14 Types of Wandering Jew Varieties (With Pictures)

Wandering Jew, also known as Tradescantia zebrina or inch plant, river spiderwort, speedy Henry, wandering willie and wandering trad is native to Mexico, Central America, and South America, where it grows in the wild as a perennial herbaceous plant. It is a member of the spiderwort family, Commelinaceae. which also includes houseplants like the Oyster Plant. This plant is popular generally due to colorful foliage and easy-to-grow nature.

Wandering Jew plants are characterized by colorful leaves, which can be green, purple, or silver, with stripes of contrasting colors. The leaves are usually oval or lance-shaped and can grow up to 3 inches long. The stems of the plant are fleshy and can grow up to 6 feet in length. They grow in a trailing habit and are commonly grown in hanging baskets or containers.

Though these plants can be grown outside as perennials in U. S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 9 through 12, some species are favored as cascading houseplants. These are the ones usually called by the wandering Jew plant name.

This plant was first introduced to Europe in the 17th century by John Tradescant (1570-1638), an English botanist and successive gardener to Charles I of England, who collected the plant during his travels in the Americas. The plant was named after him, and it became a popular addition to botanical gardens and private collections. In the 19th century, the plant was introduced to other parts of the world like Asia and Africa, where it quickly became naturalized and even invasive in some regions.

Many wonder about the common name. The best guess has been that the plant was named for its wandering ways and the manner in which it can adapt to many circumstances. Grown outdoors, these plants tend to spread uninvited into any shady, wet areas near their planting site. In fact, according to University of Florida, the plant is classified as invasive in some areas due to its minimal cultural needs and powerful ability to adapt to different growing conditions outdoors.

Wandering Jew plants prefer warm temperatures, ideally between 65-75°F (18-24°C), and can be sensitive to cold drafts or sudden temperature changes. They thrive in bright, indirect light but can also tolerate lower light conditions. However, the more light the plant receives, the more vibrant its foliage will be.

Wandering Jew plants can be propagated easily from stem cuttings. Simply take a 4-6 inch cutting from the end of a stem, remove the lower leaves, and place the cutting in a jar of water or a pot of moist potting mix. Keep the cutting in a warm, bright location, and roots should form within a few weeks. Once the roots have formed, you can transplant the cutting into a larger pot or hanging basket.

Varieties of Wandering Jew

Many different varieties and cultivars of the plant have been developed, with variations in leaf color, size, and growth habit. Some popular varieties are:

  • Tradescantia palladia
  • Tradescantia flumenisis
  • Zebrina pendula
  • Tradescantia blossfeldiana
  • Tradescantia spathacea
  • Tradescantia virginiana
  • Tradescantia Sillamontana
  • Tradescantia longipes
  • Tradescantia navicularis
  • Tradescantia Nanouk
  • Tradescantia hirsuticaulis
  • Tradescantia subaspera
  • Tradescantia ohiensis

Pictures And Description

Tradescantia palladia

Tradescantia pallida, also known as the Purple Heart plant. It is characterized by its vivid purple, elongated, slightly pointed leaves and small, three-petaled flowers of white, pink, or purple. The fleshy leaves are covered with pale hairs and form a sheath around the stem. The stems are quite fragile, and break off easily if brushed or kicked too hard.

 Tradescantia flumenisis

Tradescantia fluminensis, also known as the small-leaf spiderwort is a trailing plant with succulent stems that root readily at the nodes. It forms a dense mat that can grow up to 50 cm thick. The leaves have a shiny appearance. They loosely clasp the stem.

The leaves are dark green, but there are also cultivars with longitudinal stripes and/or purplish bases. These colorful forms can sometimes revert to the original green color. In its native habitat, the plant bloom throughout the year. The flowers are generally small, star-shaped flowers and are white in color.

Zebrina pendula

Zebrina pendula also commonly referred to as Common Wandering Jew has variegated foliage with purple and green stripes on the upper surface of the leaves and a deep purple color on the underside. The leaves are ovate and clasp the stem at the base.

The stems are trailing and can become straggly in low light conditions. It can be grown outdoors in mild climates or as an annual in colder climates. It is fast-growing and can be used to fill in at the base of other tall tropical plants such as cannas, bananas, and elephant ears.

Tradescantia Blossfeldiana

Tradescantia Blossfeldiana also commonly referred to as Wild Wandering Jew because it can be found in moist prairies, fertile woodlands, open woods, meadows, hillsides, stony bluffs, stream banks, and along roadsides. The plant is named after Robert Blossfeld, a German plant breeder.

It is usually evergreen, clump-forming with short stem that bears a rosette of fleshy, lance-shaped glossy green leaves with purple undersides. It can be grown in hanging baskets, containers, or as a ground cover in warmer climates.

Tradescantia spathacea

Tradescantia spathacea, also called the oyster plant, boatlily or ‘Moses-in-the-cradle’ has lance-shaped leaves that grow in a rosette pattern (Can be narrow, spirally arranged, linear-lanceolate, stiffly-ascending or sword-shaped) . The foliage is a combination of deep green on the top and a rich purple on the underside.

At maturity, it produces small white flowers that bloom within a boat-shaped bract. The flowers are often hidden among the foliage. It can be grown outdoors in USDA zones 9-12 and can reach up to 12 inches in height.

Tradescantia sillamontana

Tradescantia sillamontana, commonly known as White Velvet or Cobweb Spiderwort is one of the most succulent and xerophytic species in the genus Tradescantia. It is characterized by its almost completely white hairs that cover the leaves, shoots, and even the buds.

