Tradescantia fluminensis is more commonly known as Wandering Jew and is a species of spiderwort that is native to South America. Other names for this quick-growing plant include Inch Plant, Wandering Willie, River Spiderwort, Small-Leaf Spiderwort and Wandering Trad.
This plant is invasive and forms a dense mat underneath the cover of forest trees up to 12 inches or wider. It has significant tolerance to shade and will smother any other ground level plants in its vicinity. If left unchecked it can cause massive damage to native forest areas.
Native to the sub-tropical regions of Argentina and Brazil, although it is also found in Australia, New Zealand and the south-eastern United States and is regarded as an agricultural pest. It has naturalized in Florida where it is overtaking floodplain forest and other semi shaded, moist land.
Every part of the plant can regenerate and it can survive for long periods, even if the immediate climate does not support it. Its succulent stems break easily and are then transported via humans, animals and even a strong wind.
The species is officially called T. fluminensis and its genus is Tradescantia. Commonly grown as a houseplant in its various forms, the variegated variety is particularly popular. If cultivated and looked after responsibly it’s an easy care plant.
The plant needs moist soil and warmth to do well. Cold restricts its growth and it will not thrive in sunny spots that are dry for long periods of time. In very dry conditions it will still need to be controlled, though it has the ability to retain enough water in its fleshy parts to survive until the next wet spell and will again become rampant.
Did You Know?
Despite its problems this fast growing, hardy plant is a great choice for creating a lush tropical feel in an atrium garden as it can be encouraged to form living curtains that spill over a waterfall ledge or grotto entrance. A good choice in gardens is the variety called ‘Innocence’ as it is much less invasive and aggressive. This variety has dark green long stems that will grow under shrubs and perennials to decorate the planting areas with sprays of white flowers similar to Baby’s Breath.