How to grow and care for Chain Plant (Tradescantia navicularis) Indoors

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Houseplant, Chain

Botanical name: Tradescantia navicularis
synonm: Callisia navicularis
Family: Commelinaceae

Chain Plant also called Widow's Tears or Day Flower has two type of stems which exhibit different growth habits.

Some Chain Plant stems are short, grow upright and bear tight overlapping leaves. The other stems spread along the ground and bear more open leaves.

The Chain Plant stems are fleshy and are tightly clasped by thick waxy lance-shaped leaves. The leaves are bronze-green with purple streaked undersides.

Bright pink flowers arise from the spreading stems. The flowers open in the morning and close in late afternoon, lasting only one day and hence the common "Day Flower".

How to Grow Tradescantia navicularis (Chain Plant)

Light for Chain Plant

Chain Plant prefers bright, indirect light. Keep your Chain Plant away from direct sunshine as it can lead to scorching of the leaves. Check out this guide on understanding light for houseplants.

How to water Chain Plant

Water your Chain Plant thoroughly during the growing season and maintain the soil moist at all times.

Reduce watering your Chain Plant during the cold weather to keep the soil slightly moist as growth is minimal.

Avoid soggy soil for your Chain Plant as it can lead to root-rot. Read more on how to water houseplants.


Temperature for Chain Plant

Average warmth with a minimum 130C is ideal for your Chain Plant. Protect your Chain Plant from cold draughts.

Humidity for Chain Plant

Chain Plant has no need for high humidity. However, mist the leaves of your Chain Plant or set the pot on a wet pebble tray where the temperatures are too high to raise humudity. Check out these techniques on how to raise humidity for houseplants.

Fertilizer (Feeding) for Chain Plant

Feed your Chain Plant with a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer every 2 weeks during the growing period.

Withhold feeding for your Chain Plant during the cold season as the growth is minimal and feeding at this time may lead to fertilizer burn. Read more on how to feed houseplants.

How to repot Chain Plant

Repot your Chain 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 for your Chain Plant. Ensure the pot has a drainage hole to avoid getting soggy soil as it can lead to root-rot.

How to Prune Chain Plant

Pruning your Chain Plant involves regular removal of dead foliage to maintain the plant neat and tidy.

To control the growth of your Chain Plant and encourage bushyness, pinch the growing tips.

Cut back leggy stems of your Chain Plant at the beginning of the growing season to rejuvenate growth.

How to Propagate Tradescantia navicularis (Chain Plant)

Chain Plant can be propagated during the growing period by plants divison or from stem-cuttings.

How to propagate Chain Plant by plant division

Take out your Chain Plant from its pot and carefully divide it into sections. Ensure each sections has adequate roots and at least one set of leaves.

Pot the Chain Plant 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 new Chain Plants to be well established before transplanting.

How to propagate Chain Plant from stem cuttings

Chain Plant stem cuttings root easily so there is no need for rooting hormone.

Take a stem cutting from a healthy Chain Plant of about 4-6 in. and ensure it bears at least two sets of leaves.

Fill your rooting container with free-draining rooting mix to a depth of about 4 in. Lightly moisten the soil.

With a pencil or similar object make a hole that is wider than the diameter of the Chain Plant cutting.

Carefully insert your Chain Plant cutting in the hole made previously to a depth of about 3 in.

Place the set up in a cool shaded place and maintain the soil moist through out until new growth emerges.

Allow the new Chain Plant to be well established before transplanting to individual pots.

Common Problems in Growing Tradescantia navicularis (Chain Plant)

  • Why is my Chain Plant losing leaf color?
  • Inadequate light is the cause of loss of leaf color in your Chain Plant.

    Move your Chain Plant to a brighter spot, as it prefers bright, indirect light. Check out this guide on understanding light for houseplants.

  • Why is my Chain Plant dropping its leaves?
  • Your Chain Plant will readily drop its leaves if the light is inadequate.

    Ensure to place your Chain Plant in bright, indirect light while protecting it from direct hot sunshine to avoid scorching of the leaves.

  • Why is my Chain Plant growing elongated weak stems (spindly growth)?
  • There are three causes of weak spindly growth in your Chain Plant.

    One cause of elongated weak stems (spindly growth) in your Chain Plant is too little light.

    Move your Chain Plant to a brighter spot as it need bright, indirect light.

    The second cause of elongated weak stems (spindly growth) in your Chain Plant is underwatering.

    Maintain the soil moist at all times for your Chain Plant and never allow the soil to dry out completely.

    The third cause of elongated weak stems (spindly growth) in your Chain Plant is inadequate feeding.

    Feed your Chain Plant every 2 weeks with a balanced water-soluble fertilizer.

  • Why does my Chain Plant have limp stems, yellow and spotted leaves?
  • Underwatering is the cause of limp stems, yellow and spotted leaves in your Chain Plant.

    Water your Chain Plant liberally during the growing season and maintain the soil moist through out.

  • Which plant diseases attack Chain Plant?
  • The most common plant diseases in Chain Plant are Root-rot and Leaf Spot.

  • Which plant pests attack Chain Plant?
  • Common plant pests in Chain Plant are Mealy Bugs, Aphids and Scale Insects.

    Isolate the affected Chain Plant and treat appropriately. Mist the leaves regularly to reduce infestation by these pests.

Is Chain Plant toxic?

Tradescantia navicularis (Chain Plant) is mildly toxic to humans and pets.

If Chain Plant is 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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