11 Types of Wandering Jew | Tradescantia Varieties

Spiderworts are plants in the Tradescantia genus and are known as inch plants, wandering dudes, as well as wandering Jews. That last name is being phased out by a lot of people because it carries some negative connotations. 

Whatever you call them, they’re elegant plants with striking leaves in shades of silver, green, or purple. Fast-growing, tolerant of a range of conditions, and as unfussy as can be, it’s no wonder they’ve become such a popular houseplant option.

Types of Wandering Jew Plants

Any plant in the Tradescantia genus is technically a spiderwort, but the plants in this genus vary widely. 

Some have long, strappy, pure green leaves. Others have oval leaves on long vines. Some have massive flowers, and others have blossoms that are largely insignificant.

Indoor Varieties

While any spiderwort can be grown outside if you live in the right climate, there are species and cultivars that have been bred specifically to act as beautiful houseplants. 

Houseplant wandering dudes are happy in USDA Growing Zones 8-11 and usually have a trailing growth habit.

Outdoor Types

Outdoor wandering dudes are hardy enough to withstand frost and snow and tend to have a clumping, upright growth habit.

In general, outdoor types can grow in USDA Growing Zones 4-9. These look a bit more like a typical garden plant, with longer leaves and, often, impressive flowers.

Flowering Types

Some plants in the Tradescantia are grown for their beautiful flowers rather than their foliage and typically these are outdoor-grown varieties. 

Almost all of the indoor types are grown for the leaves and not their flowers.

11 Varieties of Wandering Jews

Be prepared, there are a lot of excellent spiderworts out there. Whether you want a unique houseplant or a hardy plant that will flower in your garden, this genus has it all. 

Here is my pick of the best options.

Baby Bunny Bellies

1. Baby Bunny Bellies

Guess where baby bunny bellies (T. chrysophylla) got its name? The underside of each green leaf is purple and has a soft, hairy coating that feels like a baby bunny if you rub it. It’s a delight for the senses.

  • Ideal Position: Bright, indirect light
  • Difficulty: Easy, almost impossible to kill
  • Toxicity: Mildly toxic to pets and humans if ingested

This is an indoor type native to wet regions of Brazil, so it needs moderate moisture and temperatures of between 62-85F. 

Let the top inch dry out in between watering, but no more. If you keep this plant happy, you’ll be treated to tiny little purple flowers.

For those in warmer climates (USDA zones 9-11 who are lucky enough to be able to grow baby bunny bellies outdoors, the plant forms a mounding habit when grown in the ground. 

For those growing it indoors, it will take on a trailing habit, stretching out to two feet and just six inches or so high.

Bilberry Ice
Credit: Openverse Henry 10 CC By 2.0

2. Bilberry Ice

‘Bilberry Ice’ is a hybrid (T. x andersoniana) that is a frost-hardy type down to 5F and suitable for USDA zones 3 through 9. 

Native to North America, and preferring moderate moisture, this beauty has large purple, yellow, and white flowers. It has long, strappy green leaves and is happy even in dry climates.

  • Ideal Position: Full direct sun
  • Difficulty: Easy, almost impossible to kill
  • Toxicity: Mildly toxic to pets and humans if ingested

You can grow this type indoors if you provide it with bright, direct light all day long, but most people keep it outside in the full sun. It’s super easy to grow in either place.

With a mounding growth habit, it reaches about 18 inches tall and two feet wide.

Credit: Openverse MeganEHansen CC By 2.0

3. Cobweb

Don’t be turned off by the common name cobweb spiderwort. T. sillamontana might make a spooky addition to your Halloween decor thanks to its leaves that look like they’re covered in spider webs, but it makes an equally attractive addition to a partially shady spot outside.

  • Ideal Position: Partial shade or bright, indirect sun
  • Difficulty: Easy, almost impossible to kill
  • Toxicity: Mildly toxic to pets and humans if ingested

Native to the mountainous regions of northeastern Mexico and suitable for growing in USDA zones 6-10, the green and purple leaves of this plant are covered in fine hair. 

In the summer, tiny purple flowers pop up near the base of the oval leaves. This fascinating species grows 18 inches tall and two feet wide with a mounding, trailing growth habit.

