificial Lights?

Although artificial lights cannot provoke the same foliage vigor as sunlight, you can still locate them under grow lights for 10 to 12 hours in winter.

Wrapping Up

The variegated leaves of Tradescantia Tricolor are its sublime feature, but they are also toxic. So, be aware when you look after them.

Keep them in a better shape by pruning their leaves and stems so that this Wandering Jew refrains from strolling all over your house!

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