House Plant Clinic 02 – Tradescantia

What is wrong with my Tradescantia plant?
What is wrong with my Tradescantia plant?

This is my less lovely-than-it-should-be Tradescantia fluminensis aka wandering sailor. What I want to know is what is wrong with my plant? And how can I rescue it so it looks happy again.

In my family we have always called it a wandering sailor plant. A much nicer name than ‘wandering Jew’ which it is more commonly known as with its lingering racist undertones. When I first heard it referred to as a wandering jew plant I did a double take as I had honestly never heard it called that before. So from this point onwards I’ll be referring to it only as Tradescantia or wandering sailor.

What is wrong?

Anyways back to my sad plant. It is desperately trying to tell me that it is feeling sorry for itself and I could I please start giving it the care it needs! Signs it is feeling sad are that:

  • It looks leggy and straggly
  • Leaves are yellow and drying out
  • Leaves are losing variegation
  • New growth looks small and unhealthy.

My first step is to inspect it for disease or pest infestation to check there are not any other problems. The pot is very light so I can tell that it has been under-watered. Also the roots escaping the pot are a sure sign that it has outgrown its pot.

Pot bound Tradescantia plant
Pot bound Tradescantia plant with roots escaping the pot

How to rescue it?

First step is a haircut! Tradescantia are very prone to getting straggly so a good prune encourage new bushy growth.

  • I need to cut away all sections with dried out or yellowing leaves and trim back the long, straggly stems.
  • By snipping back to just below below a leaf joint, new growth will spring from there.
Picture showing where new growth will appear on trimmed Tradescantia stem
New growth will appear on trimmed Tradescantia stem

Next step I need to repot it as it is clearly very pot bound.

  • After freeing the plant from its pot, I rough up the root ball and encourage roots to start branching out
  • Finally I pop it in a pot one size larger with well-draining potting compost

Final look…

Now to find a better spot for it…it likes a bright spot without too much direct sunlight.

Revitalised Tradescantia plant
Revitalised plant

Tradescantia are not a long lived plant so there are no guarantees that this will be enough to really revitalise it but as it already looks better I am going to give it a whirl.

I’ve popped the snipped off remains into a glass of water on the kitchen windowsill. Hopefully, these should root within a a few weeks as wandering sailor is incredibly easy to propagate.