How to Make Your Tradescantia Bushier


Tradescantias are popular houseplants, prized for their deep purples, silvers, and greens.  They’re vining plants that grow quickly and propagate easily. But, without the proper growing conditions, a Tradescantia can become leggy. This can make it appear thin and scraggly. 

If you’re like me, you’d prefer a fuller, bushier looking Tradescantia. So, how do you make that happen?

Generally, there are three main ways to keep your Tradescantia looking bushier.  These include;

  1. Providing adequate light.
  2. Frequently pruning your plant.
  3. Taking the pruned cuttings and propagating them back into the soil. 

Each individual step will help with the plant’s fullness. However, doing all three methods in combination will give you the best results.    

Why Is Your Tradescantia Leggy in the First Place?

Before we dive into how to make your Transcandia bushier, let’s talk about why it becomes thin and leggy.

As houseplants, Tradescantias are often seen in hanging baskets with their vines trailing down the side.

In nature, though, Tradescantias don’t normally trail. They actually spread outwards, creeping along the ground and laying roots wherever a vine’s node touches the soil. 

This is how the plant propagates itself. In fact, because of their fast-growing nature, Tradescantia can be invasive if planted outside in warmer climates.

Tradescantia vines like to be near the soil where they can lay down roots. This means they’re not designed to have trailing stems that are a long distance from the soil and their roots, such as you have with a hanging basket. 

When left to trail, as a vine lengthens, the leaves near the soil eventually become brittle and break off. Then, in an attempt to find soil closer to the nodes, the stem, itself, falls away. 

If left on its own to continue hanging and growing, this would happen to your Tradescantia.

But, take heart. Your plant is not doomed to a thin, spindly existence. 

Let’s take a closer look at the ways you can keep your Tradescantia looking its best. 

How to Make Your Tradescantia Bushier

1.    Tradescantia and Light

Tradescantias like bright, indirect light. If possible, keep your plant near a south, west, or east facing window.

Without enough light, you’re Tradescantia may start to stretch. In other words, it’ll reach for the closest light source. The vines will also become scraggly, with the leaves sprouting further apart.

If your Tradescantia starts to lose its color, this is a telltale sign of poor light.

Lastly, your plant may become thin and weak, and generally look poorly.

2.    Pruning Your Tradescantia

Keeping your Tradescantia pruned is key to keeping it looking full.  Don’t be afraid to prune frequently and aggressively.

Pruning or pinching your plant helps your plant become bushier. 

Hand holding a Tradescantia stem.

First, pinching your plant stops the vine from growing further. In addition, it encourages new leaves and branches to form further down the stem closer to the soil. This gives your plant a fuller look.

How to Prune Your Tradescantia 

To trim your plant, you’ll need a pair of clean, sharp scissors or pruners. Take a look at my article on pruners to learn more about the different types of pruners.

If you’ve never pruned a plant before, don’t fret. Tradescantias are so easy to propagate, that it’s really hard to go wrong with this plant.

Start by removing any branches that are thin, weak, or dried out looking. Once you’ve cleaned up the dead or dying vines, move on to the healthy vines. 

Start with a longer vine and cut the vine just below one of its nodes. A node looks and feels like a little joint in the stem. You’ll also see a leaf sprouting just above the node.

If you have an extra long stem, you can cut it in several places to make several cuttings.  Each of my Tradescantia cuttings usually ends up anywhere from 4 – 6 inches long. 

Once you’re finished pruning, you’ll move on to propagating those cuttings.

It’s important to make haircuts an ongoing part of your Tradescantia’s plant care.

3.    Propagating Your Tradescantia Cuttings

Tradescantias are incredibly easy to propagate.

Once you’ve trimmed your Tradescantia, take each cutting and remove the bottom leaf of two.  You want to end up with about 2 inches of bare stem.

You can propagate your Tradescantia cuttings in soil or water.

Propagating in Soil

To propagate your cutting in the soil, simply stick the stripped end of the cutting back into the soil wherever there’s a bare spot.  Make sure that at least one node is in the soil.

Tradescantia with bare patches in soil.

Water you plant after you finish because those new cuttings will need moisture.  

A good habit is to check whether or not your plant needs to be pruned whenever it needs water. If so, prune, and propagate the cuttings back into the soil, then water your plant. 

Alternatively, you can lay the cut stem along the top of the soil making sure that the nodes are touching the soil. Where the nodes touch the soil, new roots should form. This is how the plant would propagate in nature.

Lastly, if you don’t feel like pruning, and you have a large enough pot, you can take any long, trailing vines, and loop them back, laying them along the soil. Again, make sure the nodes are touching the soil. 

Propagating in Water

Some people prefer to propagate in water first, then transplant the cutting into the soil. It’s as simple to propagate in water as it is in soil. 

Tradescantia cuttings in a glass of water.

As with soil, you’ll prepare the cutting by stripping away the bottom leaves. Once done, place the cutting into a glass or vase of water.  

Within a week or so you’ll see new roots forming.  Once formed, transfer the cutting into the soil, again filling in the bare spots.

I’ve used both methods with equally good results.

Now, if the cutting is a bit dry or more brittle, I would recommend water propagating.  The added humidity will help the stem.


If you’d like to learn more about caring for your Tradescantia, take a look at my guide on Tradescantia care.


Tradescantias grow quickly and propagate easily. By regularly pruning and filling in those bare gaps with cuttings, you’ll keep your plant looking full and healthy. 

And, if you end up with excess cuttings (which is easy to do!), then start a new plant or gift the extra cuttings to a friend.

FINAL THOUGHTS

  • In nature, Tradescantias are creeping plants that lay roots wherever their nodes touch the ground.  
  • Tradescantias are not meant to trail, as they do in a hanging basket.
  • They do best in bright, indirect light.
  • Frequent pruning will encourage thicker growth on the trimmed stems.
  • Tradescantias are fast growers and extremely easy to propagate.
  • Tradescantia cuttings can be propagated in soil or water.
  • Cuttings can be rooted back in bare areas of the soil to give the plant a bushier look.

If you enjoyed this article on how to make your Tradescantia bushier, feel free to share it with friends.  

Angela

Hi! My name is Angela Carr. I started this site to share my love for plants and gardening. My aim is to provide my readers with easy tips and tricks on plant care, fun facts, and encouragement for the new plant owner or anyone questioning the colour of their thumb!

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