Wandering Jew Overview
The creeping variety of this plant is called Wandering Jew. It is different from other varieties of plants because you cannot dig up its roots and move it. It just grows and spreads slowly wherever light and moisture conditions are conducive.
This plant is green in color and has a trailing form. It has trailing stems with heart-shaped leaves. It is not as tall as some varieties of plants. At maturity, it will grow to about twelve inches. In the right conditions, the Wandering Jew plant is pretty and quite carefree.
It features a low, creeping, wavy-edged heart shaped leaves on short stems among nicely colored bracts. The leaves may be green, red, or variegated.
Types of Wandering Jew Plants
There are a few different types of Wandering Jew plants available, each with slightly different care requirements. Below is a detailed look at the common types of Wandering Jew plants, so you can choose the right one for your home or office.
Purple-Stemmed Wandering Jew Plant
The most popular type of Wandering Jew plant is the purple-stemmed type. It has been sold for over 50 years. This plant's popularity is due primarily to its low-maintenance care requirements and its ability to brighten dark corners. Purple-stemmed Wandering Jew plants are resistant to pests and disease, so they rarely need any professional pruning or treatment. They are also fairly tolerant of erratic watering schedules and can adapt to many types of lighting.
Although the purple-stemmed type of Wandering Jew plant is especially tough, it still needs good care. This means watering it regularly and making sure the soil is always nice and wet. Plants that have been neglected may grow poorly or may stop growing altogether.
Salmon-Stemmed Wandering Jew Plant
Wandering Jew Plant Care
Wandering Jew plant care is easy and suited for most beginners. Wandering Jew is notorious for rooting freely, even on moss, which you can press into the dirt, and even between two rocks.
It is a common misconception that the plant has to be potted, but it grows very well without potting.
You can propagate it easily from its side shoots (grow new plants) and they usually develop roots quickly.
If you want to use it in a pot, use a good quality potting soil made mostly of peat. Avoid using any fertilizer or commercial plant food in your potting soil.
Wandering Jew Plant Care Indoors
Once every month to two months, depending on the growth, give it a good drenching with a water solution made with a balanced non-organic fertilizer (example: 8-8-8) mixed at half strength. If you want to maintain your Pothos as a decorative houseplant, it's best to plant it outdoors in a container so you can move it to a brighter or a shadier spot.
If your plant is too tall, look for a stem that has an offshoot and root the new plantlet. Older stems tend to lose their vigor which is why you should periodically cut it down to promote new growth.
Wandering Jew thrives in a window with too much light, as well as a window with bright, indirect light. It will even thrive in a window with direct sunlight for part of the day.
While it is tolerant, like all plants, too much of a good thing can be too much. If you have it in a window that gets too much sunlight, the leaves may scorch in certain circumstances.
Typically, if the leaves begin to get scorched, they will turn a tan color and look slightly crispy. If this happens, move the plant into a shadier spot. You may also want to put the plant on the floor temporarily if there is sunlight bouncing through the window. Has the sunlight faded? Then move it back.
The plant will not tolerate seriously low-light conditions. So you want to avoid that. But there is a fine balance between too much and too little light.
With the proper amount of light, wandering Jew will grow big and strong, producing many leaves along strong stems.
Wandering Jew plants, Tillandsia usneoides, require little water during the growing season. In the spring, summer, and fall encourage more growth by increasing water on a regular basis. Water as frequently as the plant will readily absorb it.
The rainy season (winter) is the time to decrease watering in order to encourage the return of older leaves. No water is required during this time. Instead the plant will spend the winter in a dormant state. Dormancy means no growth and no death of the plant. It is the perfect time to repot, or divide and repot.
It is essential that the roots be kept damp at all times, or the plant will dry out and die. It is also essential that the leaves be allowed to completely dry out. Too much water, especially during the winter, will kill this plant.
Light, and Water Requirements.
