735 Tradescantia fluminensisCommon Names: green wandering Jew, small leaf spiderwort, white-flowered wandering Jew, inch plant, speedy Jenny Family: Commelinaceae (spiderwort Family)
Green wandering Jew is a trailing groundcover plant with succulent stems. The glossy forest-green to parrot-green parallel-veined leaves are oblong to ovate with pointed tips. They are generally 1-2.5 in (2.5-6.4 cm) long and 1-1.5 in (2.5-2.8 cm) wide and may be subtly striped with darker green or tinged with purple on the underside. Sometimes the leaves are slightly puckered with a seersucker texture. They emerge alternately from fuzzy margined closed sheaths that encircle the stem at the nodes. The little white three petaled flowers appear in clusters at the stem tips from spring through fall. The three part capsules contain pitted black seeds. This plant is often confused with smaller-leaved Callisia species and is sometimes not distinguished from other, less common, species of Tradescantia. The cultivar 'Variegata' is bright green with irregular white stripes. 'Quicksilver' has silver-striped leaves. A new cultivar on the scene, 'Maiden's Blush', has bright pink new growth. Some of these less vigorous variegated forms may revert to solid green and become invasive if neglected or grown in too shady a place.
Green wandering Jew, Tradescantia fluminensis, is native to subtropical regions of Brazil and Argentina, where it is regarded as an agricultural pest. It has naturalized in Florida from the central peninsula to the central Panhandle, where it spreads most rapidly in floodplain forests and similar moist, semi-shady bottomlands.
CultureWandering Jew prefers rich organic soil, but it will root directly into bark mulch or survive in poor sandy soil if watered sufficiently. Fertilizing with 20-10-20 every other month is recommended for commercial production, but it does fine with plenty of compost and an occasional handful of ordinary fertilizer so long as care is taken not to let fertilizer granules settle in the foliage and burn the stems. This species is sensitive to air pollution; plants may slowly develop tip burn in response to atmospheric fluoride. Wandering Jew is sometimes affected by a leaf spot disease which can be controlled by picking off the affected leaves. Light: This species will tolerate low light levels, but it also will grow in full sun. When light is marginal, the plants develop elongated internodes and dull foliage. Moisture: Moist, well drained soil is best, but green wandering Jew tolerates both flooding and drought well. Hardiness: USDA Zones 9 - 11. Plants will survive a few degrees of frost, but quit growing and sulk when temperatures stay below 55ºF (12.8ºC) for long. They do best at 65-85ºF (18.3-23.8ºC), but will grow vigorously with afternoon temperatures near 100 if supplied with plenty of water. Propagation: Green wandering Jew does not commonly reproduce from seed, but it roots readily from stem fragments, so long as each piece of stem includes at least one node. It is easily propagated from cuttings at any time of the year and can be rooted in soil or water. If kept well watered for the first week or two, cuttings will readily establish a groundcover when planted directly into mulched organic soil in a shady area of the garden. It is easy to transplant successfully. To encourage wandering Jew to spread as a groundcover, plant the rootball in good soil, then spread out the trailing stems, partially cover them with organic mulch, and keep the area moist.
Green wandering Jew makes a lush bright green groundcover in greenhouses and lightly shaded areas and trails beautifully from hanging baskets and balcony planters. It has been used for erosion control, but this is not recommended because of its invasiveness.
This tough, fast growing plant is an excellent choice for creating a lush tropical effect in atrium gardens, where it can be encouraged to form a living curtain spilling over a grotto entrance or waterfall ledge. Varieties like 'Innocence' have been selected that are less invasive and more floriferous than the common form. This dark green, long stemmed variety creeps discreetly beneath shrubbery and perennials and decorates the planting with emergent sprays of baby's-breath-like white flowers.
This is an extremely invasive species! Turn your back on it and it will eat your greenhouse! But you can't tear it out and throw in the woods or it is liable to cause damaging environmental problems. In natural areas, the overlapping stems can form a 2-ft-deep blanket over the forest floor and smother other plants, thus eliminating groundcover diversity and preventing young trees from becoming established. It has become a serious pest in urban natural areas in Australia and New Zealand and it is beginning to cause similar problems in Florida, where it is listed as a Category I invasive exotic species by the Exotic Pest Plant Council. Stem fragments break off easily and float, so it is especially important to keep these plants away from streams and floodplains where storms could wash pieces downstream. Some Tradescantias may cause dermatitis in sensitive individuals, but this species has not been singled out as a problem. Dogs kept in yards with a groundcover of wandering Jew have developed rashes.
Linda Conway Duever 6/29/00; updated 3/10/04