Monday, August 8, 2011

Tradescantia Pallida - Mind the Gaps

I just flipped through 42 googlets on the care and feeding and propagation of the wandering jew, the plant least likely to require any instructions whatsoever. There were many more but even though I am in FULL PROCRASTINATION MODE, I was getting bored.

I have been growing tradescantia pallida (as it's more haughtily called) since 1972 (or thereabouts) when Stan and Betty Gottlieb gave me a sprig snipped on a trip to Jamaica or Trinidad or Aruba.  I stuck it in one of the many potted avocado plants that lined the windowsill of the New York apartment I shared with my husband once removed (The Pre-Prince) and it grew.

Avocado plants raised from pits (stick a couple of toothpicks in the sides and balance on a glass of water until roots emerge) do not fruit. They are useful as screens however, in this case softening an unglamorous view of Columbus Avenue, and as starter plants for budding gardeners since the process is so stupidly simple and....transparent. 

Similarly, you really have to work hard to come up with instructions for cultivating the wandering jew--which is why it's amazing that so many people have done so (me included now it seems).

Pinch a bit off and stick it in soil. Voila.

They grow in the sun they grow in the shade they grow in crappy soil they can survive a trip home from the Dominican Republic wrapped in a wet bathing suit (got me a variegated variety that way).  But they don't care if it's dry either.

Being tropical, they do not survive frost, but a couple of sprigs wintered over in the kitchen window -- a glass of water will do though they won't protest a little dirt-- will grow long and leggy and can be snipped and snipped again and plopped in pots and borders and baskets in spring.

And some time around now, when bare spots inevitably appear in the garden or window boxes you'll have such an abundance that gaps can be filled instantly and thusly: break off a piece, stick forefinger in soil, insert snipping, tamp soil down. If you feel like watering, do so. If not it'll rain soon enough, probably. 

Demonstration (please refer to picture at top):
Tradescantia Pallida Fills a Window Box Gap


  1. Funny, was just remembering all those avocado pits the other day, and wondering what the hell the point was. Hmm.

  2. what ARE you talking about. you hadn't arrived yet.

  3. Yeah - that was in the pre-Prince days. haha

  4. Update on the avocado pit comment. I was talking to a guy from somewhere in the heat of Central America a few weeks ago and he assured me that one could grow an actual guacamole ready avocado tree from a pit. He claims they eventually fruit, though I have never seen this myself. And I've been through many, many toothpicked pits that have grown tall and lush but never fruited... if you've had success, do tell.


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