The Tradescanzia or Erba miseria
The plants of the genus tradescantia are native to the American continent, with species widespread in most of North America, and others widespread in Central America and in the northern part of South America; in Europe they were already imported in 1800, but their success in Italy came only from the second half of the fifties; the first attempts at cultivating this plant in our country date back to this period, where some species are cultivated almost exclusively as houseplants, while others have found a place in the gardens of the southern areas, where they survive without any problem.
The tradescantie belong to the family of commelinaceae, and there are about thirty species belonging to the genus. They have fleshy stems, erect or prostrate, or even arched, not very branched, which bear long fleshy, oval, or sword-shaped leaves, bright in color, often shiny, and slightly fleshy.
In spring and summer, at the apex of the stems they bloom flowers of various sizes, depending on the species, white, pink, purple or deep blue, with only three large triangular petals; in some cases these flowers are quite insignificant, but the large-flowered species and varieties can become truly spectacular when they produce abundant blooms. Many varieties have variegated leaves, and among the most popular species in Italy there are also leaves completely covered with a thin hair, which makes it almost gray, and also dark purple.
Usually theaspect of these perennials is quite unusual, as they do not produce compact and dense bushes, but rather tend to grow in a disordered way, as if they were resting softly on the ground. In Anglo-Saxon countries these plants are called spider iris, as the leaves resemble the legs of spiders, and the flowers are reminiscent of the colors of spring irises.
If you are not an expert and do not have much time to devote to plants, choose an extremely resistant plant that does not require excessive care: the luck of the tradescantia It is due precisely to these characteristics. In fact it bears the lack of watering even for long periods, poor soils and even poorly lit places.
Common name: Misery grass
Plant type: Ornamental
Origin: American continent
Habit: Upholstering, hanging down
Use: Interior (entrance, kitchen, veranda) or exterior (rock garden, border)
Height at maturity: Up to 1.50 m
Growth rate: rapid
Diseases and pests: Aphids
Temperature: Including between 210 C and 240 C, never below 80C
Species of tradescantiaTradescantia fluminensis
Very widespread plant in Italy, especially as a houseplant, and in particular in the variegated forms of white, yellow or pink, originating in Brazil; this tradescanzia has prostrate fleshy stems, and minute, lanceolate, succulent leaves, about 2-3 cm long, quite thick and shiny. The flowers are white, not very decorative and the bloom remains the less interesting part, compared to the beautiful foliage. These plants fear the cold, and therefore this tradescantia does not survive the rigors of winter. It survives in any condition: although it prefers wetlands, being a succulent plant, it can withstand a completely dry climate even for weeks. If you love bright areas, it survives and grows without problems even in dark and complete shade. For these reasons, it is the ideal plant for those who tend to forget to water, or for those who have placed themselves in the house only in a dark area of the house. Because of its great adaptability you can easily see very different tradescantie: those cultivated in the sun, with an always damp soil, have clear, large leaves and a rich vegetation, almost excessive; plants grown in full shade, with a dry climate, remain small and tend not to produce large amounts of foliage.
Species native to southern Mexico, it is cultivated as a houseplant, or even as an annual in the garden, as the colds of late autumn kill it quickly; in pots there is a tendency for this plant to be cultivated in hanging baskets, to better enjoy its prostrate and ground cover. The foliage of this tradescantia is decidedly very attractive: the leaves are fleshy, oval, pointed, dark green, with two silver-gray streaks near the central grain; the lower page and the young leaves are bright pink, almost fuchsia. The flowers are pink, and appear from spring until autumn. Plant of easy cultivation, loves sunny areas, with fresh soil and regular watering.
A decidedly special plant, in appearance and needs it deviates quite a bit from other widespread species of the genus; it is a succulent plant, native to the semi-arid areas of northern Mexico; it is therefore cultivated like a cactus: good brightness (avoid direct sunlight for too many hours a day); watering only during the warm months, waiting for the soil to dry between two waterings; very well drained soil, consisting of soil, mixed with sand or pumice stone, to ensure that the water flows away quickly; fertilizing with products containing small amounts of nitrogen; minimum temperatures not less than 10 ° C. It is therefore cultivated as a houseplant, or in a pot in the warm months, and in the greenhouse during the cold months, or in a lightly heated light-filled stairwell. The stems are elongated, prostrate, and bear ovate, dark green leaves; the whole plant is covered by a thin, very dense down which makes it gray; in summer it produces small flowers, at the apex of the stems, or at the axil of the leaves, of a bright pink color.
The tradescantia that are brought together under the name of the Andersonian species are actually hybrids, obtained from species originating in North America; they are perennial plants, which form tufts of long arched leaves, light green in color, with erect or prostrate, thin stems; they do not fear the cold, and therefore can be safely grown in the garden. There are many varieties of this tradition, with white, streaked, pink, blue, purple, very large and decorative flowers; flowering occurs from June to July, until autumn. Easy to grow plants, they can also be found in a flowerbed cutout, where they tend to fill all the available space. Very particular plant, which stands out among the flowers of the typical Italian garden, suitable both for the southern areas, with a purely Mediterranean climate, and for the northern areas, with very cold winters.
Perennial plant native to Mexico, widespread in cultivation in Italy, both as a houseplant and as a garden plant; in fact this tradescantia does not tolerate temperatures below 3-5 ° C, and therefore finds its place only in the gardens of the areas with mild winters; in the rest of Italy it is grown in the garden as an annual, or in an apartment. It has a hanging, creeping habit, and forms dense bushes, about 25-35 cm tall, consisting of thin stems, which bear large elongated leaves, slightly fleshy; stems and leaves appear purple purple, making the plant very showy and decorative; throughout the summer the plant produces small pink, lilac or white flowers. A plant that is easy to grow may happen that even in northern Italy, plants ruined by frost, rebound in early spring.
