Inch plant care & info | Tradescantia zebrina |

Tradescantia zebrina, also known as inch plant or wandering dude, is an easy and fast-growing plant appreciated for its stunning leaf coloration, which can vary from deep purple to bright green. Its non-fussy nature and colorful foliage make it a great choice for both beginners and more experienced plant lovers.

Keep reading for everything you need to know about inch plant care and growing Tradescantia zebrina yourself!

Name(s) (common, scientific) Inch plant, wandering jew*, wandering dude, spiderwort, Tradescantia zebrina
Difficulty level Easy
Recommended lighting Bright
Water Water often
Soil type Well-draining
This name is considered culturally insensitive nowadays; read more here.

Inch plant care

Tradescantia zebrina is naturally found in Mexico and Central America as part of the undergrowth in forested habitats. It’s also an invasive species in many other warm areas around the world, from the Americas to Africa and Australasia. Not surprising considering it’s such a vigorous grower.

The above gives us some care indications: a warm environment is appreciated, as are bright lighting and moist soil. As long as the plant is provided with this it should not be difficult to grow at all.

Close-up of Pilea peperomioides houseplant.

Tradescantia zebrina light & temperature

Light

Medium light is sufficient to keep this plant alive and growing. Make sure not to deprive it too much, or it might lose its attractive looks. The leaf coloration that makes it so desirable can fade to green in the dark, and stems can become sparse with leaves growing further and further apart.

A location that gets at least some direct sunlight is great, though it’s best to prevent full afternoon sun or protect the plant with a thin curtain if it’s placed near a South facing window. Plenty of sun is appreciated, but the leaves might burn if things get too harsh, especially without proper acclimation.

Temperature

As mentioned above, Tradescantia zebrina appreciates a warm environment and you will see the best growth at room temperature. However, a cooler location is not a disaster at all as long as the plant isn’t exposed to frost.

Its hardiness when it comes to temperature makes this plant a great option for those chillier windowsills that aren’t suitable for strictly tropical plants.

Close-up of Pilea peperomioides houseplant.

Planting Tradescantia zebrina

Soil

When planting Tradescantia zebrina, keep in mind that it likes moist soil but doesn’t appreciate being soaked all the time. A normal, well-draining houseplant soil without any additives should work fine in most cases.

You can also choose to go for a more peaty soil and add some perlite to achieve a mixture that retains some water, but allows the excess to drain quickly.

Planting

As with soil, Tradescantia zebrina really isn’t too particular about planting. Just make sure the container has a drainage hole to prevent standing water from causing root rot. It looks great in a hanging planter, terrarium or even as ground cover surrounded by taller plants (a look you’ll often see in malls and offices).

Though this unfussy plant can live in the same cramped pot for years, you can repot yours every spring if you want to give the roots all the space they need.

Watering Tradescantia zebrina

Tradescantia zebrina is an easy plant and won’t mind a little under- or overwatering from time to time as long as your basic watering schedule is sufficient. Just never let the soil go bone dry, because this can quickly cause the foliage to die off.

As discussed above, this plant appreciates moist soil, at least during its growing period where it grows so quickly it uses a lot of water. Waiting just a little too long will cause the stems to go limp, though they will perk right back up after watering.

During the winter months period, when most plants including this one don’t grow much at all, you’ll need to water a lot less.

Purple leaves of Tradescantia zebrina (wandering Jew or inch plant) backlit by the sun | Full Tradescantia zebrina care guide

Feeding Tradescantia zebrina

Tradescantia zebrina will appreciate a little extra fertilizer during the growing period. A diluted fertilizer can be used every two weeks or once a month.

You can stop feeding during the winter months.

Propagating Tradescantia zebrina

Tradescantia zebrina is known for being extremely easy to propagate. It isn’t called inch plant for nothing. You only need an inch of plant to create a whole new specimen.

The easiest method to propagate inch plant is to stick a cutting into some fresh potting soil, pour some water on it and it should be good to go.

My favorite way to propagate any plant is water propagation. Place cuttings in a vase filled with water to root and leave them in there for as long as you’d like. Very decorative, especially with those beautiful purple leaves!

Is Tradescantia zebrina toxic to cats and dogs?

The term ‘toxic’ is a bit misleading when it comes to this houseplant. Your furry friend is absolutely not going to keel over if it manages to get into your inch plant! The plant can cause some irritation, though, which can cause pain in the mouth and throat and may also upset your pet’s digestive system. Offer plenty of water and keep an eye on the animal, but don’t worry too much.

If you have sensitive skin, you may want to wear gloves while handling this species to avoid an annoying rash.

Buying Tradescantia zebrina

Tradescantia zebrina is a relatively common houseplant and shouldn’t be too difficult to find in stores and garden centres. You can also buy it online!


If you have any more questions about inch plant care or want to share your own experiences with this super easy houseplant, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below!

Tip: Did you know the genus Tradescantia contains more gorgeous easy houseplants than just this one? Check out the care guides for Tradescantia spathacea (oyster plant) and Tradescantia fluminensis (also referred to as inch plant) for more.


9 thoughts on “Inch plant care & info | Tradescantia zebrina |”

    • Oof, that’s almost impossible to tell without seeing the plant and the environment it’s growing in. Have you followed all the care guidelines discussed in this article? If you’d like, you could become a member of the Houseplant Central FB group and post some pictures there, maybe that’s enough for me and other plant enthusiasts to get an idea of what’s going on.

      Reply
  1. This plant is a weed where we live (Sydney Australia). Although it is pretty, our dog got a skin rash to it. The plant is rampant and very difficult to kill. If there is a tiny piece leftover it grows again. Doesn’t even have to be in soil – it will sprout in leaf litter, twigs, rocks, anything with a bit of moisture and lots of sunlight.

    Reply
  2. How pest-resistant is this beautiful plant? Prone to spider mites and such or is it pretty hardy that way? Thank you!

    Reply
    • I re-checked and Tradescantia zebrina is still not listed on the ASPCA site as far as I know. They do, as I mention in the article, list Tradescantia fluminensis. Last time I checked it was listed as non-toxic but causes dermatitis in dogs, which has since been changed to toxic to all pets (still due to dermatitis). I will edit the notes on Tradescantia fluminensis, thank you.

      Reply

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