How to grow and care for Inch Plant Indoors

Houseplant, Inch Plant

Botanical name: Tradescantia fluminensis
Family: Commelinaceae

Inch Plant is one of the most popular of the hanging basket houseplants. It is fast growing and is easy to grow. The leaves about 2-4 in. long clasp the creeping or trailing stems. The undersides of leaves are pale purple (mauve) and it produces pale purple sap. They may occasionally flower indoors but the blooms are generally insignificant. The flowers are white with three petals. Inch Plant is native to the New World from southern Canada to northern Argentina, including West Indies. They are commonly found individually or in clumps in wooded areas or open fields.

Tradescantia fluminensis has the varieties variegata with cream striped leaves, Quicksilver with white striped leaves, tricolor whose leaves are striped with cream and purple, among others. A closely related species is Tradescantia albiflora in which neither the sap nor the underside of the foliage is mauve. The leaves are slightly smaller, about 2-2.5 in. long and the leaf surface is shiny. It has varieties like albovittata whose leaves are white striped, tricolor whose leaves are white and mauve striped, aurea whose leaves are yellow with green stripes.

Other related species are Tradescantia pallida commonly called Purple Heart Plant or Purple Queen whose leaves are elongated, pointed, slightly hairy, glaucous green, fringed with red or purple. Tradescantia zebrina formely Zebrina pendula, (Silvery Inch Plant) whose leaves are glistening and multicolored above and purple below. The leaf surface colors are green and purple in Zebrina purpusii (Bronze Inch Plant); green, silver, pink and red in the showy but more difficult Zebrina pendula quadricolor. Tradescantia spathacea (Moses-in-the-Cradle or Boat Lily) whose leaves are fleshy, sword-shaped, glossy green with purplish-red undersides.

How to Grow Inch Plant (Tradescantia fluminensis)

Light

This Inch Plant prefers bright indirect light. Keep it away from direct sunshine as it can lead to scorching of the leaves. Learn how to ensure your plant receives the correct light in this guide on understanding light for houseplants.

Water

Water Inch Plant thoroughly during the growing season and maintain the soil moist at all times. Reduce watering in cold weather to keep the soil slightly moist as growth is minimal. Avoid waterlogging as it can lead in root-rot. Learn more on how to water houseplants.

Temperature

Average warmth with a minimum 130C is ideal for Inch Plant. Protect the plant from cold draughts.

Humidity

Inch Plant has no need for high humidity. Where the temperatures are too high, employ these techniques to raise humidity for Inch Plant.

Feeding

Feed Inch Plant with a balanced water-soluble fertilizer every 2 weeks during the growing period. Withhold feeding during the cold season as growth is minimal and feeding at this time may lead to fertilizer burn. Learn more on feeding houseplants.

Repotting

Repot Inch Plant during the growing season only when the plant has become pot-bound. Use a rich, free-draining soil and a pot one size larger. Ensure the pot has a drainage hole(s) to prevent waterlogging which can lead to root-rot.

Pruning

Pruning Inch Plant involves regular removal of dead foliage to maintain the plant neat and tidy. To control the height of the plant and encourage bushyness, pinch the growing tips. Cut back leggy stems at the beginning of the growing season to rejuvenate growth. Learn more on how to prune houseplants.

How to Propagate Inch Plant (Tradescantia fluminensis)

Inch Plant is propagated during the growing period by divison or from stem-cuttings.

Propagation of Inch Plant by Division
Remove Inch Plant from its pot and carefully divide it into sections. Ensure each sections has adequate roots and at least one set of leaves. Pot up the sections in individual pots in free-draining soil. Place the set up in a cool shaded place and maintain the soil moist until new growth emerges. Allow the plant to be well established before transplanting.

Propagation of Inch Plant from Stem Cuttings
Stem cuttings root easily so there is no need for rooting hormone. Take a stem cutting from a healthy Inch Plant of about 3-5 in. and ensure it bears at least two sets of leaves. Insert it in moist free-draining soil and place in a cool shaded place. Maintain the soil moist through out until new growth emerges. Allow the plant to be well established before transplanting.

Common Problems in Growing Inch Plant (Tradescantia fluminensis)

  • Leaves all green
  • Inadequate light is the cause of all green leaves in variegated varieties of Inch Plants. Move the plant to a brighter spot, they prefer bright indirect light. Learn how to ensure your plant receives the correct light in this guide on understanding light for houseplants.

  • Bare spindly growth
  • There are three cause of bare spindly growth in Inch Plants. One cause is too little light; move the plant to bright indirect light. Second cause is too little water; maintain the soil moist at all times and never allow the soil to dry out completely. The third cause is inadequate feeding; feed Inch Plant every 2 weeks with a balanced water-soluble fertilizer. However, all the stems become leggy with age; cut back to rejuvenate new growth or replace the plant.

  • Brown and shrivelled leaf tips
  • The cause of this is too dry air especially where the temperatures are too high, employ these techniques to raise humidity for Inch Plant.

  • Limp stems limp, yellow and spotted leaves
  • Underwatering is the cause of limp stems and yellow and spotted leaves. Learn more on how to water houseplants.

  • Diseases
  • Common diseases in Inch Plant are Root-rot and Leaf Spot.

  • Pests
  • Common pests in Inch Plant are Mealy Bugs, Aphids and Scale Insects. Isolate the affected plant and treat appropriately. Mist the leaves regularly to reduce infestation by these pests.

  • Invasion as a weed
  • Inch Plants are invasive and noxious weeds in many places. They successfully grow anywhere and will smoother ground level plants and prevent the natural regeneration of taller species. Avoid planting these plants in the ground and dispose only after complete destruction (even an inch of these plants will sprout if not completely destroyed).

Toxicity

Inch Plant (Tradescantia fluminensis) is mildly toxic to humans and pets. If ingested the plant sap causes burning in the mouth, tongue and throat. The sap may also cause skin irritation in sensitive skin; always wear gloves when handling.

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