The Tradescantia nanouk plant is one of the most popular houseplants in the world. This particular Tradescantia variety has white, green, purple and pink striped leaves which give the plant its striking and unique look. The colorful leaves are thick and fuzzy and grow on chunky stems. During the spring and summer, the plant produces small yellow, white and pink flowers.
This variety of Tradescantia was cooked up by scientists in a laboratory in the Netherlands barely a decade ago, which is why it is hardy, low-maintenance and makes a great choice for beginner plant owners.
In this article, we will discuss the proper cultural care propagation of Tradescantia nanouk.
Tradescantia nanouk care
1. Light requirements
This plant likes bright, indirect light, so an east- or north-facing window would be best for it. If the only window available is south-facing, the light may be too intense. You can diffuse the intensity by placing a sheer curtain over the window. Avoid anywhere that the plant will get long hours of direct light, because this can scorch the leaves.
Depriving the plant of light will result in its leaf colors becoming paler, so avoid doing this as well. Another effect of light deprivation is etiolation. This is a process by which the plant becomes leggy, due to focusing all its resources into the one stem that can reach the closest source of light. In other words, the plant is so desperate for light that is literally reaching for it. It is not necessarily a fatal condition for the plant, but it does affect the overall aesthetic. There will be leggy growths jutting from an otherwise-compact plant, and the leaves will also tend to grow smaller than normal because the plant is focusing on growing its stems to reach the light for survival.
Remedy etiolation in your Tradescantia nanouk by making sure it gets plenty of bright, indirect light. You can also cut off the leggy growth and use the cuttings to propagate the plant.
During the winter, when natural light is scarce, consider buying some grow lights to help your plant. This will prevent it from getting leggy or pale during the cold, darker months.
2. Watering requirements
There is no set schedule to follow when it comes to watering your nanouk. The best way to determine whether your plant needs water is to touch the top two inches of soil in the pot to feel whether it is dry. If the top two inches of soil are dry, you can water the plant; if the soil is still a bit damp, wait one or two days before checking it again.
This technique is very helpful to prevent overwatering. Overwatering your plant can cause the roots to drown in the soggy soil. Roots need time to dry out so that oxygen can reach them, and if they are constantly underwater, they will drown. The dead roots will start to rot and opportunistic pathogens will start to attack. The infection caused by the pathogens will make the rot even more aggressive, and soon enough the entire plant will be affected. The stems and leaves will turn yellow, soft and mushy. A plant with root rot that has reached the stem will have a very slim chance of recovery, so it is best to avoid root rot in the first place by never overwatering your plant.
Because the plant’s leaves are so sturdy and thick, water can pool inside them if you water the plant from above. Stagnant water in the leaves of the nanouk plant can also lead to rot, so try not to get the leaves wet when you water the plant. You can do this by using a watering can with a long, thin spout that you can insert through the leaves in order to water the soil directly. This way, the leaves do not get wet and you reduce the risk of rot.
You can also avoid wetting the leaves by placing water in a shallow basin and letting the plant’s pot soak in the water for an hour. Make sure to let all the excess water drip out of the drainage holes before placing the pot back in its original spot.
If you accidentally get the leaves wet, dry them with a paper towel.
In the winter, you will not need to water the plant as much as in the spring and summer. Low temperatures and less sunlight means the soil dries out more slowly, so it is probably enough to water about half as often.
3. Soil requirements
One of the most important factors in preventing overwatering is a well-draining soil mix. If the soil is well-draining, airy and porous, air and excess water will flow freely through the soil and the roots will not have to stand in waterlogged soil for long periods of time. There are plenty of indoor houseplant soil mixes available commercially, but you can also just add coarse sand, orchid bark or perlite into regular potting soil to increase its drainage capacity.
Make sure the soil is not compact and dense, because that kind of soil retains moisture too well and can cause root rot.
4. Temperature requirements
The temperature inside your home will do just fine for your nanouk plant. As long as the temperature is between 50 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit, the plant will be alright.
If you are keeping the plant outdoors, you may need to bring it inside when fall arrives and the night-time temperatures could drop below 50 degrees.
While inside the house for the fall and winter, make sure you place the plant in a spot where there are no cold or warm drafts. Keep the plant away from heating vents and air conditioners, because the warm and cold air will dry out the leaves of the plant very quickly.
Try to keep the temperature around your plant as consistent as possible to keep it happy.
