How to Prune Wandering Jew: Tradescantia Plant Care


Medicinal properties aside, the Tradescantia plant, commonly known for its varieties (albiflora, fulminensis, and zebrina) is a great addition to any garden because of its heart-shaped variegated leaves. It will require some pruning, though, in order to achieve a fuller, healthier look一This article will cover the details on how to prune wandering jew plant.

In this article, we are going to talk about the reasons why you need to prune the Wandering Jew, how to prune wandering jew, as well as answer the most frequently asked questions posed by our readers.

The journey of those who love gardening is a thrilling one because there are so many plants to choose from. While it’s understandable why a lot of us prioritize factors such as aesthetic appeal and maintenance when choosing indoor plants, wouldn’t it be great if they have health benefits as well? For instance, according to a 2017 study, it was found that Wandering Jew can be a “valuable source of traditional medicine for treating kidney diseases”. 

 Let’s get started!

Tradescantia Zebrina

Before moving on, we just want to note that for the purposes of this article, we will be focusing on a particular variety of the Tradescantia plant, namely Tradescantia zebrina. 

It is also known as “Wandering Jew” after a medieval European folk story. The history of this plant’s name is very intriguing and controversial, and can even warrant an article on its own. Thus, we’ll leave it to you to discover it on your own for now. 

Also known as the inch plant, the Tradescantia is native to South America, particularly Colombia and Mexico. Most people regard it as a low-maintenance plant, having peaked in its popularity among American gardeners in the late 1970s. It is also easy to propagate, and that is probably why it is still a popular choice today. 

how to prune wandering jew

Why Do You Need to Prune the Wandering Jew?

The Wandering Jew looks best when it has a compact, bushy, and full appearance. However, proper pruning is required to achieve and maintain this look. Otherwise, you’ll risk your plant looking like a wild, unkempt vine一unless of course, that’s the look you’re aiming for.

Aside from that, pruning ensures that there is correct growth, thus avoiding a quality called ‘legginess’. Don’t worry, we’ll talk more about this issue in a bit.

Finally, pruning gives you the chance to propagate your Wandering Jew. We consider inch plants as one of the easiest to propagate. We’ve seen some of our cuttings starting to root in less than a week.

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How to Prune Wandering Jew

As mentioned above, they say that the secret to having the “instagrammable” Tradescantia plants lies in how its pruning is done. Fortunately, it’s actually very easy to do. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Know which parts of the plant need trimming. Keep in mind that pruning isn’t just all about making your plant look pretty. Instead, your main objective should be to keep your plant healthy and thriving. That being said, you should start by trimming out all of the weak and leggy stems, discolored (or dead) leaves, and thin growths. 

Spent flowers should also be trimmed so that the energy that your plant receives is mainly directed to seed production and plant growth.

Those who want to keep their plant compact and thick can also trim off its long tendrils. Did you know that one pruned stem is most likely to produce two new ones? Pruning definitely encourages more branching.

Here’s a bonus tip: The rule of thumb is if your plant’s vines have already reached 6-8 inches in length, then it is already a sign that pruning needs to be done. 

  • Ensure the use of proper tools. There are two ways to give your Tradescantia a nice trim. First, you can use a variety of cutting tools (such as a pair of pruning shears or scissors). On the other hand, since the stem of this vine isn’t really that thick, you can also opt to pinch them off instead. 

If you’re going to use a cutting tool, though, then make sure that they are sharp and clean to avoid bruising. You can soak your cutting tool in an undiluted disinfectant solution for around 5 minutes before you start your pruning session to avoid cross-contamination. 

An alternative is mixing nine parts of water to one part of bleach. The important thing is that your tools for pruning are disinfected properly, not only for proper pruning but for the best care for your plant.

We understand. Pruning can be hard at times especially if you’re thinking of cutting completely healthy vines. But don’t be. Here are a couple of ideas that can lift that burden of guilt:

  • Set aside those “leggy growths” as cuttings. Wouldn’t it be fun to grow your Wandering Jew collection without having to spend any extra money?
  • Make some compost! Even your dried leaves shouldn’t go to waste as you can always add them to your compost pit. Just a word of caution, though. We have some friends in the gardening community that advise against composting diseased leaves. 

Honestly, we’ve always added all our plant refuse to our pit and have not encountered any problems. However, the decision of whether to add diseased leaves to your compost or not will all boil down to you. Use your plant intuition for this one. 

Wandering Jew Pruning:FAQs

Aside from sharing the tips above, allow us to answer some of the most frequently asked questions we get from our readers for further information on how to prune Wandering Jew.

Why does my Wandering Jew look leggy?

“Legginess” refers to a plant condition recognizable through longer stems and fewer leaves. There are times when legginess isn’t really an issue at all, but in fact, just a sign that the plant is thriving and thus has more strength to grow longer stems. 

However, there are cases when legginess is a sign that your plant isn’t growing in optimal conditions. The usual culprits include insufficient lighting, excessive fertilizing, incorrect pot sizing, and high temperatures. 

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How do you trim a Wandering Jew plant?

We usually get three to four-inch cuttings. If you’re thinking of propagating after pruning, then make sure that your cutting has a few leaf nodes for proper root development. As advised previously, you can pinch your plant or use a clean and sharp cutting tool for the task.

How do I make my Wandering Jew fuller?

Lucky for you, this entire guide has the answers in its first few sections because the trick to a fuller Wandering Jew is really in the pruning. 

How to Deal With a Leggy Tradescantia

If there’s one topic that is almost always associated with Tradescanita pruning, that would be dealing with the plant’s legginess. Thus, here are more tips that can further help you out:

Be mindful of the warning signs. You will know that your plant’s legginess is a result of a problematic issue if it’s slowly losing its leaves or its foliage looks bleached or washed-out, particularly the lower ones.

Do not use fertilizer in excess. Having high levels of nitrogen in your fertilizer can contribute to the problem. As such, you need to be mindful of the seasons vis-a-vis your fertilizer use. 

In spring, they tend to grow quickly so you might need to slow down on the use of fertilizer and have your plant grow naturally. Then, during winter, that’s when they tend to slow down and thus when they’ll need more assistance. 

Don’t forget to consider the quality and dosage of the fertilizer you’re using as well. 

Use the proper pot size and fertilizer. Like caring for other plants, pot size matters. Choose containers that will lend themselves well to the growth of your Wandering Jew一 one where its roots would not outgrow it right away. 

If you’re in need of repotting, then it’s best to choose a pot that’s at least a couple of inches wider than the previous one. This will give your inch plant more room to grow and minimize its need to find more resources by lengthening its stems.

Avoid placing your Wandering Jew in places with high temperatures. Another factor for leggy growth is temperature stress. As such, taking care of it entails moving it away from heaters, fireplaces, heating vents, and radiators, or anywhere indoors where there is full-blown central heating. 

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Pruning Your Wandering Jew Plant

With its interesting foliage and low maintenance requirements, there really is no surprise why there are a lot of plant lovers who grow more than a few pots of this plant at home. Tradescantia plants can grow both outdoors and indoors as well. 

We understand that it’s not always easy to achieve that “full” look, though. The Wandering Jew’s legginess can also be a recurring issue at times. Fortunately, most of these challenges can be resolved with the right pruning technique. That’s why we sincerely hope that you’ll find this article helpful.

By keeping the tips we have shared with you on how to prune wandering jew plant, we have no doubt that you’ll be able to fill your garden with properly pruned, pretty, and perky plants. Happy gardening!