The Three Generation Houseplant

By Bonnie Grant | January 6, 2021
Image by Irina Stevenson
by Bonnie Grant
January 6, 2021

My grandma was an avid plant lover. Actually, I come from a long line of plant fanatics, but she had some of the family’s oldest specimens. She gave my mom a cutting of Tradescantia, a common houseplant that roots easily from cuttings. It has a name that is frowned upon nowadays, but I still call it by its original moniker. I hope no one is offended.

My mom, sister, and I frequently exchange plants and seeds. One of my most special plants is only a year old, but it is really older. It came from my mom’s wandering Jew (Tradescantia houseplant). That plant started from a cutting of my grandma’s. Grandma passed a few years ago at over 100 years of age. She had the original plant since she was in her 40’s, so it is an oldie. 

My sis took a cutting from Mother’s plant about three years ago. When I moved here to be near my family, she gave me a cutting of hers in a little cutting glass as a housewarming present. It shot out little roots within a week I believe it was. It was quite amazing and happy sitting in its water. I kept forgetting to pot it up, as we were busy with so many other things in the new house. It didn’t mind. It stayed green and healthy for several months before I found the right pot and got hold of some potting mixture. 

Wandering Jew Propagation

Tradescantia zebrina is a beautiful houseplant. They are also called spiderwort plants and are familiar sights in homes. The reason they are so common is their ease of propagation. All you need to do is snip off a stem with some leaves and plunk it in water. Wait for it to root and pot it up. I suspect the ill chosen moniker comes from this ease of propagation where the plant would travel around from family to neighbor. They have a trailing habit and make nice hanging plants but can also be used in standard container situations. The purple etched green leaves and purple stems stand out among other traditionally green flora. 

My wandering Jew is now proudly in a planter shaped like a frog. My sis and I were “frog and toad” as children, for reasons I can no longer remember. However, I am still fond of frog shaped things. I rarely need to water it, it has shot out new stems, and is a happy little plant. Eventually, I will have to move it from its froggy home, but that will be a while. 

Every time I go to my parent’s house, I gaze at the big wandering Jew from which my little plant was created. It is a testament to three generations of plant freaks and our love of all things green. It is also a powerful reminder of my Grandma and all the wonderful memories we have created as a family. I treasure my little plant and all it represents.

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