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Killing Wandering Jew Plants: How To Get Rid Of Wandering Jew Weeds In The Garden

Killing Wandering Jew Plants: How To Get Rid Of Wandering Jew Weeds In The Garden


By: Liz Baessler

Wandering jew (Tradescantia fluminensis), not to be confused with its attractive and more well-behaved cousin of the same name, is a decorative groundcover native to subtropical Argentina and Brazil. While it can make for a striking addition to your garden, it is extremely invasive and should be treated with caution. Keep reading for information about wandering jew and, specifically, how to get rid of the stuff.

Wandering Jew in the Garden

Wandering jew thrives in USDA zones 9-11. It can withstand a very light frost, but nothing more. It can be used as a groundcover or encouraged to cascade down ledges to form an attractive curtain that produces small white blossoms.

If you really want wandering jew plants in the garden, opt for the “Innocence” variety that has been bred to be less invasive and more attractive. Planting it is not recommended, however, since once it’s taken root, you will be seeing a lot of it.

This particular wandering jew plant can be identified by its glossy, bright green leaves encircling a single stem. From spring to fall, clusters of white, three-petaled flowers appear in the top of the stem. It is most likely to appear in large patches in damp, shady parts of your garden or backyard.

How to Get Rid of Wandering Jew Weeds

The wandering jew weed is a serious problem in Australia, New Zealand, and the southern United States. It is fast growing and rarely propagates by seed. Instead, a new viable plant can grow from a single stem fragment.

Because of this, removing wandering jew plants by hand-pulling is only effective if every piece is collected and removed, making killing wandering jew in its entirety difficult. This process ought to work with diligence and persistence, however.

The stems float, too, so take extreme care if you are working near water, or your problem will crop up all over again downstream. Killing wandering jew with a strong herbicide may also be effective but should only be used as a last resort.

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Tradescantia

Tradescantia is more correctly known as wandering Jew in New Zealand, but as this name is considered offensive to some people, it has been decided to call it tradescantia on this site. Some in New Zealand have decided to call it wandering willie, though many organisations within this country have now moved to the name of tradescantia to get away from the offensive nature of the official name. Tradescantia is a succulent perennial plant that is an environmental weed, causing major problems under trees and in bush reserves throughout the North Island in some parts of the South Island. Originally from South America, it has been grown as an ornamental garden plant for many years and also in hanging pots, but sale in garden centres is now banned because of its invasive nature. Because tradescantia can form thick mats of vegetation in moist, shady areas within bush reserves, it stops new seedlings of trees and shrubs from establishing wherever it grows. Although it is not thought to produce seeds within New Zealand, it spreads due to the brittle nature of its stems, resulting in the plant fragmenting easily, and these fragments do not dry out easily. It probably spreads mainly during periods of flooding, when it gets washed into new areas. It also gets into new areas through people dumping garden waste on roadsides, as it is commonly found in many gardens, especially where gardens have been growing for many decades. Apart from being a major problem within bush areas and shady gardens, it can cause allergic skin reactions in dogs and other animals running through the foliage. It is also exceedingly difficult to get rid of once established.


The question of How to Control Trad or Wandering Jew is a complicated one. This is a very difficult plant to quickly eradicate, however, over time it can be done.

Tradescantia fluminensis, ‘Wandering Jew Weed’ or ‘Wandering Trad’ is an invasive creeper like weed that is difficult to kill.

It is shade tolerant, smothers other plants by forming a dense mat and will regenerate from the smallest piece dropped of left on the ground.

Some of the Systemic weed killers based on glyphosate can be used on Tradescantia fluminensis (Tradescantia albiflora).

The big problem with Wandering Jew or Wandering Trad is that although it is vigorous and this is a problem, it is also weak so it is very easily broken when digging or weeding.

As it will ‘take’ from the smallest of pieces, anything that is dropped is a potential ‘new weed’. In lawns, if mown it will spread widely and any pieces caught in the mower will ‘take’ if dropped somewhere later on.