It’s easy to care for whether you grow it indoors or out (down to 50F). Just avoid overwatering.

new ‘Green Ghost is a T. zebrina 800

4. Green Ghost

‘Green Ghost’ is a T. zebrina cultivar, and while it’s a little less showy than some of the other options within this species, it makes up for it with vigorous growth and tough nature.

  • Ideal Position: Bright light
  • Difficulty: Easy, almost impossible to kill
  • Toxicity: Mildly toxic to pets and humans if ingested

Like ‘Cobweb’, this Spiderwort is originally native to Mexico, where it lives in warm, moist climates. 

‘Green Ghost’ does best with regular water, bright indoor light and temperatures between 60 – 75F. In too little light, the leaves will be medium green, but with brighter light, the silvery stripes and pale purple hues emerge.

Tradescantia_fluminensis_'Lilac' 800
Credit: Openverse Krzysztof Ziarnek, Kenraiz  CC By 4.0

5. Lilac

As you might have guessed from the name, ‘Lilac’ (T. fluminensis ‘Lilac’) has incredible purple colouring that makes it stand out from the Tradescantia crowd.

  • Ideal Position: Bright, indirect light
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Toxicity: Mildly toxic to pets and humans if ingested

The leaves on ‘Lilac’ are medium green with broad stripes of pale purple and hints of silver. The plant itself has a trailing habit and can stretch its legs up to two feet wide while staying under eight inches tall.

It is capable of growing quickly as a perennial when grown outdoors in hardiness zones 9b to 11 and can be grown as an annual in USDA zone 3. 

For optimum growing, it needs moderate humidity, temperatures up to 80F and regular watering. 

Moses in thMoses in the Cradlee Cradle
Credit: Openverse CC By 2.0

6. Moses in the Cradle

T. spathacea is commonly known as Moses in the cradle or boat lily, and it’s one of the few indoor types that are known for their blossoms.

This upright type has long, strappy leaves that are silvery green on top and purple on the underside.

  • Ideal Position: Bright light
  • Difficulty: Easy, but needs ideal conditions to bloom
  • Toxicity: Mildly toxic to pets and humans if ingested

In the wild, this plant grows from Mexico to Guatemala in warm, dry climates. When mature, it will reach up to a foot tall and spread out to about two feet.

Treat this plant as a succulent with bright light for most of the day, little water, temperatures up to 85F and moderate humidity. 

If you nail these easy-to-replicate conditions, you’ll be treated to the unusual white blossoms tucked inside a cup-shaped leaf-like growth known as a bract.

Credit: Openverse horse and rabbit CC By 2.0 

7. Nanouk

There’s a reason ‘Nanouk’ (T. albiflora ‘Nanouk’) is so popular, and it’s easy to see why. The foliage on this gem is green and white striped on top with bright, bold fuchsia undersides.

 The leaves are slightly cupped, which means you can really see the colouring on both sides, making a pretty eye-catching display.

  • Ideal Position: Bright, indirect light
  • Difficulty: Easy, almost impossible to kill
  • Toxicity: Mildly toxic to pets and humans if ingested

‘Nanouk’ was bred in the Netherlands in 2012 using plants originally native to South America. It is almost always seen as a houseplant, although it’s hardy in USDA zones 10 through 12. 

Known as a vigorous grower, tough and forgiving, colourful, and with showy blossoms, and providing it is not over watered and kept in temperatures not exceeding 75F, this is sure to make a fantastic addition to your collection.

Give this beauty bright, indirect light and regular moisture, and watch it thrive. Like the other wandering Jews on this list, it does best in the tropical climate it originates from. If it receives enough sun, you’ll even see small but pretty white and pink blossoms.

Purple Heart
Credit: Openverse Hockeyholic AZ CC By 2.0

8. Purple Heart

Regal ‘Purple Heart’ is a T. pallida cultivar that stands out from the rest. The seven-inch-long leaves are deep reddish-purple on a spreading, mounding plant. This is hardy and can be grown outdoors in zones 7-10 as well as being an attractive houseplant. 

