Tradescantia: Spiderwort, Wandering Sailor and Wandering Jew
Tradescantias, which have such common names as Spiderwort, Wandering Sailor and Wandering Jew, are very popular plants. They are grown for their attractive variegated or silvery foliage.
A very popular species is Tradescantia fluminensis which is available in white, cream, gold and pink-variegated forms. Others are T. blossfeldiana and T. purpurea which have larger leaves.
An especially attractive recent introduction is the white-and-green variegated Quick Silver. All are ideal for placing near the front of the staging so that their shoots can hang down. They are good plants for the sun lounge, the conservatory or a window-sill in the home, and they are ideal for use in hanging baskets.
A closely related plant needing similar conditions is Zebrina pendula. Indeed, it used to be called Tradescantia zebrina. This has larger more regularly marked leaves – in silver and green – than the tradescantias. There is a variety quadri-color which has leaves prominently striped in shades of cream, green, grey and red.
Routine potting should be done in March or April using John Innes No. 1 Potting Compost. From March to September these plants are happy with temperatures up to 24°C. (75°F.) and for the rest of the year 7 to 10°C. (45 to 50°F.) is satisfactory. They are equally happy in sunshine or light shade but heavy shade can reduce the leaf colour of the variegated forms. These should also be given a stronger feed than the green ones as otherwise there is a tendency for them to lose their colour. Plain leaves which appear on variegated plants should be removed to prevent the whole of the plant eventually reverting to this form.
Tradescantias are very easily rooted from cuttings at almost any time of year. I prefer to put three cuttings round the edge of a 3-in. pot of John Innes No. 1 Potting Compost. It is not necessary to root them in sand and peat first, and a ‘group’ plant is made very quickly. When well rooted, pot on into 4-in. pots using a similar mixture.