Exploring the world of spiderwort plants

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THERE are three spiderwort plants known as Wandering Jew. They are similar in appearance and have a habit of trailing, making them excellent for hanging baskets.

KEEP COOL: Tradescantia fluminensis likes to be kept in the shade.

All belong to the family Commelinaceae under the genus Tradescantia. Of the three species of spiderwort plants known as Wandering Jew are the Tradescantia fluminensis – a shade loving and vigorous invasive regenerating vine with small leaves and white flowers; Tradescantia pallida – a common plant usually seen trailing down from hanging pots with purple leaves and white pink or purple flowers; and Tradescantia zebrina – a  species distinguished by leaves that feature a lengthwise zebra stripe pattern of white and green. The variegated versions are bronze with pinkish cream stripes. This plant is ideal for hanging baskets.

From time to time you will come across herbalists selling the plant as an aid for high blood pressure.

Cultivation

This variety requires bright to filtered light. Direct sunlight will cause the leaves to get scorched or the whole plant may wither beyond recovery. Varieties with coloured foliage prefer brighter areas, while the green leafy types prefer a semi-shaded position.

In our hot weather conditions, watering is required daily. A good humid environment such as an orchid shade would be good.

Letting them hang down on the eaves where there is morning sun can help the plant to grow well. The plant’s roots do not go deep into the medium, staying just on the surface. Hence the soil should be humus rich and moist for the establishment of the plant either in the ground or hanging basket. Using straw and packed fibre or sphagnum moss would be good.

Spiderwort partners well with other types of plants. It can be grown around the edges of pots. The foliage adds colour and contrast to the combination of plants.

Care and maintenance

1.    If growing indoors in an air-conditioned room, maintain humidity by placing the pot over a tray.
2.    Always keep the potting medium moist and add liquid foliar spray to boost growth.
3.    When plants get bare and scraggy at the base, it is time to replant. Embed new cuttings of stems in the medium.
4.    Maintain the shape of the plant regularly. Reposition trailing stems in areas that are bare and cut away overgrown sections.
5.    Spiderwort has good resistance as it is not favoured by pests such as snails. Disease pathogens are also not known to attack the plant.

Happy gardening.