Hartley Magazine

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Wandering Jew

Suitable for the less attentive greenhouse gardener and amongst the toughest houseplants you can find are the many members of the Commelinaceae family mostly hailing from South America. Indeed you may once already have grown the trailing Wandering Jew as this is one of those rugged plants entrusted to children. However that is but one of a very large group of remarkably similar, remarkably tough species and genus’.

Often lumped together in the trade as ‘Tradescantia’ there are also, Callisias, Commelinas, Cyanotis, Dichorisandras, Palisotas, Rhoeos, Setcreaseas, Tripogandras and Zebrinas (and several others). Most make excellent subjects under cover, and for the knowledgeable botanist can give a lifetime of careful analysis to determine exactly which genus any plant actually belongs to as the differences are obscure. (And of course as with so many other plants this is further confused by nomenclatural botanists continuously changing their groups and names…)

This all does not matter one whit, just get whichever takes your fancy as there are compact as well as trailing forms, variegated and plain, brightly coloured and simple, white or purple flowered (though to be fair the blooms are not their best feature).

Theoretically you could grow these from seed however these are also amongst the easiest plants to propagate. You can divide the clump formers and cut up the trailers and then root almost every piece. Most are even those sort of plants you can simply root to grow stuck in a glass of water.

These are likewise really easy to cultivate and not subject to pests or diseases save occasional forays from those arch offenders aphids and molluscs.

Wandering Jew

Not at all picky as to compost or watering regimes most prefer a light not fiercely bright position, lighter in winter and never too hot. Obviously plants in generous containers, well watered and lightly fed, will grow better and look fabulous. (Very generous over feeding will reduce the variegation and colouring.) But neglected plants survive and remain respectable, surviving even in dim conditions. Indeed the only caveat is these all need frost free conditions (save Tradescantia virginiana, Spider Wort, which is a species hardy enough to be used as a garden plant).

As these age the permanent leaves can become a tad dusty, ‘weather’ beaten and untidy. Rather than try to revive such elderly plants just divide them up and start afresh as small plants soon make respectable specimens.