Bolivian Wandering Jew Care: Learn How To Grow Callisia Repens

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Best known by the common name Bolivian Wandering Jew or creeping inch plant, Callisia repens (kal-LIZ-ee-uh REE-penz) is a member of the spiderwort (Commelinaceae) family. Native throughout South America, the Caribbean, and Central America. 

However, it has gained some popularity in the United States as a perennial ground cover in the southernmost regions and as an annual or indoor plant in cooler areas.

Creeping Bolivian wandering Jew - Callisia RepensPin
Callisia Repens grow the turtle vine in full sun or partial shade

The Bolivian Jew plant has a variety of other nicknames, most of which have variations. 

These common names include:

  • Chain Plant
  • Creeping Basket Plant
  • Creeping Inch Plant
  • Dwarf Wandering Jew
  • Itsy Bitsy Inch Plant
  • Little Jewel
  • Tiny Buttons
  • Turtle Vine

An easy to grow plant, dwarf wandering Jew is similar in appearance to both Tradescantia fluminensis and the striped inch plant (Callisia elegans). 

They can be differentiated by the leaves, green with purple spotting and purple underside on the wandering turtle vine, green with white stripes and purple underside on the striped inch plant, and glossy green leaves (sometimes with white stripes) with a green underside. 

Bolivian Wandering Jew Quick Care Tips

  • Botanical Name: Callisia Repens
    Common Name(s): Turtle Vine, Inch Plant, Creeping Inch Plant, Bolivian Wandering Jew
    Synonyms: Callisia fragrans, Spironema fragrans, Tradescantia repens
    Family & Origin: Commelinaceae family, native to Central and South America
    Growability: Easy to grow
    Grow Zone: USDA zones 10-11
    Size: Grows up to 12 inches tall and spreads up to 24 inches wide
    Flowering: Small white flowers bloom in the summer
    Light: Bright, indirect light
    Humidity: Prefers high humidity but can tolerate average humidity levels
    Temperature: Thrives in temperature not lower than 60°F
    Soil: Well-draining soil
    Water: Water when the top inch of soil is dry, do not overwater
    Fertilizer: Fertilize once a month during the growing season with a balanced fertilizer
    Pests & Diseases: Susceptible to spider mites and mealybugs, can also be affected by root rot if overwatered
    Propagation: Propagate through stem cuttings or division
    Plant Uses: Makes a great trailing plant for hanging baskets or as ground cover in a terrarium. Can also be used as a low-maintenance houseplant.

Another related species called purple succulent (Callisia fragrans) has large leaves in comparison to the others.

The flowers also differentiate wandering Jew from several other similar species. Tahitian bridal veil (Gibasis pellucida) has loose, stalked clusters of flowers. The hairy wandering Jew (Commelina benghalensis), native wandering Jew (Commelina diffusa), and zebrina (Tradescantia zebrina) all have blue or pink flowers.

Dwarf Bolivian Wandering Jew Care

Size & Growth

The Callisia Repens plant is a trailing plant with an overall height of between 4” and 12” inches and long, creeping low growing stems which stretch up to 2’ feet. 

Potted green plant on a wooden surface.Pin
Photo Credit: Instagram @cheekygermanplants

The stems have frequent branching from which small roots grow. Its small, alternating leaves are densely packed, shrinking in size the further out from the plant’s core they get.

Flowering and Fragrance

The small white flowers bloom throughout summer into autumn, sprouting in stalkless clusters in the forks of the upper leaves. These hermaphrodite flower clusters are odorless and tend to appear in pairs. 

The flowers have three white petals and up to six stamens with smooth filaments. Tiny oblong seed capsules containing four rough brown seeds emerge after fertilization.

Light & Temperature

Callisia Repens plants prefers full sun to partial shade. Access to bright light helps keep the plant healthy and reduce the risk of it becoming straggly.

Outdoors, this vine plant fares best in USDA hardiness zones 10 to 11. However, cuttings can overwinter indoors in colder climates. 

Green leafy plants, close-up view.Pin
Photo Credit: Instagram @sarahmeetstimmy

Meanwhile, it may also be grown as a houseplant in a sunny spot that never drops below 60° degrees Fahrenheit.

Watering and Feeding Callisia Repens

Dwarf Jew plant benefits from regular watering to ensure the soil remains moist during the growing season. Occasional misting of the foliage also helps to keep leaves from drying out and developing brown marks. 

Avoid overwatering and allow the surface of the turtle vine soil to dry out during the winter.

Green succulent plants close-up.Pin
Photo Credit: Instagram @qualitylindsey

During summer, a bit of liquid fertilizer every 10 to 14 days will encourage dense foliage.

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Soil & Transplanting

When used as potted plants or in a hanging basket, turtle vine does best in a standard potting mix or a peat mix. A similarly, organic-rich soil works well when planting in a garden.

Grooming And Maintenance

While the turtle vine requires very little maintenance overall, pinching the stem tips will help the turtle vine stay compact. Additionally, they may become leggy after two years. At that point, you may choose to replace them with a cutting.

Potted plant on table with blurry background.Pin
Photo Credit: Instagram @city_junglee

How To Propagate Callisia Repens

While Callisia Repens may propagate through seeds, the easiest method is to use 2” inch stem cuttings in spring or early summer. 

Place the cuttings where you wish to grow the plant and lightly cover with soil. If kept moist, the cuttings will take root, and new leaves will begin showing in only a few days.

Close-up of dense green succulent leaves.Pin
Photo Credit: Instagram @sugandhaagrawall

Callisia Repens Pest or Disease Problems

Bolivian Callisia repens is resistant to most pests, although low humidity will attract red spider mites, who like to build their webs along the stem tips. Misting the foliage makes the plants less attractive to these pests.

Both cats and dogs may experience a red, itchy rash when coming into contact with the plant. Additionally, this plant is known to contain calcium oxalate crystals, which may pose a problem when ingested by most pets.

While not considered invasive in the US, the Bolivian Jew plant has caused problems in Australia and a few other countries. It may also be considered a weed when allowed to grow wild.

Suggested Callisia Repens (Bolivian Wandering Jew Vine) Uses 

Dwarf Bolivian wandering Jew makes a great hanging plant. It can be used inside as a houseplant or outside as a dense, mat-like ground cover.

Lush green potted succulent plant.Pin
Photo Credit: Instagram @plantwithpidge

These beautiful plants are also a great addition to fairy gardens.

Reptile owners sometimes use the turtle vine to feed their pets, especially tortoises. When given in moderation, it is considered relatively safe despite the presence of calcium oxalate.

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