Tradescantia Nanouk Care (#1 Hacks for THRIVING Plant!)

small potted Tradescantia Nanouk with purple leaves

A plant that is in the spotlight at the moment is the beautiful Tradescantia Nanouk (Botanical name: Tradescantia albiflora ‘Nanouk’). 🙂

Otherwise known as the Fantasy Venus, this elegant houseplant features photogenic lilac, green and cream-colored stripes on its fuzzy leaves. Chubby stems lift their foliage up and, when established, also trail downwards.

Best of all, this variegated plant is relatively easy to care for. It needs bright, indirect light for at least 7 hours a day. Add orchid bark and perlite to commercial potting mixes to improve drainage, and water when the topsoil is dry to the touch. Ideally, use filtered water, and keep humidity to ~60%.

In this article, we’ll go over some common questions before diving into everything you need to know to care for your Tradescantia Nanouk.

Where does the Tradescantia Nanouk come from?

Though Tradescantia plants are native to Mexico, Central and South America, the Nanouk cultivar was created in the Netherlands as part of a planned breeding program in 2012. This breeding was achieved through cross-pollination of two Tradescantia Albiflora plants.

Their aim? To “create new Tradescantia plants with attractive flower colouration and good performance”, according to its patent. We say they succeeded.

Tradescantia plants as a whole come from the family Commelinaceae. There are 85 species in the genus Tradescantia, consisting of perennial wildflowers.

Is the Tradescantia Nanouk rare?

No. As beautiful as the Tradescantia Nanouk is, we wouldn’t consider it rare. The Nanouk can be found pretty easily online at Etsy.

Generally, we are also wary of anyone who claims that the plant they are selling is “rare”. It seems like a convenient excuse to bump up the price.

How big does it grow?

This plant has an interesting growth habit. First, it grows upright and also has a spreading habit. In fact, outdoors and in nature, it can be grown a ground cover!

If placed in a pot, only after it is done growing upwards and outwards does it start trailing.

At maturity, it is known to reach 3-6 inches (8-15cm) tall. It can trail up to 12-24 inches (30-61cm) long.

This plant can grow rapidly under the right growth conditions, especially when given ample amounts of bright but indirect light. So quickly that Florida considers its close relatives an invasive species (like the Mother of Millions)!

Tradescantia Nanouk Varieties

There are several common Tradescantia varieties. Here they are (they all start with “Tradescantia”; as an example, Tradescantia Zebrina):

  • Zebrina, known as the Wandering Jew
  • Spathacea, known as the Boat Lily
  • Cerinthoides, known as the Inch Plant
  • Fluminensis Tricolor, known as Spiderwort
tradescantia zebrina plant in a small pot
Tradescantia Zebrina, the Wandering Jew plant
tradescantia spathacea plant in a pot
A Moses-in-the-cradle or Boat Lily, Tradescantia Spathacea plant
Tradescantia Cerinthoides growing in a small white pot
Beautiful purple flower of the Tradescantia Cerinthoides
Tradescantia Fluminensis Tricolor in a small pot
Tradescantia Fluminensis Tricolor – you can see the resemblance to the Nanouk!

How to care for your Tradescantia Nanouk

Light

As with most variegated plants, light is essential to keep your Tradescantia Nanouk’s colours vibrant!

This plant thrives in bright indirect light and ample amounts of it (at least 7 hours a day). East-facing windows are best for this purpose.

Dull foliage and slow growth are signs of too little light. Consider using a grow light if this is an issue you’re struggling with. Our experience is using grow lights has a significant impact on how quickly and vibrantly the Nanouk grows.

If growing indoors, your Nanouk may not flower. Placing your plant outdoors in warmer months is a good idea to encourage blooms if that’s what you’re going for.

Water

Overwatering is the most common problem for Tradescantia plants, so do be careful with this area of care! You might want to check out our watering guide for more tips if you are a newbie.

  • Watering frequency: the usual advice applies. Always check your Nanouk’s soil moisture with your finger, and allow your plant’s top 1 inch of soil to dry before watering. This frequency really depends on where you live, how hot it is, and whether you are placing your plant indoors or outdoors. As a rule of thumb, when placed indoors, this usually works out to be about once a week in the spring and summer, with this reducing significantly in colder months.
  • Type of water: If you can, use distilled water which doesn’t have harsh salts. Alternatively, let tap water sit overnight before watering to allow salts to dissipate. It also ensures water is at room temperate when your plant receives it.
  • How to water: As your plant grows upright with curved foliage, you may choose bottom-watering so that you don’t have the issue of trying to water your plant without getting its leaves wet. Wet leaves is a breeding ground for bacteria and fungi, so avoid this. To bottom-water, place your plant in a tray of water for 15 minutes. The roots will pull water up from its drainage hole. Alternatively, water normally using a watering can with a long spout to avoid wetting the leaves.
  • Type of pot: Terracotta pots are best as they are porous, allowing your plant to breathe. It also allows evaporation to occur quickly so that excess water doesn’t sit in the pot for too long. This is one way to reduce the risk of an overwatered plant.

Humidity

Nanouks, like most tropical plants, benefit from some humidity. Around 60% is ideal for your plant, though it can tolerate drier air.

If you need to raise the humidity level in your home, here are four ways to do so.

Temperature

potted tradescantia nanouk top view

The temperature shouldn’t be an issue if you’re growing your Tradescantia Nanouk indoors. They do well between 54 – 104 degrees F (12 – 40 degrees C), so if you’re comfortable in a room, so is your Nanouk.

If growing outdoors, you might need to bring your plant in during colder months.

