Native to both tropical and temperate climates, some spiderwort plants are regarded as noxious weeds; some are prized as garden plants; and some, like Tradescantia zebrina, are grown primarily as indoor houseplants for their bold patterns and dazzling foliage.
Like their garden-varieties counterparts, the houseplant varieties produce flowers with three petals, although they are not particularly showy in these species. The blooms can be white, purple, pink, and other similar colors—depending on species and variety—and appear regularly.
When tended to indoors, spiderwort plants can be started and grown year-round (though they should be planted in early fall if grown outdoors). They will grow rapidly and can become invasive in their outdoor environment if left to their own devices. However, indoor plants remain more contained. Some types of Tradescantia may be mildly toxic to humans and animals.
|Common Name||Spiderwort, inch plant|
|Plant Type||Herbaceous perennial|
|Mature Size||N/A (vining species)|
|Sun Exposure||Full sun, partial shade|
|Soil Type||Moist but well-drained|
|Soil pH||Neutral to acidic|
|Flower Color||White, purple, pink|
|Hardiness Zones||4b to 12a|
|Native Area||Mexico, South America, Caribbean|
|Toxicity||Some types mildly toxic to humans and animals|
Watch Now: How to Grow Wandering Dude Plants (Spiderwort)
Spiderwort Plant Care
The gardening world has many instances where a single common name is associated with more than one plant species, and such is the case with the houseplant we know as spiderwort. The unique name is actually used to refer to several different plant species within the Tradescantia genus, which includes at least 75 different herbaceous perennial plants.
Spiderwort plants are virtually carefree. One of the only difficult aspects of growing spiderwort plants as houseplants is achieving the right moisture level. These plants liken consistently moist soil but don't like being soggy or waterlogged.
Spiderwort plants are best suited for hanging containers, and they thrive in a location with plenty of indirect, natural light. They can become leggy and scraggly with large sections of bare stems if they are not pinched back regularly to keep them bushy. You will also notice the plant normally produces many dead leaves as fast as it produces new growth. For plant hygiene, you can go over the plant every so often and pick out the dead leaves. Luckily, they are very easy to propagate from small stem cuttings, so you can provide your home with a near-constant supply of them if you plan a bit ahead.
When planted outdoors, spiderwort is considered to be an invasive weed, especially in the southeastern part of the United States.
Spiderwort plants do best in bright but indirect sunlight. Place them nearby a window that boasts at least eight hours of sun a day, but be careful to avoid any direct rays, which can cause the leaves to scorch. If you notice the color or variegation on your leaves is beginning to fade, that's a sure sign that the plant isn't getting enough light.
Spiderwort plants can grow well in ordinary potting soil, as long as it's not over-watered. Overall, they prefer soil that drains well; their roots can easily develop rot if they remain too wet. To aid in drainage, mix a small amount of sand into a commercial potting soil blend that also boasts an ample amount of organic material.
These plants prefer to be kept consistently moist and will thrive if watered weekly in the summer and less frequently in the fall and winter. To check if your plant is ready for watering, feel the soil a few inches down in the pot. If it's dry, it's time to water your plant.
Temperature and Humidity
Any of the species of spiderwort plants will thrive at temperatures between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit, and they'll also do fine in warmer temperatures. However, the plants should not be kept in sustained temperatures below 50 degrees Fahrenheit, as it might discolor or damage their leaves.
When it comes to humidity levels, spiderwort plants love above-average moisture. Start by keeping them in a typically humid area of the home, like a bathroom or kitchen. You can also mist the plant lightly every few days or invest in a small humidifier. If you notice the plant's leaves browning, it could be a sign that humidity levels in your home are too low.
Spiderwort plants don't require much, if any, feeding. At most, use a water-soluble fertilizer diluted to half-strength bimonthly. More aggressive feeding can cause the plant's leaves to lose their variegation.
Types of Spiderwort
There are dozens of varieties of plants in the Tradescantia family, each boasting its own unique characteristics, benefits, and difficulties. Some of the most commonly-grown varietals include:
- T. pallida 'Purple Heart': This varietal features eye-catching solid purple foliage.
- T. Zebrina pendula: This species is a slightly more colorful version of zebrina, with reddish leaves.
- T. Callisia: This version differs yet again in variation, this time featuring bold white stripes.
Spiderwort is an aggressively growing plant that can get overly leggy if left untamed. To keep your plant in check (and encourage it to grow wider and fuller), cut the stems back periodically, trimming back to a joint. To avoid legginess, regularly prune or pinch back the stems by at least 25 percent.
Nearly all plants in this family are very easy to propagate using stem cuttings:
- Take a 1-inch piece of stem containing at least one leaf and set it cutting-side down in fresh potting soil (no rooting hormone is necessary). You can also set the cuttings in a jar of water to root before planting.
- Water the cutting regularly, and you should notice it take root within a few weeks.
- Repot the seedling into its permanent container.
Like many other houseplants, spiderwort plants can encounter issues with both aphids and spider mites. Keep an eye out for signs of infestation, and if you suspect your plant is infected, separate it from your other houseplants and treat it with a mild insecticide or horticultural oil like neem oil.
Is spiderwort easy to care for?
Spiderwort plants are some of the easiest houseplants to grow, and they will reward you with a lush, full appearance for very little work.
How fast does spiderwort grow?
Outdoors spiderwort is considered an overly aggressive grower. It grows equally fast indoors, but it can be contained. It grows about an inch a week, which is why it's also called an inch plant. Expect a full-grown plant in about six months after it's planted as a seedling.
How long can spiderwort live?
Even with the best of care, spiderwort houseplants have a somewhat short lifespan of just a few years.
Tradescantia. North Carolina State Extension.
Tradescantia fluminensis. North Carolina State Extension.