  • Ideal Position: Full direct sun
  • Difficulty: Easy, almost impossible to kill
  • Toxicity: Mildly toxic to pets and humans if ingested

The plant is about a foot tall and can spread up to three feet wide, or will tumble gracefully out of a container. Native to drier parts of Mexico, it’s happiest when the soil is allowed to dry out somewhat between watering.

While it can grow in partial shade, the leaves will take on more of a green hue. In full sun, they’re a dramatic purple. Plants in sunny locations will also produce small purple blossoms.

Silvery Inch Plant
Credit: Openverse blumenbiene CC By 2.0

9. Silvery Inch Plant

This plant (T. zebrina) is the classic wandering dude. It has trailing vines with purple, silver, and green striped leaves. If you want the original houseplant that has been around for decades, this is the one. 

  • Ideal Position: Full direct sun
  • Difficulty: Easy, almost impossible to kill
  • Toxicity: Mildly toxic to pets and humans if ingested

You’ll see this plant listed as zebra plant, inch plant, silvery inch plant, spiderwort, wandering jew, or wandering dude, so check the tag to make sure it’s the T. zebrina species.

This plant no doubt gained wide popularity because it’s beautiful, but also because it’s incredibly tough. You’d have to work hard to kill it. Sun, shade, dry, wet, it doesn’t seem to matter. It will keep kicking.

It’s native to Mexico and prefers fairly sunny exposure with regular moisture. With the right conditions, it will grow six inches tall and more than two feet wide.

Credit: Wikimedia Peaceloveandlilies CC By 4.0

10. Tricolor

‘Trilcolor’ is a T. fluminensis cultivar that looks like a softer, subtler version of the classic silvery-inch plant. It has beautiful pastel pink, light green, and cream-coloured leaves.

  • Ideal Position: Bright, indirect light
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Toxicity: Mildly toxic to pets and humans if ingested

It’s native to warm, moist areas of the Caribbean, South America, and Mexico. To really make the colour stand out, put it in bright, indirect light or even a few hours of direct light. Just be sure to gradually expose it to the brighter sun if it’s used to shadier spots.

In too little light, the leaves will be primarily green. The pink only comes out in brighter exposure.

While this plant is pretty easy to care for, it’s just a little bit fussier than the original wandering dude.

Credit: Openverse Tim Green CC By 2.0

11. Virginia

You might not even know that the Virginia spiderwort (T. virginiana) is related to the classic wandering dude, but they’re closely related. This hardy type is usually grown outside, but you can cultivate it as a houseplant. It stands out for its long, strappy green leaves, but this flowering type is even more notable for its bright violet flowers.

  • Ideal Position: Partial sun or bright, indirect light
  • Difficulty: Easy to moderately easy
  • Toxicity: Mildly toxic to pets and humans if ingested

This plant forms clumps rather than growing with a trailing habit. It’s native to eastern North America and thrives in prairies, woodlands, and streams. It likes plenty of moisture and partial shade. In too much sun and heat it will die off in the summer and return in the fall when the temperatures cool.

Outside, it couldn’t be easier to raise. Inside, keep an eye on the moisture level and light exposure. Too little light, and it won’t bloom. Give it bright, indirect light or even some direct sun.

Wandering Jew Plant Care

In general, spiderworts love consistent moisture, but a few of the more succulent types that hail from drier climates will do better when the soil is allowed to dry out a bit between watering. It’s always better to err on the side of too little water than too much. Too much water is a quick route to root rot.

Most species like moderate to high humidity. Remember, they come from humid climates. Since most homes don’t have high humidity normally, especially if you use heating or air conditioning, you’ll want to use a humidifier or a pebble tray to avoid brown leaf tips.

Any standard potting soil will do, so long as your pot has good drainage. Every few months from spring through fall, offer the plant a mild, balanced fertilizer. Tradescantia plants aren’t heavy feeders, but every potted plant will lose nutrition over time. Plus, good nutrition is more likely to result in blossoming.

Wandering Jews are extremely easy to propagate from cuttings, in either water or soil.

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Ben's horticultural interest grew when graduating from Hertfordshire University in 1997. Having contributed to numerous publications including Better Homes & Gardens, Garden Design Magazine, and The English Garden. He is also the author of Propagating Houseplants Made Easy.