Perennial herbaceous plant native to the eastern United States; produces long green leaves, with a sword, and broad flowers, of violet color, for the whole summer; if pruned after flowering, subsequent blooms are obtained, until autumn. Plant resistant to cold, which is grown both in full sun and in complete shade, as it tends to adapt very well in any cultivation situation. Plants placed in the shade need less care; the specimens positioned the full sun instead must be watered regularly, for all the vegetative period. Winter cold often spoils the aerial part, which begins to develop again as spring arrives.
These plants are really easy to cultivate, apart from T. sillamontana, which is grown as a succulent plant, the other tradescantie prove to be able to adapt even in non-ideal conditions. In fact, in nature, tradescantie develop in damp and cool places, such as undergrowth; but they are plants with succulent foliage or stems, and therefore can withstand even long periods of drought. Whether they are grown at home or in the garden (depending on the species) they generally tend to be grown in intermediate conditions, with good, but not excessive, half-shade brightness, and regular watering throughout the growing season, from March to October. They survive even in extreme conditions, like drought, or always wet, the full sun and the total shade, but surely we can see how without water the plant tends to become increasingly poor in leaves, while in full sun it needs many waterings regular. As a soil s use the common universal soil, without exceeding with fertilizers.
Propagate the tradescantia
In some areas of the world tradescantia is a highly invasive plant; this for the ease with which the small stems are rooted, even if simply broken and fallen to the ground. The reproduction by cuttings is the most often practiced, as many varieties are hybrid, and therefore either do not produce fertile seeds, or it happens that the plants obtained from seed are not perfectly identical to that from which we obtained the seeds.
With the alea instead, we are sure to get identical flowers and foliage. We take cuttings in spring or summer, and we prefer to root them by placing them in water, because it seems that with this method we have greater guarantees of success.
The cuttings are deprived of the foliage in the lower part, and kept in a container with clean water until they begin to produce small roots, only then will they be moved in a vase, with a good fresh soil. It is also possible to prepare traditional cuttings, to be placed on the ground.
If we have obtained seeds from our tradescantie we can try to sow them, if they are fertile the germination is quite simple, even if the result is often unknown, and if we have taken the seeds from a specimen with flowers of a beautiful blue color, we can expect small plants with blue, or lilac, or pink, or white flowers.
Tradescantia can also be multiplied by dividing the clumps. If you want to reproduce it by division, choose a vigorous tuft and, lifting some twigs with a well sharpened and disinfected knife, cut the twigs and roots, being careful not to ruin the roots. Plant the head in the garden or in a pot that you have already prepared with sand or perlite on the bottom, add some soil, water and treat as any adult specimen.
The ideal time for planting is April. Prepare a 10-15 cm pot or a suspended basket and place gravel on the bottom to facilitate water drainage. Add some soil and place the plant paying attention to the roots. Fill the pot with soil, lightly compact the soil and water the plant without overdoing it.
If instead you plant it in the garden, in the middle of the ground, dig a hole much wider than the seedling and prepare some soil by adding organic substance. Place gravel or expanded clay balls on the bottom of the pit. Place the plant in the center, paying attention not to damage the roots, cover with other soil, compact the soil and water.
Exposure and Temperature
Tradescantia loves well-lit positions, but not direct exposure to the sun's rays.
Ideal temperatures must fluctuate between 210 C and 240 C, and must not, however, fall below 80 C, since the guarantees are very sensitive to frost.
Tradescancy loves the rich and peaty soil, not too wet. You can create the right soil by mixing fibrous soil, peat and coarse sand or perlite.
In the spring-summer period, add liquid fertilizer to the water every two weeks.
The waterings must be abundant during the vegetative period (from March to October) so that the soil remains sufficiently moist. In summer it is advisable to water twice a week and, if exposed to the sun, it will also be necessary to increase the frequency of watering. When temperatures are particularly high, periodically dip the jar in a basin of water.
At other times, wait for the soil to dry before watering again, and avoid water stagnation in the saucer.
Tradescantia survives even in extreme conditions, for example in dry or always humid areas, or in full sun or shade, but the plant will surely suffer and you will notice it because it will lose the leaves.
Plants grown outdoors must be pruned before winter (November). Eliminate the damaged leaves and twigs, and the younger branches to promote growth and thickening. In the striped varieties, cut the young shoots without streaks, if you do not want the plant to lose its striped appearance.
The cultivation of Tradescanzia
Exposure: Sun, half shade, shadow
Ground: Clayey, sandy
Cleaning / Pruning: Leaves and branches ruined
Water needs: poor
Soil moisture: Limited
Fertilization: Spring Summer
Multiplication: Seed, division of baskets, cutting
Pests and diseases
The warranties are generally not subject to insect attacks. Aphids may however spoil the leaves and make them sticky. Try to eliminate them with a cotton swab soaked in alcohol or by spraying on the leaves of the water in which you have melted soap.
The calendar of Tradescanzia
Planting: March may
If you notice that leaves darken, they dry out or fall, it is possible that the plant does not have enough moisture or the soil is too dry. Dip the jar in water and water more frequently.
If the leaves dry out at the ends, perhaps you should check that the plant is not too exposed to the sun.
If the leaves on the branches are somewhat sparse, perhaps the plant does not have enough light: move it to a brighter place.
If the plant produces only green shoots, there may be two causes: an excess of fertilizer or a lack of light.