Zebrina (Wandering Jew)

The only species of zebrina com­monly grown as a house plant (often called wandering Jew, like its relations the tradescantias) is quick-growing and very decorative, parti­cularly in hanging baskets, where its brilliant leaf coloring can be fully appreciated. These trailing plants have oval leaves roughly 2 inches long, with an iridescent upper surface and a rich purple underside. They produce clusters of small, three-petaled flowers in spring and summer. Zebrinas are suitable for mixed plantings in bowls or trained up fan-shaped trellises.


The most popular species, is the parent of a number of varieties. Two glistening stripes of silvery green surrounding a medium green central portion run the length of the upper surface of its pointed-oval leaves. Its flowers are purple-pink.

'Discolor' has thinner leaves, with slimmer silver stripes bordering a bronze-tinged center.

'Purpusii'  has larger leaves colored a very rich bronzy purple on the upper surface. Its flowers are purplish white.

'Quadricolor,' with irregular pink, green, cream, and silver stripes on the leaves, is the most attractive form, but it is more difficult to grow.


Light Give these plants bright light at all times for close growth and brilliant leaf color. Plants can be grown at a short distance from a sunny window without too much loss of color, but growth will become straggly and col­ors will fade as this distance lengthens.

Temperature Zebrinas like warmth but they can tolerate temperatures down to 55°F. In cool conditions they grow very slowly.

Watering Water actively growing plants moderately, allowing the top inch of the potting mixture to dry outbetween waterings. When plants are resting, give them just enough water to make the mixture barely moist throughout, and allow the top halfto dry out between waterings. Zebrinas that have been grown slightly on the dry side show the best color.

Feeding Give actively growing plants standard liquid fertilizer once every two weeks. Potting and repotting Use a soil-based potting mixture. Move zebrinas into pots one size lar­ger whenever their roots fill the pot. Plant several rooted cuttings together to create a bushy effect—as many as 12 to 15 in a single hanging basket.

Propagation Because older leaves of zebrinas dry up leaving bare stems, it is advisable to produce new plants quite frequently. Tip cuttings 3 inches long taken in spring or early summer will root easily in an equal-parts rooting mixture of peat moss and sand. Keep the cuttings in bright filtered light, giving them just enough water to make the mixture barely moist, and roots will develop in three or four weeks; plant four to six rooted cut­tings together in a 3-inch pot of standard potting mixture, and treat them as mature zebrinas.

Alternatively, root tip cuttings in water. Place the cuttings in small preferably opaque glasses of water and keep them in bright filtered light. They will develop roots 1-2 inches long in two to three weeks and they can then be moved into the standard potting mixture and treated in the same way as mature plants.

Special points Pinch out growing points of lengthy shoots regularly to encourage the production of side branches. Remove all poorly colored stems in early spring.

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madge125 profile image

madge125 6 years ago from Pennsylvania

These are my new favorite obsession! I'm hoping to hang them on my front porch, but first I need to learn everything I can about them. Thanks for the article!

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