Years ago, before raising plants for profit became a business, everyone with houseplants knew how to grow inch plants (Tradescantia zebrina). Gardeners would share cuttings from their inch plant houseplants with neighbors and friends, and the plants would travel from place to place.
Basic Inch Plant Care
Inch plant care requires bright, indirect light. If the light is too dim, the distinctive leaf markings will fade. Keep the soil slightly moist, but don’t water directly into the crown as this will cause an unsightly rot. Care should be taken, particularly in winter, that the plant doesn’t become too dry. Mist inch plants frequently. Feed your plant monthly with a half-strength liquid fertilizer.
An important part of growing inch plants is pinching back the long, vining tendrils. Pinch back about a fourth of the plant to encourage branching and increase fullness.
Inch plants have a relatively short lifespan, and do not age well. No matter how attentive your inch plant care is, before long it will lose its leaves at the base, while its long legs keep growing. This means it’s time to renew your plant by taking cuttings and rooting them. Don’t be surprised if your inch plants need to be renewed once a year or so.
How to Grow Inch Plants from Cuttings
There are three ways to restart or grow an inch plant houseplant.
The first is, to me, is the most efficient. Cut off a dozen long legs and bury the cut ends in fresh potting soil. Keep the soil moist and within a few weeks, you’ll see new growth. Always make sure your soil is fresh, as the salt build up in old soil is lethal to inch plants.
Even though these plants hate soggy feet in their pots, they love rooting in water. A dozen shoots placed in a glass of water in a sunny window will produce roots in no time.
The last way to re-root your inch plant is to lay your cuttings right on top of the moist soil. Make sure each ‘joint’ makes contact with the soil. Roots will form at each joint and from each a new inch plant houseplant will grow.