5. Humidity requirements
This plant prefers higher-than-normal humidity. The easiest way to increase the humidity around the plant is to keep it in the most humid room in the house. This is often the bathroom, laundry room, or in the kitchen near the sink.
You can also use a pebble tray filled with water to help the plant out. Place the pot on top of the water tray and, as the water evaporates, it will moisten the soil in the pot.
If you want a really hassle-free way to regulate the humidity in your home, you can purchase a humidifier to do the job for you.
6. Fertilizer requirements
Tradescantia nanouk’s growing period is during the spring and summer, so this is when you should feed the plant.
Use half-strength indoor houseplant fertilizer, or make one at home using compost tea that has been in a bucket of water for several days.
Since this plant already grows pretty well without feeding, only fertilize it once a month during spring and summer. Avoid feeding it in fall and winter because that may lead to toxicity in the soil due to the buildup of too many nutrients.
Also refrain from fertilizing the plant if you have just repotted it.
7. Repotting the plant
Because this plant grows quickly, you may need to repot it as often as once per growing period. If the roots have crowded the pot, replace the old one with a pot one size bigger. Do not use a pot that is too large, because that means it holds more soil and more soil means more water is retained. This can lead to the plant becoming overwatered, and to possible root rot.
Try to avoid repotting the plant during the fall and winter. Repotting is a stressful experience for the plant and it needs as much energy as possible to recover quickly from the trauma.
To know when you need to repot your plant, look out for roots growing out of the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot. If you remove the plant from the pot, the roots will have encircled the soil. If the entire root ball is easily pulled out of the pot, that means there is more root than soil in the pot and you need to repot the plant.
8. Pruning the plant
Regularly pruning your Tradescantia nanouk helps the plant become bushier and denser, which is what most plant owners like. Simply cut back the branches a few inches using sterilized pruning shears. This plant grows vigorously, so do not worry if you feel you may have clipped the branch a little too short.
Tradescantia nanouk propagation
Propagation in soil
Choose a stem that has several leaves and nodes on it. Using sharp, sterilized scissors, cut the stem at a 45-degree angle and remove the leaves closest to the base of the cutting.
Prepare a small pot with well-draining indoor soil mix, and poke a hole in the middle of the soil. Place the base of the cutting inside the hole, making sure the lowest node is covered by the soil. This is important because the node is where the roots of the new plant will grow from. Make sure the soil is moist but not soggy.
Place the pot in a spot where it can get bright, indirect light. You can help lock in moisture by placing a plastic bag over the plant. Just remember to remove the plastic bag every day for a few minutes to allow the plant to breathe.
After a couple of weeks, check the viability of the roots by giving the plant a gentle tug. If you feel resistance when you pull, that means the roots have grown in nicely and you can proceed to care for the new nanouk as you would a mature plant.
Propagation in water
Choose a stem that has several leaves and at least one node. Using clean, sterilized scissors, cut the stem below the node. Remove any leaves that are close to the base of the cutting.
Place the cutting into a glass container half-filled with clean, tepid water. Make sure at least one node is submerged under the water because this is where the roots will grow from. Place the jar where it can get bright, indirect light.
After one or two weeks, there should be tiny roots emerging from the node. If the water starts to smell or if it starts to look murky, replace it as soon as possible. Top up the water if the level drops below the node.
After another two to three weeks, the roots should be several inches long and you can now transfer the cutting to its own pot, using a well-draining potting mix.
After potting the plant, you can treat it like you would a regular, fully-grown plant.
Tradescantia nanouk is a beautiful plant with colorful leaves, and is low-maintenance and hardy. This plant is compact enough to use as a centerpiece on your dining table. It is a great choice as a gift for loved ones because of how easy it is to grow and care for. In order to preserve the color of its leaves, make sure the plant gets a lot of bright, indirect light.
This plant only needs to be watered when the top two inches of soil are dry to the touch. It likes well-draining soil, a humid environment, and temperatures between 50 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit.
It does not need to be fertilized, but if you wish to feed it, only use fertilizer at half-strength once a month during the spring and summer.
You can propagate this plant either by placing the cutting directly into a pot of soil, or by letting the cutting root in a glass container of water for several weeks before transferring it to its own pot with soil.
You can root multiple cuttings in one pot and give that as a gift to a special person in your life. Anybody would be lucky to receive a Tradescantia nanouk as a gift.
Image: istockphoto.com / Patcharamai Vutipapornkul