Wandering Jew Plants Basics

Native to South America, the wandering Jew plants (Tradescantia) are perennial evergreens that combine three types of plants under this common name. They’re sometimes called spiderwort, purple queen, and inch plant depending on whom you ask. But the fact that they’re tropical plants doesn’t mean you can’t grow them in your home. That’s the beauty of houseplants. You have control over the temperature and humidity levels allowing you to grow such exotic plants as these.

The one thing you need to keep in mind is that the wandering Jew plants are considered invasive species in many places. This is why you can’t grow them in your garden. Remember what we said about their self-propagation? Once they establish roots in an area, they spread out and claim new territories all the time. In a garden, this means they will soon take over and smother other plants in the garden before they jump over the fence and reclaim the neighbor’s garden as well.

Some of the species are flowering plants while others rarely bloom indoors. But even those that don’t flower, they still have dazzling foliage that renders the flowers redundant. Some varieties have striped green leaves with silver streaks that are a delight to look at.


How to Grow Wandering Jew Houseplant (Tradescantia zebrina)

Have you ever heard of the wandering jew plant? There was a time when it was one of the most common houseplants. It’s also known by the name of spiderworts. However, the name wandering jew comes from its propagation habits.

The plant is easy to propagate and people once shared the cuttings with friends and relatives. Therefore, the plant would “wander” from home to home or town to town as people in the Jewish culture once “wandered” from place to place.

If you’re interested in having a gorgeous houseplant with an interesting history, consider growing wandering jew. Here’s what you should know to grow this houseplant:

Growing Conditions for Wandering Jew

The wandering jew houseplant has many of the same needs of your other houseplants. It prefers a bright space but needs indirect sunlight.

A bright window with a curtain in front of it, to filter the light, might be a great location for your wandering jew houseplant.

If the plant receives too little light, the unique designs on the leaves will diminish. The plant also flowers more when receiving adequate sunlight.

It’s important to note there are multiple varieties of wandering jew. Some have different designs on the leaves while others have different shaped leaves. For this reason, the light test may not work for all varieties of this plant.

Wandering jew does prefer temperatures between 50- and 80-degrees Fahrenheit. It needs higher humidity in its grow space and should be planted in well-draining soil.

Most importantly, it needs consistently damp soil. You don’t want the soil to be in a soggy state, but it should always be moist.

By providing these basic specifications, your wandering jew houseplant should have an exceptional grow space.

How to Plant Wandering Jew

Propagating wandering jew is a simple process with various methods. No matter which method you choose, they all start with cutting a leg of the wandering Jew plant away from the rest of the plant.

The first method consists of sticking a leg of the wandering Jew plant in a container filled with potting soil.

You can dip the leg in rooting hormone if you like, but it isn’t required. Do make sure that you use fresh potting soil each time you propagate the plant.

Old potting soil may have a salt build-up which will kill wandering jew plants. Wait approximately one month to see if the leg sprouted roots. Be sure to water the cutting consistently over the month.

Be careful not to drown the cutting. If roots formed, you should continue to care for it as you would any established wandering jew plant.

The next method for propagation is rooting the leg in water. Place the leg of the plant in a glass or clear container filled with water.

Set the cutting in the water and place it where it will receive indirect sunlight. Watch the cutting over the next month to see if roots establish.

If new roots form, the cutting should be transplanted into a container with fresh potting soil. Continue to provide proper care for your new plant.

The final method to propagating the wandering jew plant is to cut a leg from the plant and lay the cutting on moist soil.

Ensure each node on the stem is touching the soil. Roots will develop out of each of the nodes on the cutting.

As you can tell, propagating this plant isn’t particularly difficult. Choose the method that you think will work best for your comfort level and start propagating new plants.

How to Care for Wandering Jew

Caring for a wandering jew plant is a straightforward process. It needs water, fertilizer, pruning, repotting, humidity, and caution.

Let’s walk through each of these steps. The first step in caring for this plant is to water it. Wandering jew prefers damp soil but be mindful not to overwater.

Instead of heavy watering, consider spritzing the plant regularly to keep the soil moist without it being soggy. This should help increase the humidity around the plant as well.

If you’re concerned about when to water and when to avoid watering, try the knuckle test. Insert your finger into the soil surrounding your plant.

When the soil is dry to the first knuckle, you know to add more water. When it isn’t, avoid watering for a while longer.

