The name wandering Jew spans a multitude of plant species in the Tradescantia genus. There are over 75 different types of herbaceous perennials included in this group of plants; some are destructive weeds, and others are well-loved garden and indoor plants.
The name denotes the plants' inclination to seek wet, moist regions in which to grow. The three-petal flowers are not strikingly splashy, but they do bloom regularly in shades of white, pink, and purple. Wandering Jew plants have variegated--purple-striped or solid--heart-shaped leaves and a glossy surface.
When growing your plant indoors, it’s important to give it sufficient water. However, overwatering can lead to root rot and a dying plant. Wandering Jews thrive in moist soil, and weekly watering is recommended during the summer, with less frequency in the winter. Be sure your plant rests in a well-draining pot to avoid soggy soil.
Wandering Jews thrive in spaces that receive a lot of natural light. You can use a grow light to ensure growth if your room lacks the correct exposure. These plants are vulnerable to sunburn, so be sure to monitor the area for sun-direction changes within the room. If the light is insufficient, the plant will fade, and its variegated foliage will look dull.
Your wandering Jew is happy to reside in potting soil, but you can add a bit of sand to improve drainage in your pot. If your plant isn't receiving enough water, add peat moss, coco coir or vermiculite to the soil to help hold in moisture.
Wandering Jews prefer temperatures between 65- to 75-degrees Fahrenheit, but warmer is okay. The air in homes, especially during winter, tends to be very dry, so it’s important to keep your plant moist. You can place a small humidifier near the plant or place the plant on a tray filled with water and pebbles, but don't let it sit in the water. A mini greenhouse or a small glass cloche helps hold in moisture as well.
Wandering Jews do well without fertilizer. However, if you do fertilize them do so only during the spring and summer growing season. Choose a slow-release organic fertilizer, a houseplant one, or brew your own using compost fertilizer tea. Fish emulsion and liquid kelp are great fertilizers, but due to the smell, it's best to use them on outdoor plants.
After a few years, no matter how careful you are with their care, wandering Jews tend to get sparse, leggy, and scruffy looking. These conditions may be due to how much they were underwatered or overwatered. Rather than repotting the plant, snip off a 1-inch piece of stem with at least one leaf. You can root a new plant in a few weeks. Put the stem in room temperature water in a sunny spot, changing the water to keep it clear. Once the roots appear on the stem, plant it in soil.
Wandering Jew plants do well in garden settings, either in hanging baskets or as ground cover. Outdoor planting directions are similar to those for indoor plants. Ensure the planting area is in the shade or receives indirect sunlight. If you have an indoor wandering Jew, take a few cuttings from the original plant, root them, place 3 to 5 inches of stem in the ground, then cover with soil. Apply liquid fertilizer once a week to boost the roots. The outdoor plants die out in the winter, but when temperatures warm up again, they return.
Aphids, spider mites, and soil gnats are common pests to wandering Jew plants. You can remove them by spraying the foliage generous with a mixture of mild liquid soap and water. If you see soil gnats winging their way around your plant, allow your soil to dry out a bit more between watering or invest in a yellow sticky trap. If your outdoor plants are brought inside for the colder months, be sure they are bug-free before bringing them in.
You can refresh browning leaves with periodic misting using room-temperature distilled or bottled water, which helps restore humidity to the air. Brown leaves also result from too much sunlight, so place the plant behind a sheer window curtain to filter and soften the light. When the plant stops growing and its color fades, root rot is a viable suspect. Remove the plant and soil from the pot, cut away the rotted roots, and replant the healthy part.