Soil or Growing Medium

Many people misunderstand the importance of having a good potting mix. Poor-draining soils can lead to overwatered plants, as the water stays pooled in the pot for too long. Given that overwatered plants are the most common problem with ailing Tradescantia Nanouks, paying close attention to the potting mix you choose makes sense.

If you want to create your own mix, here’s what we recommend:

Chunky orchid bark and perlite enhance the breathability of soil, making it loose and airy. At the same time, potting soil provides a rich organic media for your plant to draw nutrients.

Fertilizer

If you are using the potting mix above, there is no need for fertilizer. The potting soil provides enough nutrients for your plant. Worth noting is that your plant itself is a light feeder.

So we recommend that you skip the fertilizer altogether.

Repotting

The Tradescantia Nanouk doesn’t like to be root bound, so once you see the signs that your plant is getting too small for its pot, it’s best to repot your plant.

As a rule of thumb, this is usually once a year. However, you should be able to tell whether your plant is ready to be repotted or not. Here are some signs:

  • Your plant seems thirsty all the time and cannot get enough water
  • Growth is much slower than usual
  • Mineral salt build-up on the topsoil
  • Roots peeking out from the drainage hole
  • Roots circling the pot or lifting the plant up

Always use fresh soil when repotting to replenish nutrients in the soil. Water evenly after repotting.

Toxicity

Unfortunately, the Tradescantia Nanouk is toxic when ingested. Keep out of reach from pets and children.

Pruning

Regularly inspecting your plant and pruning away any dead or damaged leaves is good practice.

For a bushy plant, you can prune off the ends of the stems by cutting above the node. This encourages more branching growth.

Propagating your Tradescantia Nanouk

Tradescantia nanouk, an upright growing purple plant in a pot
The more the merrier!

Stem Cuttings in Water

Your Fantasy Venus is easy to propagate through stem cuttings. Here’s how:

  1. Identify a stem that has a few leaves.
  2. Using clean garden shears, cut below the node of this stem. The node is a nubby part of the stem from which new growth emerges. The stem cutting should ideally be about 4 inches long.
  3. Remove any leaves from the bottom half of the stem cutting.
  4. Place the stem cutting in a jar of room-temperature water such that no leaves are submerged. At least one node must be beneath the water’s surface.
  5. Ensure the jar is located in a spot that receives bright but indirect light.
  6. Replace the jar with fresh water every few days.
  7. In 1-2 weeks, roots should form from the submerged nodes.
  8. Wait until the roots have grown about 3 inches before repotting in an appropriate soil mix.
  9. Treat as you would any other Tradescantia Nanouk plant.

Stem Cuttings in Soil

Of course, you can grow your Tradescantia Nanouk directly in the soil. To do this,

  1. Identify a stem that has a few leaves.
  2. Using clean garden shears, cut below the node of this stem. The node is a nubby part of the stem from which new growth emerges. The stem cutting should ideally be about 4 inches long.
  3. Remove any leaves from the bottom half of the stem cutting.
  4. Place the stem cutting in a potting mix. No leaves should be buried under the soil. At least one node should be under the soil.
  5. Ensure the pot is placed in a spot that receives bright but indirect light.
  6. Place a clear plastic bag to cover the plant to increase humidity levels. Remove the plastic bag for 15 minutes every day to give your plant some fresh air.
  7. In 2 weeks, give your plant a very gentle tug. Some resistance means that its roots have been established!
  8. Treat this plant as you would any other Tradescantia Nanouk.

Propagation by Division

Propagating your Tradescantia Nanouk by Division is also possible. If you notice distinct stems growing from the same soil, you can take the opportunity to divide your plant.

Here’s how:

  1. Gently remove your plant from its pot, being careful not to damage its roots. Use your fingers to tease any compacted soil away from the roots.
  2. Divide the plant into distinct stems with its own root systems. Try not to damage the roots when untangling.
  3. Then, repot the stems into individual containers.

One thing to note is to repot into appropriately sized containers for its new (smaller) rootball. You might have to size down your pot if you’ve just halved the rootball size!

This is important because having a too-large pot encourages water to pool in the “unused soil”. This leads to an overwatered plant and root rot.

After repotting, your plant may suffer from transport shock. So don’t be surprised if it is unhappy for a few weeks; this is normal. Give it some time to establish itself in its new home.

Common Pests and Diseases

Thankfully, the Tradescantia Nanouk is not particularly susceptible to pests and diseases.

  • The most common problem is overwatering, which we’ve already covered at length.
  • Besides this, spider mites might also present an issue. Read our step-by-step how-to guide to identify and get rid of these sap-sucking mites.

Troubleshooting

Why is my Tradescantia Nanouk turning green?

It is possible for the Tradescantia Nanouk to lose its prized variegation if it is not given adequate sunlight. If your plant’s purple and creams are fading to a uniform green, the most likely problem is that the plant is not getting sufficient light.

Relocate to a brighter spot to receive at least 7 hours of bright but indirect light, preferably on East-facing windowsills. If this is not possible, use a grow light to supplement natural light in your home.

Why is my Tradescantia Nanouk leggy?

Same as above. Too little light is the reason for leggy growth.

Why is my Tradescantia Nanouk dying?

Here are some common issues and their causes.

  • Crispy brown leaf tips: usually means humidity is too low, or your plant is getting too much direct sunlight.
  • Yellow, soft leaves: watering too frequently or improperly draining soils are the issue.
  • Drooping leaves: again usually due to too-frequent watering or improperly draining growing medium.
  • Fine webbing on stems and leaves: this is definitely a case of spider mites.

Does a Tradescantia Nanouk flower?

Yes! Pink buds flourish into white and yellow flowers in the spring through early autumn.

close up white and yellow flowers of a tradescantia nanouk
Deborah

Deborah is a plant enthusiast and founder of Gardening Collective.