Wandering Jew plants (Tradescantia fluminensis) thrive when you grow them in bright, indirect light, with about an hour of direct light per day. They are rather tough, and can tolerate being moved around and exposed to different light conditions as long as you are not shifting them back and forth very often. They prefer an average to warm location, but should be kept at about 55 – 80 degrees Fahrenheit. A cool, draft-free area is best and the soil should be allowed to stay dry.
Wandering Jew needs a mixture of peat and a gritty, well-draining potting soil. A peat-based soil that is about 50% peat moss works best. While this plant can tolerate container life, it is best to move it into the garden after the temperatures outside are consistently in the 60s Fahrenheit.
It spreads by runners and also propagates by cuttings, so wandering Jew may spread out and fill up a bed quickly. Cutting it back will not harm the plant, but wandering Jew will grow long, boldly colored stems when it is happy and healthy. If you want to restrict it to a bed, you may want to plant it in a pot with a drainage hole so you can tuck the plant out of sight of visiting eyes.
If you're not growing Wandering Jew indoors, chances are you'll need to fertilize at some point. Most Wandering Jew plants are grown in containers, so needless to say, they can be finicky when it comes to fertilizer.
Fertilizing Wandering Jew is usually the mark of a new plant owner. You have to start fertilizing your Wandering Jew plant immediately, or else it will refuse to grow. But if you start too soon, you will just feed your plant too much, and it will blossom right away. In the case of Wandering Jew, excess fertilizer can be harmful.
We suggest feeding your Wandering Jew plant about one half of the recommended amount on the fertilizer label. That should give the plant all the nutrients it needs to grow strong and healthy. You may need to fertilize again after about a month. Use a low nitrogen, slow release fertilizer.
Do not fertilize your plant during the winter. If your plant begins to look severely depleted or starts to wilt a bit, you can sprinkle a bit of compost on the soil and leave it at that.
Did you know that most plants grow better and flower more profusely when repotted? Repotting is beneficial because it restores badly drained potting soil and gives your plant's roots more room to expand. When you repot your plant, cut down between 15-20 percent of the plant's root ball with a sharp knife.
Make sure rogue roots don't damage adjoining plants' root systems, and plant your Wandering Jew plant in a pot only one size larger than its current container. Don't use a container that is too small. If you can see the topsoil, it's not big enough. If the pot's drain hole is too close to the edge, sink the root ball and remove unneeded soil. After repotting and watering your plant, place it in a warm area, out of direct sun, until new growth appears.
As with any other houseplant, the wandering jew plant must be pruned periodically if it is to remain healthy. On average, it should be pruned once every two or three years. To do this, simply pinch or snip off any flowers, leaves or stems that you don’t wish for the plant to grow. It is also important to take this time to remove any dead or diseased leaves and cut off any stems or branches that have dried or withered. By pruning them at this time, you will help the plant recover faster; and pruning in the winter will make it easier for your wandering jew to sprout new, healthy growth when spring arrives.
Keep in mind that pruning a wandering jew plant doesn’t have to be difficult. You can divide the plant by cutting it in half. This will encourage it to grow new, healthy leaves and it will actually make the plant healthier and happier.
Another way to prune your wandering jew is to look for and cut off any flower buds as they begin to form. This will make the plant busier and encourage leaf growth. If you’d like to make your plant bloom more often, simply pinch off the buds.
When the wandering Jew plant has grown too tall or big for the container, you can root the stems to propagate it. The stem should be at least 10 inches long with a diameter of 1/4 inch or more. If your wandering jew cutting doesn’t have nodes, you’ll be required to make one. A node is a place where a leaf is attached to a stem. Nodes grow on stems and roots. Once the leaf falls off the stem, a new node will form. You can make a node by cutting off the leaf that is attached to the stem, smear the wound with rooting hormone, wrap a rooting medium around the wound, and secure it with a rubber band. Place the cutting in a shallow glass of water or another rooting medium that allows full sun, but limits water evaporation.
