Tradescantia

Family: Commelinaceae
Habitat: A vast area in America, from southern Canada to Argentina.
Cultivation: Tradescantia aren’t demanding plants at all and are thus very easy to cultivate.
Curiosity: The genus was named after John Tradescant, who was the court gardener to Charles I of England, who brought Tradescantia from America and introduced this plant to Europeans.

KEY FEATURES

Tradescantia is a genus of plants of the Commelinaceae family, native to a vast area in America, from southern Canada to Argentina.

The genus was named after John Tradescant, who was the court gardener to Charles I of England, who brought Tradescantia from America and introduced this plant to Europeans.

Due to the wide area of distribution and the large number of species in this genus, many authors suggest to divide it in many distinct sections, including Coholomia, Austrotradescantia, Campelia, Mandonia, etc…

Tradescantia is highly appreciated in the world of ornamental gardening because it is one of the easiest plants to cultivate, as it’s extremely resistant. Precisely for its resistance, it is used as a mapping plant in rocky, shaded gardens or either as a houseplants. It was introduced in Europe in the 17th century and it’s now cultivated all over the world. The falling attitude of many species make it the perfect choice for adorne your balcony or either for hanging pots. In Italy, precisely for this falling attitude, these plants are also called “misery weeds”.

Tradescantia are medium-sized, herbaceous perennial plants (30 to 55 centimeters tall), often forming clumps but also solitary, with many climbing and creeping species.

Some species of Tradescantia are nyctinastic. Nyctinastic plants have a really fashinating behaviour: they move the leaves in response to the onset of darkness, giving the impression to going to sleep! With the arrival of night, in fact, they “close up” the leaves towards the stems. This ability may serve to some still unknown evolutionary benefits. In the 18th century Linneus proposed even that these plants were “going to sleep”! This is obvoiusly impossible as plants don’t have a conscience as we intend in an antropocentrical way but, on the other hand, the evolutionary advantages that should be obtained through this behavior are still unverified. Regarding Tradescantia, the nyctinastic movements concern mainly the flowers, wihch are able to close up when he sunlight become too intense to bear.

Its stems are long, creeping or falling or climbing in some species, green and often covered in a soft hair.
Their leaves are succulent, usually long, ranging from almond-shaped ones to lanceolate or blade-like others. Some species used as ornamental plants show colorful leaves, striped in yellowish white or purple.

Their flowers show different colors depending on the species: from white, to pink to purple, more often of a bright blue and sometimes tinged of different colours. and are peculiar because they only have three petals, more or less rounded or pointed depending on the species.

VARIETY AND TYPES

There are numerous species of Tradescantia: here below are some of them:

  • T. andrieuxii
  • T. boliviana
  • T. brachyphylla
  • T. bracteata
  • T. brevifolia
  • T. buckleyi
  • T. burchii
  • T. carinata
  • T. cerinthoides
  • T. cirrifera
  • T. coapatli
  • T. commelinoides
  • T. crassifolia
  • T. crassula
  • T. cymbispatha
  • T. deficiens
  • T. difforme
  • T. elegans
  • T. fluminensis
  • T. gigantea
  • T. gracillima
  • T. grantii
  • T. guiengolensis
  • T. huehueteca
  • T. humilis
  • T. leiandra
  • T. llamasii
  • T. longifolia
  • T. longipes
  • T. masonii
  • T. maysillesii
  • T. mcvaughii
  • T. mirandae
  • T. monospermaa
  • T. ohiensis
  • T. orchidophylla
  • T. pallida
  • T. pedicellata
  • T. peninsularis
  • T. petiolaris
  • T. petricola
  • T. pinetorum
  • T. plusiantha
  • T. poelliae

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TIPS FOR GROWING

Tradescantia aren’t demanding plants at all and are thus very easy to cultivate. Here are our cultivation tips:

  • Put your Tradescantia in bright spots, but avoid direct sunlights during the hottest hours of summer days.
  • Its minimum tolerated temperature is around 10ºC, so it’s better to shelter it in Winter. On the contrary, Tradescantias are really tolerant to hot temperatures, so they are the perfect plants to grow if you live in warm regions.
  • Water regularly in Spring and Summer to maintain the soil slightly humid and reduce the irrigation frequency in Autumn and Winter. When it’s cold it’s important to wait for the soil to dry up completely before each irrigations. It’s advisable to use clay pots as they help the drainage through gasous exchanges with their porous texture.
  • The substrate should be rich in nutrients and well-draining, enriched in sand, when possible.
  • Repot your Tradescantia every year, at the beginning of the Spring, in a bigger pot than the previous one, using a substrate rich in nutrients but well-draining.
  • Fertilization is due every two weeks only in Spring and Summer, when possible (the plants will survive of course if you do it less frequently or you don’t do it at all), by diluting a liquid fertilizer during watering. The fertilizer should be equally rich in all nutrients.
  • It’s also suggested to periodically cut the vegetative apices, like a pruning, to obtain bushy-like clumps.

Propagation of Tradescantia should be done through cuttings, to be rooted in the soil or in water. The cuttings should be taken off in Spring and Summer and should be 10-13 centimeters long. After removing the basal leaves from the cuttings, plant them in a pot filled with a half of fertile substrate and the other half in sand. You will probably need the help of rooting hormones. Keep the cuttings at a temperature of 20ºC, maintaining a humid substrate.

 

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