Tradescantia 

(tra-des-can' chee-ah)

Common name: Tradescantia, Spiderwort

Family: Commelinaceae, Spiderwort

Height x width: 6-12" x 18-36"

Foliage: creeping or trailing stems, alternate, fleshy, generally ovate, often purple-flushed or variegated, 3-6" to 12" depending on species

Flowers: saucer-shaped, 3 petals and 3 sepals, in cymes with boat-shaped bracts

Light: bright especially for variegated, tolerates moderate, some species tolerate low

Temperature: cool to average

Watering: moderate

Fertility: moderate

Humidity: high

Soil: well-drained

Pests and Problems: viruses, mealybugs, aphids, spider mites; brown leaf tips indicate too wet or too dry

Growth habit, uses: hanging, groundcover indoors

Other interest: native to South America; named for 17th century British botanist and gardener John Tradescant; although flowering, plants are usually self-sterile so do not produce seeds; related to the temperate perennial spiderworts in the Andersoniana Group, often listed under virginiana but actually hybrids, hardy to zones 4 or 5-8; source of recent taxonomic reshuffling, with formerly separate genera now included here

Other culture: gets spindly in poor light and may need repropagating

Propagation: easy to root stem or tip cuttings even in water, layering as stems root at nodes

Species: Those marked * are most commonly seen.

albiflora:fluminensis 'Variegata'

blossfeldiana:cerinthoides

cerinthoides (cer-in-thoy' dees)--creeping or ascending, elliptic to narrow ovate leaves dark green above and purple below, paired cymes of pink or white flowers

fluminensis (flu-mi-nen' siss)--Wandering Jew, trailing, ovate light green leaves purple below

*pallida 'Purpurea' (Setcreasea) (pal-li-dah')--Purple Heart, trailing with ascending purple stems, narrow pointed leaves violet-purple, v-shaped in cross section, best leaf color when dry and bright light; shoots break off easily so keep away from traffic; commonly used now as an annual for foliage in landscapes and container combinations

sillamontana(sil-lah-mon-ta' nah)--White Velvet, trailing and later spreading, silky-hairy gray-green leaves, ovate, magenta-pink flowers

*spathacea (Rhoeo discolor) (spath-aa' cee-ah)--Moses-in-a-cradle, Moses-in-the-bulrushes, Three-men-in-a-boat; common name from flowers clustered in large, persistant purple bracts in boat shape; clumping, linear to lance-shaped leaves to 12", dark green above and dark purple below

velutina:sillamontana

zanonia (Campelia) (za-no' nee'ah)--clumping, dark green leaves broadly elliptic to 10" long, flowers paired in leafy bracts

*zebrina (ze-brii' nah)--Wandering Jew, trailing stems, ovate bluish green leaves with 2 longitudinal stripes silvery above and purplish below, purplish flowers paired in terminal cymes; one of the easiest, most adaptable, and longest used interior plants for low light

Cultivars:
 
Cultivar species foliage, other
'Albovittata' fluminensis light green, white longitudinal stripes
'Aurea' fluminensis yellow longitudinal stripes
'Purple Heart':Purpurea' pallida  
'Purpusii' zebrina bronze-purple leaves, pink flowers
'Quadricolor' zebrina striped green, cream, pink, silver
'Variegata' cerinthoides variable cream stripes longitudinally
'Variegata' fluminensis variably striped white, purple, cream
'Vittata' spathacea longitudinal yellow stripes
     


©Authored by Dr. Leonard Perry, Professor, University of Vermont as part of PSS121, Indoor Plants.

Return to  Perry's Perennial Pages | PSS121 course