When it comes to the beautiful spiderworts, there is actually only one difficult task: you have to decide which type of these wonderful flowers, usually in a variant of heavenly blue, you want to keep or plant where – there are a number of tradescantia for indoor keeping and just as many for your garden want to beautify. Once you have found your favorite variety in the abundance on offer, you will no longer have any trouble caring for this undemanding plant if you pay attention to a few details, as you will find out in the following article.
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Classification of Spiderworts
Spiderwort belongs to the Commelinaceae family, which is not a huge family of plants. At the moment, however, a tremendous reorganization of the biological world is taking place because genetic studies are revealing completely new relationships. In the course of this reorganization, the Commelina family has grown considerably: the Cartonemataceae (a special type of Australian dayflower), Ephemeraceae (mosses and liverworts) and the Tradescantiaceae, which were previously regarded as independent families, have been added. According to the latest findings, the Commelina family consists of a total of around 40 genera with around 650 species, which are mainly at home in the tropics and subtropics. In our temperate latitudes, some species are cultivated as ornamental plants, especially for indoor plants. Some species are so assertive even in foreign countries that the neophytes tend to go wild in their new habitat.
Most of the Commelinaceae belong to the subfamily Commelinoideae (38 genera/640 species), which is distinguished by tiny hairs with glands on all associated species. The tribe Commelineae contained here brings together a lot of exciting things in its 13 genera: the most diverse daytime flowers in a good 170 species and highly interesting plants such as the Murdannia (Yah-Pak-King). An important medicinal plant in Thailand and recently discussed as a therapeutic aid in cancer therapies, or the pollia, which develops shimmering berries with a metallic effect.
The second tribe of the Commelinoideae are the Tradescantieae, with a total of only about 30 genera. These include rare plants from tropical Africa China, lots of indoor plants for individualists who don’t want to have anything to do with the mainstream discount plants (Amischotolype, Belosynapsis, Cochliostema, Coleotrype, Cyanotis, Dichorisandra, Geogenanthus, Porandra, Siderasis, Tinantia and Weldenia, beautiful blue or white flowers or leaves with a detailed pattern), and the subtribe of the Tradescantiinae, which contains our spiderworts in its six genera, and other popular house plants such as the Callisia or the Tripogandra.
The Commelina family still has a few things to offer curious gardeners when they get bored of the spiderworts. However, this will certainly take a while, because there are around 70 species of spiderworts or god’s eyes or tradescantia. Many of them are suitable as indoor plants and guarantee variety with their differently colored leaves. Others delight us in the garden, as perennial and long-lived perennials.
Tradescantia species for the room
The species-rich Tradescantia offer us a whole range of indoor plants that often belong to our standard range of leafy plants. They have almost no demands on their location, are fault-tolerant and therefore easy to care for, even for beginners. You can also propagate them at any time by division or cuttings. Tradescantia are often kept as traffic light plants and then let their shoots hang down decoratively. These types are on offer:
Probably the best-known houseplant among the spiderworts is the Tradescantia fluminensis, also known as white-flowered god’s eye or Rio spiderwort. It remains a low plant, spreading along the ground with the stems or growing in height and width as a climbing plant or hanging plant. It is offered with pure green leaves, but also with reddish or patterned leaves. In the cultivar Tradescantia fluminensis aureovittata, the leaves are striped yellow.
It almost doesn’t matter to a green-leaved Tradescantia whether it’s light or dark, cool or warm. The more light spots on the leaves, the more light the plant wants to receive. These varieties also need heat, by the way, dry heating air does not bother the T. fluminensis. The robust plant does not need much care. It’s enough for you B. if it is watered twice a week in summer. In winter, you only have to think about them every 10 days. She feels comfortable at room temperature between 22 and 25 degrees and likes the sun. She only needs fertilizer during the growing season, every 14 days some liquid fertilizer.
Tradescantia fluminensis can also be found commercially under the Latin names Tradescantia albiflora and Tradescantia viridis. This is because botanists always rename a plant when they discover something fundamentally new, e.g. B. change something in the systematic classification of a plant.
Tradescantia sillamontana with very hairy, elongated, peppermint-green leaves and pink to purple-pink flowers also tolerates direct sun. It can therefore stand on the south window, but should then be accustomed to direct sunlight, otherwise there is a risk of sunburn on the leaves. Otherwise, T. sillamontana is just as undemanding and unproblematic in terms of care as Tradescantia fluminensis.
In contrast to most other species of Spiderwort, T. sillamontana is almost a succulent that can withstand longer periods of drought. In summer it should be watered moderately, in winter the T. sillamontana is best kept almost dry. If you take good care of it, it will thank you with a luxuriant abundance of flowers. However, it quickly loses its beautiful appearance if it gets too much water, in too dark a place and with too much nitrogen fertilization.
Tradescantia blossfeldiana also grows slightly succulent, i.e. with fleshy leaves that are olive green on top and crimson below. Even the flowers of this tradescantia are multicolored, pink on top and white below. Flowers, leaves and stems are covered with fine white hairs.
The T. blossfeldiana ‘Variegata’ variety develops decoratively striped leaves, half green and half cream-colored. If it is very bright, the cream-colored parts of the leaves usually turn a rich pink-red, a varied Tradescantia.
Tradescantia navicularis grows in creeping shoots with very dense, copper-green small leaves that are covered with short hairs. The undersides of these leaves are marbled in purple. The T. navicularis flowers in a light pink. It is the well-pronounced succulent growing tradescantia. Its leaves are fleshy and intended to store water, so this spiderwort can be watered at correspondingly large intervals.
