Best known by the common name Bolivian Wandering Jew, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
During summer, a bit of liquid fertilizer every 10 to 14 days will encourage dense foliage.
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.
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.
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.
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.