Tradescantia - Commelinaceae - How to care for and grow Tradescantia plants

Tradescantia - Commelinaceae - How to care for and grow Tradescantia plants



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ThereTradescantia it is a genus that has the particularity of having species characterized by rich foliage and very variegated and bright colors.






: Angiosperms


: Monocotyledons











: see the paragraph on "Main species"


The genre Tradescantia of the family of Commelinaceae includes numerous perennial herbaceous species, with creeping habit, native to the tropical areas of central and South America and in Italy it is famously known as misery grass.

The characteristic of these plants is their prostrate and drooping posture. The stems are covered with a light down and the flowers, inconspicuous, of short duration on the plant and of little ornamental value, are gathered in definite inflorescences and formed by three petals, generally triangular in shape and pink or white in color.


There are 60 species in the genus Tradescantiaamong which we remember:


There Tradescantia zebrina it is characterized by a creeping posture therefore particularly suitable for being raised in suspended baskets. The fleshy leaves are characteristic as they have two silver stripes (hence the name "zebrina" in remembrance of the zebra) which is found both in the green and variegated varieties while the lower page of the leaf is red.

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The flowers, produced from spring to summer, are small, pink and white (depending on the variety), formed by three triangular petals and of little ornamental value.

For some time she was called Zebrina pendula, and it was a separate genus of only four species which, however, were later incorporated into the genus Tradescantia.


There Tradescantia sillamontana it has a semi erect posture being able to grow erect up to 40 cm in height and then fall back.

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It is characterized by stems and branches of a fleshy consistency and covered with a thick silvery fur. The leaves, lanceolate, no more than 7 cm long, have a red underside and a dark green upper side and are covered with thick white hair. in summer producing small pink flowers.


There Tradescantia fluminensis native to Brazil and Argentina it is characterized by a drooping and disordered posture as the stems have the characteristic of changing direction at each node.It has fleshy stems with intense green leaves sometimes tending to blue on the upper page and with the lower page of color purple.

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In summer, small white flowers of short duration and of little ornamental value form at the top of the stems.

There are numerous varieties among which we remember theTradescantia fluminensis var. variedwith leaves streaked with white and often tinged with pink and variety Tradescantiafluminensis var. quicksilver with silver-streaked leaves.

It is what we commonly call misery grass.


There Tradescantia pallida native to Mexico, it is certainly one of the best known species, especially in Italy, which we find almost everywhere in hot areas, but tolerates the winter cold without major problems. It is characterized by succulent purple leaves and deep pink flowers.

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There Tradescantia multiflora it is characterized by leaves of a beautiful green color on the upper page that turns purple on the lower one.

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The flowers, which bloom during the summer, are white.


There Tradescantia spathacea native to Mexico, it has fleshy rhizomes and lanceolate leaves of a metallic dark green color on the upper page and purple on the lower page.

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The Tradescantia they are very easy plants to grow, as they do not require particular crop care and there are varieties on the market with such different and captivating colors that one cannot fail to have one of these plants at home.

The optimal cultivation temperatures must be, during the winter period, not lower than 10 ° C while they do not have big problems with the maximum temperatures.

They need a lot of light, which will guarantee the variegated coloring of the leaves, but not the direct rays of the sun.

It is a plant that loves the air therefore ensure good ventilation of the room paying attention to cold air currents that are not welcome.


From spring and throughout the summer it is necessary to water theTradescantia abundantly in order to keep the soil always humid (not soaked) while in the autumn-winter period it should be watered enough to keep the soil just barely moist, not letting the soil dry on the surface between one watering and another.

If the summer days are particularly hot, spray the plant with a nebulizer, your Tradescantia will thank you.


The repotting of the Tradescantia it is carried out every year, at the beginning of spring, in a pot slightly higher than the previous one and using a mixture formed by soil of leaves, garden soil and sand to favor the drainage of the watering water.

Be careful to place pieces of earthenware on the bottom of the pot to favor the draining of excess water and use terracotta pots as, compared to plastic ones, thanks to their porosity, they allow the earth to have gaseous exchanges.


Fertilization is done every 2 weeks by diluting a liquid fertilizer in the watering water and halving the doses compared to what is reported in the fertilizer package and only during the spring-summer period. During the other periods the fertilizations must be suspended.

It is advisable to use a fertilizer that in addition to having macroelements such as nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) also has microelements such as iron (Fe), manganese (Mn), copper (Cu) , zinc (Zn), boron (B), polybdenum (Mo), all important for a correct and balanced growth of the plant.


To have bushy-looking plants it is advisable to trim the vegetative apexes regularly. It is also advisable to eliminate the branches that develop excessively to favor a more harmonious development of the plant.

Always use clean and disinfected tools (possibly with a flame) to avoid infecting the tissues.


The flowering period is summer but the flowers of theTradescantia they last very short (days) and have little ornamental value.


The multiplication takes place by cuttings, rooted in earth or in water.


In spring - summer, cuttings about 10-13 cm long are taken, cut immediately under the node with an oblique cut as this allows for a greater surface for rooting and avoids the accumulation of water on this surface. Use a razor blade or a sharp knife to avoid fraying of the fabrics and make sure that the tool you use for cutting is clean and disinfected (preferably over a flame) to avoid infecting the fabrics.

The lower leaves are then eliminated and the cut part is immersed in a rhizogenic powder to favor the rooting of the cuttings. At that point they settle in a compote formed by two parts of fertile soil and one of coarse sand by making holes with a pencil, it is generally advisable to 3-4 cuttings per pot, then taking care to gently compact the soil around the cuttings. The box or pot is placed in a shaded area at a temperature of around 21 ° C, keeping the soil always constantly humid.

Once the first shoots start to appear (usually after two weeks), it means that the cutting has taken root. At that point the cuttings are expected to grow stronger, once they are large enough, they are transplanted into the final pot, always in groups, and treated like adult plants.


It is also possible to root the Tradescantia in water. Take an apical cutting from the stem and place it in a glass or cup full of water. When the cutting has rooted, gently repot it in a small pot with the soil suitable for adult plants.


The leaves discolor, lose their varigature, and become small and twisted

If you notice this symptom in the leaves then it means that the plant is receiving pocaluce.
Remedies: move the plant to a much brighter position but away from direct sunlight.

Presence of small whitish insects on the plant

If you notice small light-colored mobile insects on the plant you are surely in the presence of aphids or as they are commonly called lice. Look at them with a magnifying glass and compare them with the photo on the side, they are unmistakable, you can't go wrong.

Remedies: treat the plant with specific pesticides readily available from a good nurseryman. These are generally systemic products, i.e. they enter the lymphatic circulation of the plant and are therefore absorbed during the nutrition of the insects.

Spots on the underside of the leaves

Spots on the underside of the leaves could mean that you are in presence of cochineal and in particular mealy cochineal. To be sure, it is advisable to use a magnifying glass and observe. Compare it with the photo on the side. They are features, you can't go wrong. Also if you try to remove them with a fingernail, they come off easily.

Remedies: try to eliminate them using a cotton swab dipped in alcohol. In case of serious infestations use specific pesticides available from a good nurseryman.


The name of the genusTradescantia it was dedicated to the English naturalists Tradescant, John the Elder and John the Younger.

1) Image by Forest & Kim Starr licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license (CCBY 3.0)

Video: Tradescantia Care - Indoor and Outdoor Growing Tips. Plant Tour My Tradescantia