Let’s discuss increasing the humidity surrounding the plant while we’re here. I’ve already mentioned spritzing this plant with a spray bottle on a regular basis to increase the humidity level around the plant.

However, you can also sit the wandering jew plant in the kitchen or bathroom. They’re rooms in the home which are naturally high in humidity.

If this doesn’t suit your home’s layout, you can also set the potted plant inside a larger container with rocks on the bottom.

Cover the rocks in a shallow amount of water. You don’t want the water to meet the planter where the wandering jew plant is potted.

This will create more humidity around your plant and still allow you to place the plant wherever you prefer.

The next need of this plant is fertilizer. You should only fertilize your wandering jew plant one time per month. Be sure to dilute the fertilizer to only 50 percent potency to avoid damaging your plant.

Wandering jew does require pruning. As your plant begins to vine, remove the tips of the stems. You can do this by hand. Simply pinch the ends of the vines away from the plant. This will encourage the plant to fill out.

This houseplant will need to be repotted one time per year when the plant begins to look root bound. You’ll know it’s time because it will continue producing vines but will lose its leaves.

Gently remove the plant from its old container and transfer it to a slightly larger planter. Fill the new planter one third of the way full of fresh soil.

Place the wandering jew plant in the container and top it off with the remaining fresh soil. Water the plant and continue to provide proper care.

Our final note on caring for this plant has more to do with caring for yourself. The wandering Jew plant produces sap.

If this sap touches your skin or your pet it can cause severe irritation. Be mindful to keep your pets away from this plant and to keep yourself covered when working with it.

Follow these few steps, and you should have no problems caring for your wandering jew houseplant.

Garden Pests and Diseases for Wandering Jew

The wandering jew houseplant has a few pests and diseases you should look out for. The only disease which typically impacts this plant is root rot.

This disease normally occurs because the plant has been left to sit in soggy soil. Avoid overwatering by using well-draining soil, a properly draining container, and utilizing the knuckle test before adding more water to the plant. These tips should help you to avoid root rot.

The pests you must be aware of are spider mites, aphids, scales, and mealybugs. Spider mites are a common pest among houseplants. It’s normal to not notice you have a spider mite infestation until you see their webs forming because these pests are so tiny.

Place your plant in your kitchen sink and spray it with soapy water. Be sure to get all sides of the leaves. This will dislodge the pests and destroy their homes. Repeat this process as frequently as needed to keep spider mites at bay.

Aphids are another common pest for houseplants. These insects will suck the sap from your plants and cause discoloration.

If you begin to see signs, take your plant to the sink and hose it down with soapy water. This will remove the pests from your plant. Repeat this treatment as needed.

Scales are a pest which look more like a growth on your plant. You’ll usually notice them attached to the stem.

You can hand-pick this pest off your plant and rub the stem down with canola oil. The oil will suffocate the pest.

The final pest to be aware of is mealybugs. They’re a small pest which can also go undetected until your plant begins to look distressed. Mealybugs will suck your plant’s sap and nibble on the root system.

You can battle mealybugs by wiping your plant down with a swab doused in rubbing alcohol. Spraying the plant with soapy water is another way to battle this pest.

By remaining aware of what could cause potential harm to your wandering jew plant, you’re giving it a great chance at growing successfully.

The wandering jew plant is unique because of its vibrant color and designs. It’s easy to care for and has only a few threats.

It’s a great natural décor piece that’s sure to catch everyone’s eye. Hopefully, this information will help you have an enjoyable experience when growing the wandering jew plant.


Wandering Jew is prone to a variety of diseases, including:

  • Stem or root rot—it is getting too much water or it is not draining properly so watch the watering and make sure that it is draining.
  • Leaves losing color or drooping—not enough light so if indoors, you just have to move the plant where it will get more light.
  • Sunburned foliage—too much sun so you need to put it in a less sunny location.
  • Aphids, spider mites, mealybugs, or whiteflies—these are all sap-sucking insects and can quickly kill your Wandering Jew plant. If the infestation is small you can just wipe the leaves and get rid of them. You may also use an insecticidal soap with water and gently spray the plant.


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