The purple-leaved spiderwort, Tradescantia spathacea or T. discolor, looks a bit like a dragon tree. It has leaves that are between 20 and 30 cm long, green above and purple below. As a houseplant, it is considered to be insensitive and vigorous. A well-known variety is the “Vittata”, with green and yellow striped leaves that shine strikingly.
T. spathacea was formerly regarded as a separate genus of Rhoeo and was only recently added to Spiderwort. This is why you can also come across this tradescantia under the names Rhoeo discolor or Rhoeo spathacea.
Redleaf is also a new addition to Spiderworts, the plant now known as Tradescantia pallida was formerly known as Setcreasea purpurea. It needs a location in a sunny south-facing window so that the beautiful leaf color lasts for a long time. Other than that, she doesn’t have any special requests. She doesn’t care about the temperatures, she can also spend the winter in a warm room. However, if you have a slightly cooler location for her in winter, she will gladly accept it. She just wants to be watered and fertilized carefully. Too much water and fertilizer quickly turn the red leaf into a “green leaf”.
The red leaf has beautiful crimson and velvety soft leaves because they are covered with the finest hairs. However, if the light isn’t right, it will gladly switch back to “green”. Older plants tend to form longer and longer shoots, which then hang over the edge of the pot like rags. That doesn’t bother you if you keep the red leaf in a traffic light from the start, but there is hardly anything that can counteract the otherwise frequently observed reduction in attractiveness. The only remedy here is probably the timely rearing of offspring.
Zebra traffic light herb
The zebra weed or Tradescantia zebrina is the latest addition to the Tradescantia genus. Growing herbaceously along the ground and faintly succulent, the perennial can form dense mats over time. The T. zebrina is just as easy to care for as the other spiderworts, it is often kept in a pot as a traffic light plant or hanging plant.
Tradescantia cerinthoides is quite new on the market and is said to look reddish overall and to be covered with long, even slightly reddish hairs.
Spiderworts for the garden
Hardy spiderworts also exist in nature, they grow on nutrient-rich soils in North America as hardy perennials. Plants are semiperennial to perennial, the rootstock is dormant in winter. They can be sown in the garden all year round as soon as the soil temperatures are around 20 degrees.Sow in a shallow litter, the soil should be humus-rich but sandy and well-drained. The spiderworts can also be brought forward, the seedlings can be placed outside in the sun during the day when temperatures are pleasant in spring, after the last night frosts in mid-May at the latest they can then be placed outside. They will develop quickly and cover your garden with a sea of sky blue or dark blue flowers all summer long. Garden spiderworts are easily cultivated in any spot that is somewhere between partially shaded and sunny.
These vigorous spiderworts will quickly cover the entire area that is available to them, some varieties grow up to 75 cm high, all have flowers in various shades of blue, which can intensify towards violet over the summer. The evergreen plants are perennial, but lose their leaves in winter and sprout again in spring. If you mulch consistently, tradescantia will most likely not need any fertilizer at all, if not, they will benefit from mixing spring-ripened compost into the soil. The spiderworts only have to be additionally watered when the soil has dried out quite a bit, they are used to drier periods in their homeland.
Most of these hardy spiderworts are designated for USDA hardiness zone 6. They can withstand temperatures down to an average of minus 20 degrees in winter. If you live in colder areas, you should only give winter protection to the dormant rootstock with a layer of mulch.
The following types of spiderworts are offered for the garden:
- One of the important varieties of the original hardy spiderwort is Tradescantia subaspera . She prefers partial shade, with direct sunlight only during the coolest hours of the day. The plant sheds its foliage in winter and quickly begins to produce new shoots and leaves again in spring. Early young plants are still quite sensitive. They should not be kept below 15 degrees in a sheltered place until after the ice saints (mid-May).
- The Tradescantia pilosa is also one of the hardy spiderworts from North America. It is very closely related to T. subaspera and should be treated in the same way.
- The Virginia spiderwort or Tradescantia virginiana also grows as a perennial herb and shows us turquoise blue or sky blue, pink or white panicle flowers in summer, depending on the variety. As with most species, the flowers of these spiderworts, also known as day flowers, wither after just one day. However, the plant will still flower throughout the summer as new flowers are constantly developing. T. virginiana is a wonderful garden tradescantia that grows bushy and is very long-lived.
- Numerous hybrids have now been bred from the originally pure cultivated Tradescantia virginiana , T. subaspera and other species such as T. pilosa. Tradescantia species are wonderfully easy to breed. This resulted in many different garden tradescantia, which are referred to as the “Tradescantia Andersoniana group”. These strains have lovely names like Blushing Bride and Purple Profusion. They are actually known for the fact that they not only impress with their abundance of flowers, but above all with their surprising wealth of flower colors (light blue to dark blue, white to pink to purple and red).
- Other cultivated forms for the garden are e.g. Examples include prairie spiderwort Tradescantia bracteata (large, purplish-blue flowers), Ohio spiderwort Tradescantia ohiensis (long stems, large light purple to sky blue or bright white flowers), and Mexican velvet tradescantia, Tradescantia silamontana variegata (grows only 20 cm high, silvery-white hairy leaves, dark pink flower clusters, needs winter protection here).
The cultivated forms are usually bred so that their flowers appear more at the same time. They can be cut back after the first bloom and will then produce a second bloom in September.
If you meet the requirements of “your” spiderwort to some extent, you will have little trouble and long-lasting pleasure with a species from the variety of these exciting plants. If not, a tradescantia will educate you to become a “real gardener”: as soon as you realize that every plant has its specific requirements and you treat your tradescantia accordingly, it will grow from a sorrowful plant to a radiant beauty.