Episode 31: The Tradescantia group

Tradescantia  ‘Green Hill’. Photograph: Jane Perrone.

Tradescantia ‘Green Hill’. Photograph: Jane Perrone.

The Tradescantia group isn't some kind of sketchy set of illuminati figures worthy of a Dan Brown novel, it's a group of houseplants with a plethora of different names: inch plants, spiderworts, purple heart, teddy bear vine, and more*. Find out how to look after them, which ones to choose and what to do when things go wrong, from spider mite to spindly stems. 

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Here's a list of the plants I dissuss in this episode: 

T. flumensis 'Quadricolor' from  Perfectplants.co.uk .

T. flumensis 'Quadricolor' from Perfectplants.co.uk.

1. Tradescantia fluminensis is probably the most popular of the group, historically: it's sometimes called the small-leaved Tradescantia. Tradescantia albiflora is another closely related species that you'll sometimes see for sale. 

Variety T'Quicksilver' is one of my favourites, along with the dappled pink, white and green 'Maiden's Blush'. The plant at the top of the page is called 'Green Hill' and is a good one if you're not a fan of variegation - it's available from Crocus in the UK.

Tradescantia zebrina. Photograph by  Dick Culbert  on  Flickr .

Tradescantia zebrina. Photograph by Dick Culbert on Flickr.

2. Zebrina pendula, the silvery inch plant, is more accurately known as Tradescantia zebrina. I have a suspicion its colourful, silvery looks are helping it overtake T. fluminensis in the popularity stakes. 

Callisia elegans . Photograph by  Maja Dumat  on  Flickr .

Callisia elegans. Photograph by Maja Dumat on Flickr.

3. The striped inch plant, Callisia elegans, looks like a Tradescantia in a pinstripe suit.

It's less common than either of the options above, but makes an attractive trailing foliage plant. You may see it sold as Setcreasea striata

Another couple of species to look out for are Callisia fragrans and Callisia repens, the turtle vine.  

4. Tradescantia pallida 'Purpurea' aka Setcreasea purpurea aka purple heart aka purple spiderwort. Phew. Beautiful rich purple foliage if you give it enough light. 

Pussy ears aka Cyanotis somaliensis. Love this plant. Photograph:  Quinn Dombrowski  on  Flickr

Pussy ears aka Cyanotis somaliensis. Love this plant. Photograph: Quinn Dombrowski on Flickr

5. Cyanotis kewensis, the teddy bear vine, and Cyanotis somaliensis, pussy ears, are also both worth a mention, particularly if you like your leaves appealingly tactile rather than colourful. 

And also ... 

Tradescantia spathacea aka Rhoeo discolor is another member of the clan, but has quite a different growing habit to the others already mentioned, with more of a rosette formation. Its most interesting feature is the way the flowers are cupped in little 'boats' at the base of the leaves, hence the common name moses in the cradle. Siderasis fuscata or brown spiderwort is a terrarium dweller and another Tradescantia group member, albeit one that, in my humble opinion, is too boring and fussy to be of much interest.   

*Another common name is wandering Jew, but I purposely avoid this racial epithet, when there are lots of other more descriptive common names available. 

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This week's show featured Roll Jordan Roll by the Joy Drops and Samuel Corwin's: An Instrument the Boy Called Happy Day, Gokarna, both licensed under Creative Commons, and Hot Lips by Bill Brown and His Brownies.

Jane PerroneTradescantia