Botanical Name: Tradescantia zebrina
Light, humidity and water are the keys to Inch Plant care. Give this tropical native what it wants and it will reward you with colorful, glistening foliage, making it a stunning houseplant all year round.
Its long, fleshy stems are densely covered with lance-shaped leaves that are about 2 in (5 cm) long. Each green and purple leaf is marked with 2 broad silvery bands, and is dark purplish underneath.
Small, 3-petaled flowers may appear in spring, but they're not showy compared to the colorful foliage.
Pinch and prune. Pinch stems back often to encourage branching and to keep Inch Plant from getting too leggy. The best time to prune is in spring and summer, during the growing season. You can easily propagate the stem cuttings for more plants.
Watch for pests. Aphids are small, greenish insects that are attracted to new growth, which this plant has in abundance. Look for them on the stems of new shoots. Also watch for webbing between stems and on the undersides of leaves, a tell-tale sign of spider mites.
Repot in spring, only when Inch Plant outgrows its pot. Move to one just 1-2 inches larger because a pot that's too big will hold too much water. The easiest way to prevent soggy soil is to use a container with drainage holes. If you want to cover up a plain pot, slip it into a cachepot -- a decorative pot without drainage holes. I put small rocks in the bottom of cachepots to keep the inner pot above the drainage water.
Brown leaf tips are caused by dry air or dry potting mix. Inch plant care includes regular watering and keeping the humidity high.
Several species in the Spiderwort family share the common name Inch Plant. Choose the one you like, they are all easy to grow. And all are vigorous growers, too. If you buy a small plant, you won't wait long for those lush, trailing vines to spill over the sides of a container.
Tradescantia albiflora is one of the most common. Both 'Variegata' and 'Quicksilver' cultivars have green leaves variegated with creamy white.
Tradescantia zebrina has gorgeous green-and-purple foliage, glistening with bands of silver. 'Quadricolor' has striped leaves in green, silver, purple and pink.
Origin: Mexico and South America
Height: Stems can trail to 2 ft (60 cm) or more.
Light: Bright, indirect light. Long spaces between leaves are caused by too little light. Pinch off leggy stems and move your plant to a brighter spot. Leaves will also lose their variegation if they don't get enough light.
Water: Keep soil evenly moist in the growing season, slightly drier in winter. Use a pot with drainage holes; water thoroughly till water comes out the bottom, then empty drainage tray. Stems that look wilted may be a sign of root rot. Cut off any withered stems and allow potting mix to dry out a bit between waterings.
Humidity: Try to maintain 40% relative humidity or higher. Indoor air can become extremely dry during the winter months without our noticing it. It's a good idea to use a humidity monitor near your houseplant, rather than guess. If leaf tips turn brown, the air is too dry. Increase moisture by using a cool-mist room humidifier.
Temperature: Average room temperatures 65-75°F/18-24°C suit this tropical year-round. It will tolerate a winter minimum of 55°F/13°C.
Soil: Peat moss based potting mix with added perlite works best because it is a looser mix for faster drainage. African violet potting mix is ideal.
Fertilizer: Feed every 2 weeks during spring and summer with a balanced (10-10-10 NPK) water-soluble fertilizer diluted by half. Tradescantia is not a heavy feeder. Too much fertilizer can cause the leaves to lose their variegation.
Propagation: Easy to propagate from stem tip cuttings. Take 3 in (7.5 cm) cuttings in spring or summer and place in moist soil. Cuttings will root in about 3 weeks.