Another way to propagate wandering jews is to root the leaf petioles. Cut off the leaf and allow the wound to dry out. Dip the leaf in rooting hormone. Wrap a peat-based rooting medium around the leaf and staple a plastic bag over it. Place the cuttings in a propagation tray. Water well and place the tray in a warm spot such as on a windowsill. Mist the cuttings daily to keep the medium moist. When you see roots begin to grow about a month later, move the rooted leaves to pots and continue to water the plant.
With Wandering Jew Neglected?
The wandering Jew, also known as a ribbon or snake plant, is an attractive plant that is well-suited to low-light conditions and neglect. Its shiny, thick leaves grow upright from creeping roots that tend to cover the entire container in a few months.
Wandering Jew is hard to kill. Even when neglected, the plant will keep going on, growing slowly and reproducing if conditions are just right. If the plant is not in a properly lit location, the leaves will be smaller than you’d like and propagation will be difficult.
If you’ve ever tried to kill a wandering Jew, you’ll know how challenging it can be to coax the life out of this plant. Even in cases of extreme neglect, the plant will just keep growing in some fashion. Even without light, the leaves will grow smaller if the plant is starving. It will take a long time, but without water or fertilizer or an ideal location, the plant will slowly die. If on the other hand, your wandering Jew is located in the ideal place with ideal exposure, light, temperature, and humidity, you’ll have a hard time keeping it alive as it will grow quickly and produce new shoots freely, some of which are likely to root as they drive the plant towards the floor.
Pests and diseases that affect the wandering jew plant are not a huge problem if you have a good grasp on proper plant care. They don’t cause huge problems. That said, there are a few things that will give your plant problems, and I’ll discuss them briefly. To be clear, plant problems are usually caused by typical human error when caring for a plant.
The following are some of the most common plant problems that occur to travelers:
Proper plant care is essential for preventing any plant problems and ensuring vigorous growth. The following constitutes good habits to develop in caring for a plant. Get in the habit of doing at least three of the following (or all of them if you can):
Consider placing a few rocks in your water container that sits under the potted plant. This will provide a buffer between the container and your floor. This prevents misdirecting gallons of water if the water container happens to tip over. This small precaution can save a big mess, especially if your flooring is prone to staining.
If you have a young plant, ensure it has proper drainage by adding gravel to the bottom of the water container. Be sure to use a container with proper drainage holes.
One of the most common mistakes people make with this plant is they don’t give it enough light. It’s a tropical plant that thrives in bright, indirect light, and doesn’t tolerate low light conditions well at all.
Wandering Jew Plant also must have well-aerated growing conditions. It doesn’t require extremely dry air, but it does like air that doesn’t feel too damp. Most people think this plant is insect-proof, but many types of plant pests, such as aphids, scale, mealy bugs, whiteflies, and spider mites, can affect this plant.
If you’re buying a Wandering Jew Plant and it’s from a nursery, ask if any of these pests have been observed on it. They might—or might not—be. But if they are, it’s safer to wait to buy it until you can get one that’s been treated.
How do I grow my Wandering Jew?
You can easily plant your Wandering Jew in a pot or in the ground. It will grow in either setting. If you’re wondering how to grow wandering jacks in containers, it’s easy to do.
Select a pot that is a minimum of 10 inches large.
Add a high quality potting mix to the pot.
They need well-draining soil to avoid root rot.
Place a stake in the pot that is at least 16 inches high.
Mount your wandering Jew plant onto the stake so that it’s at least 18 inches from the pot’s bottom.
Water once every week to 10 days.
How much feeding per week does my wandering Jew need?
You can expect your wandering Jew to eat about once each week, applying a liquid fertilizer. How often they’re fed depends on the size of your plant.
How can you propagate wandering Jew?
You can start with a mature plant or purchase a start from a nursery or garden center.
Either way, you simply need to remember to care for both plants as they mature over the next one to two weeks.