Tradescantia. Upholstery, hanging, potted, wherever you want.

Tradescantia is an interesting genus, with several known species that can occur, depending on the climate, outdoors and of course indoors where the temperature is more or less constant. A plant that serves as an upholstery species in the garden, as a hanging plant in interiors and terraces as well as a normal and ordinary houseplant. In addition, the ease in its care make the tradescantia, one of the favorites.


It is a genus that is made up of almost a hundred species that all come from the American continent. In Europe therefore they were not introduced until almost a century after the discovery.

Specifically, we owe this genus taxon to John Tradescant . A Briton who traveled to the United States in the early 17th century to study the classification of certain New World plants. This naturalist was actually the son of a horticulturist, gardener and collector of the same name (John Tradescant the elder) who left him all the legacy with which he could live comfortably and follow in the footsteps of his father.

But it was Carlos Linneo who honored the memory of Tradescant (we want to think that in memory of both), when he decided to award the taxon Trad. and the genus tradescantia to identify this group of species. The first Tradescantia to be identified and named was Tradescantia virginiana which was brought to the UK to be grown as an ornamental plant.

Tradescantia virginiana flower. Photo Tim Green

Of all of them, a few are susceptible to ornamental interest due to obvious morphological characteristics, as we will now see.


Of the Tradescantias for ornamental purposes, the most common in stores and nurseries are these two really interesting species. Here are some photos of the two.

Tradescantia pallida. Photo of Newtown grafitti

Tradescantia pallida. Foto de Forest and Kim Starr

Tradescantia zebrina. Photo by: Leonora (Ellie) Enking

The first, T. pallida is also known as T. purpúrea in a vulgar way for obvious reasons and has another name, than the true one, we have not been able to know why. Man love. There we leave it. If anyone knows, please put it in the comments. We have always known her for Tradescantia. The care of the two is very similar . They do not differ much because they are really quite rustic in many respects. So what we have here is applicable to both species.



It supports all the lighting conditions that we consider. Shade, semi-shade, indirect sun or direct sun. I think this will be one of the few times that we can say this. But it is one thing to tolerate and another thing to prefer. Actually its optimal growth will be with high exposures .

With temperature is where we have the greatest of problems. They are usually comfortable at 20ºC with 3 or 4 degrees of margin and although they support some cold, if you do not live in frost-free areas , forget about putting it in the garden outdoors. Below 10ºC it begins to suffer. Perhaps a very very sporadic frost that does not drop much and above all that does not last long, it is able to withstand it, but little more.


They are also not special with the soil. Calcareous soils with an alkalinity in which other plants could not develop normally, Tradescantia can with it. Regarding irrigation, although it tolerates dry environments, if the summer is very hard, it is convenient to water something else to ensure. During the rest of the year we should not be overly concerned unless it is a particularly dry year. On average, a weekly watering would be enough . Subscribing is optional but if you want to do it, a normal and current balanced fertilizer is more than enough at the doses recommended by the manufacturer. No special fertilizers are required.


Be careful with good growing conditions and do not control it with pruning. It is a fairly rapid growth (remember it’s a great panel ) and is usually quite invasive. With proper pruning we will be able to control it and above all maintain a compact and orderly appearance in the space we want. Cut vegetative apices and force lateral ramifications to gain density.

Tradescantia zebrina. Photo by: Maja Dumat


bioindicator consists of a living organism that can be used to measure the contamination rate of a particular location. These measurements are usually water or air, although it can also be done on the ground in some plant species. They are usually extremely sensitive organisms to a change in a specific factor (the one we want to measure). This summer, diving in the Mediterranean, I found one of these bioindicators in the seabed. The Posidonia oceanica. A slow growing and very sensitive to water quality marine plant. This characteristic tells us, therefore, that the decline or death of posidonia necessarily implies a detriment to the quality of the water.Lichens and their symbiotic associations are another great example of bioindicators.

Posidonia oceanica (Mediterranean Sea) Source: Wikimedia commons

Some species of Tradescantia are used as bioindicators of urban pollution, produced by industry and the road traffic of fossil fuels, whose compounds significantly affect pollen, in addition to storing heavy metals in their plant structures. Also low levels of radioactivity cause visible and measurable genetic aberrations. They are also used to check these levels. Here we leave you a couple of study links that investigate it. The second we have not found available but at least you can read the summary.

Biomonitoring of air pollution due to urban traffic with Tradescantia Pallida in Brazil

The Tradescantia Micronucleus Assay is a highly sensitive tool for the detection of low levels of radioactivity in environmental samples.

With this couple of scientific readings you will already be an expert in Tradescantia as a bioindicator, but … Do you dare to cultivate it?

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