A family of hardy herbaceous and tender perennials, mainly grown for their attractive foliage. The flowers, although often insignificant and short lived, can be quite attractive. Hardy types thrive well in free draining soil and full sun. Many of the tender species make good houseplants or cool greenhouse specimens.

Family: Commelinaceae
Botanical Name: Tradescantia
Common Names: Spiderwort, trinity flower, dayflower.

Foliage: Distinctive, narrow lance-shaped leaves.

Flowers: Small clusters of short lived, 3-petalled flowers. Violet-blue is the normal flower colour but cultivars are available in purple, light-blue, pink, mauve, violet and white.

Flowering Period: June to September.

Soil: Moist but well-drained soil. Any pH.

Conditions: Full sun or partial shade. Plant outdoor varieties in an east, west or south facing aspect.

Habit: Trailing or tufted.

Type: Herbaceous perennials.

Origin: North and South America

Hardiness: Hardy or tender, depending on variety.

Planting and Growing Tradescantia

A low-maintenance, hardy perennial that is very easy-to-grow and usually trouble free. Tradescantia is happy in light shade so it makes a useful addition for those difficult shady areas.

The flowers only last a day or so but continue in succession from June to September.

Plant out hardy forms in autumn or winter.

Houseplants and greenhouse specimens do best in a bright spot out of direct sun.

Taking Care of Tradescantia

Support tall varieties if necessary. Water well in dry spells.

Feed houseplants with a weak liquid fertilizer every few weeks and water freely during the growing period. Water sparingly in winter and keep houseplant species above 10°C.

Pruning Tradescantia

Cut down the leaves of hardy varieties in mid to late autumn.

Pests and Diseases

Generally pest and disease free. Young growth can be prone to attack by slugs.

Propagating Tradescantia

Increase hardy varieties by division in early spring. Seed of hardy types can be sown under glass in March. Pot on when large enough to handle. Grow-on in cold frame, harden off and plant out in the autumn.

Propagate greenhouse varieties from shoot tip cuttings in spring and summer.

Popular Varieties of Tradescantia

Hardy Perennials

Tradescantia x andersoniana a hardy herbaceous perennial with attractive white flowers with blue centres. Height to 2ft (60cm), spread to 18in (45cm). Good cultivars include 'Carmine Glow' with pinkish red flowers (compact in habit), 'Isis' with deep blue/purple flowers (long-flowering) and 'Osprey' white flowers with a fluffy blue central crest.

Tradescantia Sweet Kate (Blue 'n' Gold) is an unusual bright golden-yellow variety with bright violet-blue flowers. Useful for brightening up dark corners in the garden. Compact enough to be grown in a pot. Available at You Garden.

Tender Houseplants

Tradescantia fluminensis Variegata a tender trailing form with oval green leaves with a purple underside.

Tradescantia spathacea 'Sitara' (maidens blush) a tender bushy form with narrow, attractive, variegated foliage that forms a colourful rosette of bright purple-pink and green. Available at Thompson & Morgan.

Tradescantia zebrina is a popular tender trailing form with attractive silver-striped leaves, each with a bright pink underside. Available at Thompson & Morgan.