It grows between 12 and 18 inches in height with erect shoots that later become prostrate and root at the soil surface.

The leaves are a dull olive to gray-green color, sometimes blushed purple but the leaves and new stems are so heavily covered with cobwebby silver-white hairs that the plant appears quite silver. During the summer, the plant produces mangeta flowers that appear at the apical growth points or in the axils of the bracts.

Tradescantia longipes

Tradescantia longipes, commonly known as the wild crocus is found only in the Ozark Mountains of southern Missouri and northern Arkansas in the Midwest United States. A spring blooming species, its flowers can be observed from April to May.

It is a low-growing plant reaches about 8 inches tall with deep blue to purple, three-petaled flowers that are accented by fringed yellow stamens. Its arching, grass-like bright or olive green leaves can reach up to 7 inches long. It is considered especially suitable in rock gardens or native plant gardens, but may be grown in most situations so long as partial shade is provided.

Tradescantia Nanouk

Tradescantia Nanouk, also known as Fantasy Venice, is a newer cultivar that was created by cross-pollinating seedlings from tradescantia albiflora. This hybrid plant was created in a lab in 2012 in the Netherlands. The leaves are deep green with bright pink stripes and a rich magenta-purple underside.

It is a fast-growing plant that can reach up to 12 inches in length each year. It can also be propagated through stem cuttings. While it’s the new it’s not a difficult plant. You just need to maintain a temperature range of 65-75°F (18-24°C) during the day and 55-65°F (13-18°C) at night. Avoid exposing the plant to drafts or sudden temperature changes.

Tradescantia ohiensis

Tradescantia ohiensis, commonly known as bluejacket or Ohio spiderwort usually feature blue flowers that bloom from late spring to early summer, and its long, grass-like leaves. Its flowers open in the morning and close in the afternoon.  It can be grown in shade, however, the blooms will not be as profuse as when placed in full sun. The leaves of the plant are commonly used in traditional medicine to soothe insect bites and other skin irritations.

In the United States, the distribution of the plant is from Maine in the northeast, extending westward to Minnesota, and southward to Texas and Florida. It also has a very limited distribution in Canada, specifically in the southernmost part of Ontario near Windsor.

Tradescantia subaspera

Tradescantia subaspera, commonly known as the zigzag spiderwort grows wildly in moist, rich soils in deciduous woodlands and borders, along ravines, bases of bluffs and along shady streams. It is characterized by zigzag stem and three-petaled flowers that are from violet-blue to purple in color. Flowers bloom May to September.

Secondary stems and leaves can occasionally develop from the axils of the primary leaves. The olive or bright green leaves have prominent parallel veins, looking similar to the leaf of a corn stalk.

The plant also has a long history of use in traditional medicine. It has been used to treat ailments like skin irritations, digestive issues and respiratory problems.

Tradescantia virginiana

Tradescantia virginiana also referred to as the Virginia spiderwort grows in clumps and spreads by underground stolons, reaching 2-3 feet in height and 1 foot in width. It is commonly grown in many gardens and also found growing wild along roadsides and railway lines.

It is commonly found in the Piedmont region of North Carolina, Louisiana and Florida. It has actually been naturalized in Florida and is listed as a Category II invasive exotic species by the Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council.

The plant has alternate, simple leaves (dark or olive green) on tubular stems. The flowers are borne in summer, in shades of blue, purple, magenta or white. The foliage may die back in the heat of the summer but returns in late summer to fall and often reblooms.

In spring, it produces purple or pink 3-petaled flowers that last for a day but new ones are produced daily in terminal clusters. This plant is suitable for a naturalized or woodland garden, along a stream or pond, in a rain garden, or in a native/pollinator garden.

Cultivars of Virginia spiderwort available, including ‘Concord Grape,’ ‘Red Grape,’ ‘Sweet Kate,’ and ‘Amethyst Kiss.’ They offer different flower colors and growth habits.

Cultivars of Wandering Jew

Cultivar NameDescription
Tradescantia zebrina ‘Quicksilver’Variegated, with silver-green leaves and purple undersides.
Tradescantia zebrina ‘Red Gem’Has deep purple leaves and a metallic sheen.
Tradescantia zebrina ‘Tricolor’Has green, white, and pink striped leaves.
Tradescantia pallida ‘Purple Heart’Characterized by deep purple leaves and pink flowers.
Tradescantia fluminensis ‘Variegata’Variegated, featuring green and white striped leaves.
Tradescantia sillamontana ‘White Velvet’Has fuzzy, silvery-white leaves and purple undersides.
Tradescantia spathacea ‘Sitara’s Gold’A cultivar with bright yellow-green leaves and purple undersides.
Tradescantia spathacea ‘Tricolor’Feature green, pink, and white striped leaves.
Tradescantia zebrina ‘Candy Cane’A variegated cultivar with green and white striped leaves and a pink tinge on the edges.
Tradescantia zebrina ‘Green Hill’A cultivar with dark green leaves and a more compact growth habit.
Tradescantia zebrina ‘Purpusii’Has bright green leaves and purple undersides.
Tradescantia zebrina ‘Quadricolor’A colorful cultivar with green, pink, and white striped leaves.
Tradescantia albifloraA white giant plant with large blue-green leaves striped.
Tradescantia fluminensis ‘Argentea’Characterized by silvery-white leaves.
Tradescantia spathacea ‘Pink Splash’Has pink and green striped leaves.
Tradescantia zebrina ‘Burgundy’Has deep burgundy leaves.
Tradescantia zebrina ‘Golden Mosaic’Characterized by bright yellow-green leaves.

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