(Editor's Note: This article was originally published on September 21, 2008. Your comments are welcome, but please be aware that authors of previously published articles may not be able to respond to your questions.)
Although there are many tradescantias that go by the name Wandering Jew, few of them are available commercially. The tradescantias are a particular favorite of mine as I have always been a little partial to foliage. When I began researching these plants I was surprised to learn that they are actually members of the spiderwort family. All three of the Wandering Jew plants are extremely easy to grow. They do well in full sun as well as in the shade. They can survive on virtually no care if placed in the proper environment which isn't hard to do considering their flexibility. The do not require a great deal of water and will grow in either slightly soggy or dry soil.
Tradescantia fluminensis is often grown as a house plant here in the United States, and though it is a treasure to most it is considered an invasive intruder to others. It is considered to be invasive in some areas due to the rate that it spreads; its stems will break off easily and it will take root wherever it lands.
It will also smother plants that attempt to grow under or through it.
Although weed sprays do have some effect it is unlikely that you would be able to rid yourself of this plant because of the rate that it spreads.
The only way to prevail would be to simply pull it by hand; this may need to be repeated over some period of time.
Tradescantia pallida grows well in a hanging pot but is often used in warmer climates as a ground cover. Though it can be invasive, it is absolutely gorgeous.
It is impressive with its purple foliage, but once you have seen its simple and elegant bloom, it will become an irreplaceable part of the landscaping.
Tradescantia zebrina is still known by many as Zebrina pendula but whichever you decide to call it, it is a plant worth having. It has variegated leaves as well as a simple sweet bloom. Much like its sister plants, it can be invasive if it is not properly maintained. It will cling closely to the ground and make an adorable groundcover. It grows well in the shade as well as slightly more sunny areas.
You can root more plants as easily as you can take cuttings. Simply clip some leaves or pinch off the succulent stems and place them into the soil where they will quickly take root and grow into lovely plants. It is believed that unlike its counterparts, prolonged exposure to the sap from the stems or rubbing the foliage can cause skin irritation in some people. For that reason I would place this plant in a hanging pot or off the "beaten path" where children are not likely to be in physical contact with the plant.
It is not my intention to deter you from growing any of these beauties; I do however recommend that you check with your local county extension office to make sure that you are allowed to plant it, and its potential invasiveness.
How and where to plant this type of plant is very much about personal choice. I have it growing climbing out of my flower bed and crawling around as a border.
Though this is beautiful and works wonderfully, it is a continuing process that takes persistence to keep it under control.
Another beautiful option is to take all three varieties and plant them in a large container. Once they take hold and are growing well, the colors of the leaves really go well together. They bring out each other's colors. The possibilities are endless with these little beauties.
All photos are courtesy of Wikipedia and public domain. http://wikipedia.org/