Tradescantia Nanouk Plant Care


The Tradescantia Nanouk is a gorgeous variety of traditional Tradescantia (aka spiderwort) with pink or purple foliage. This Tradescantia Nanouk plant care guide will tell you everything you need to know to successfully grow and care for your own Tradescantia Nanouk Plants including how to avoid common pitfalls when growing them indoors.

Here’s how to care for the Tradescantia Nanouk:

  • Water when the top inch of soil dries out
  • Provide bright, indirect light
  • Use well-draining soil with amendments
  • Choose glazed ceramic or clay pot
  • Provide temps of 75° and humidity over 60%
  • Fertilize with diluted plant fertilizer 

Keep reading for detailed, actionable steps to successfully grow a Tradescantia Nanouk. I’ll even discuss the common obstacles people face when caring for this plant so you can avoid them! 

Tradescantia Nanouk Overview

The Tradescantia includes more than 70 species of perennial herbaceous wildflowers. The plant that goes by such names as the spiderwort and wandering Jew has a bunch of fun, colorful varieties, and the one I want to talk about today is the Tradescantia Nanouk.

The Tradescantia Nanouk or Tradescantia albiflora is among the most popular varieties due to its incredible coloration. As I touched on in the intro, the leaves of this plant are tinged electric purple, violet, or pink.

The variegation is such that the entire leaf isn’t pink or purple. The color usually expands along the sides of the leaf as well as in the center, stretching out in straight lines. The rest of the leaf is green. The result is a plant with foliage that almost looks like a classic watercolor painting.

Some indoor gardeners swear that the Tradescantia Nanouk is rare. I would say that, compared to other Tradescantia varieties, it’s harder to come by, but it’s definitely not rare

However, due to public perception, be ready to pay more to bring home a Tradescantia Nanouk than your basic Tradescantia plants. You might spend $30 and up in some instances.

If one of your indoor gardening buddies wants to send you some Tradescantia Nanouk cuttings, you can easily propagate your own Tradescantia Nanouk for free.

What can you expect if you choose this plant for your indoor garden? The Tradescantia Nanouk is a trailing perennial that reaches heights of three to six inches. It’s the length you’ll have to worry about, as the plant can trail 12 to 24 inches in maturity. 

Caring for Tradescantia Nanouk

If you’ve decided the colorful Tradescantia Nanouk is the right houseplant for you, this next section will provide you with lots of valuable information! 

Watering a Tradescantia Nanouk

Let’s begin by discussing the Tradescantia Nanouk plant’s watering requirements. Using the fingertip test, gauge how dry the soil is. If the top inch is mostly dry or completely dry, it’s time for more water.

In the beginning, watering your Tradescantia Nanouk will be easy. Depending on how your plant grows as it nears maturity though, you may struggle to water it later down the line.

Why is that? Tradescantia Nanouk plants often have stems that often grow in a way where they cover the top of the pot. 

As the plant continues to grow upward, watering can become more difficult. Using a traditional watering can may result in only the leaves getting wet, not the soil, and thus not the roots either.

If your Tradescantia Nanouk is growing in a similar pattern, you might have good luck filling a drip tray with lukewarm water and allowing your plant to soak. This is called bottom-watering, and it is effective for many houseplant species!

I should note though that the Nanouk is susceptible to fungal issues, so overwatering is not something you should make a habit of. If you’re soaking the Nanouk plant, only do it for as long as required for the plant to absorb the water.

Tradescantia Nanouk Light Requirements

Like many variegated houseplant species, the Tradescantia Nanouk prefers bright, indirect light.

Bright indirect light is sunlight that passes through a curtain or a similar medium. 

Short periods of full sun are okay, especially if it’s earlier in the day. I must stress that you need to keep those periods very short.

If you don’t, your poor Nanouk could have burned foliage that erases all the beauty of the pink or purple variegation.

I’d recommend an easterly-facing or a northerly-facing window for this Tradescantia variety. If all you have is a southerly-facing window, then position your plant at least three feet away. Be sure to monitor for signs of too much sun. 

Outside of burnt foliage, those signs can include wilting and dry, crispy leaves. If your plant has these symptoms, then move it out of the sun and replenish it with water. 

On the opposite end of the spectrum, dim lighting is the biggest enemy of variegated plants. The lack of light sucks away color, leaving your plant green.

You’ll know your Nanouk is starving for light if it begins growing towards whatever the nearest light source is.

Growing long and thin towards the nearest light source, is often referred to as “leggy”. If you’ve ever heard the term “leggy” used when discussing houseplants or indoor plants , now you know what it means. 

Best Soil for a Tradescantia Nanouk

The Tradescantia Nanouk doesn’t require special soil; any standard variety will do as long as it’s well-draining soil. 

I wouldn’t say the Tradescantia is sensitive to water, but no plant likes being saturated in standing water, and that includes this one. Hence, it’s well-draining soil to the rescue.

To further enhance drainage, many indoor gardeners will add soil amendments. 

One option you might consider is coarse sand or horticultural grit. Sand is a good aerator, so it will keep the soil soft and fluffy. 

However, I caution you against using too much. Once you overdo it on the sand, this amendment can dry out the soil and cause water to drain too quickly.

You’ll then find yourself watering the Tradescantia Nanouk far more often than is required. Regular overwatering can lead to root rot, which kills your plant from the roots up.

Perlite is another good soil amendment for the Nanouk. This smooth volcanic glass enhances the aeration of your plant’s soil and improves its drainage as well. No more standing water for your Tradescantia!

Orchid bark is a third popular soil amendment I see a lot of Tradescantia Nanouk growers recommend. The bark will retain some moisture in the soil so you don’t create an overwatering issue with your plant.  

Don’t forget to check the pH of whichever soil amendment you choose. The Tradescantia Nanouk thrives in a pH range of 5.0 to 6.5, so it’s more on the acidic side. 

Orchid bark has a pH of no more than 5.0, sand’s pH is 7.0, and perlite’s pH is 7.0 to 7.5. Use a light hand with the latter two amendments especially. 

Best Type of Pot for a Tradescantia Nanouk

To support its well-draining requirements, the Tradescantia Nanouk will be happiest in a glazed ceramic or glazed clay pot. 

On their own, ceramic and clay are way too porous for the Nanouk. These materials would thirstily suck up all the moisture in the pot, causing you to have to water your Tradescantia more often. You already know this sets up conditions for root rot.

A layer of glaze on ceramic or clay reduces the porosity of these materials, but not by a huge margin. When you water your Tradescantia Nanouk, the water will remain in the pot longer than it would with unglazed ceramic or clay, but not so long that it overstays its welcome. 

There are several downsides to selecting heavy pot materials like these. For one, they’re quite fragile, glaze or no glaze. If you drop a clay or ceramic pot, it will likely shatter.

Second, because the Tradescantia Nanouk is a relatively fast grower you’ll need to replace your Nanouk plant’s pot about every 12 to 18 months. 

Tradescantia Nanouk Ideal Temperature and Humidity

The perfect temperature for the Tradescantia Nanouk is around 75 degrees Fahrenheit. By night, it’s okay if the temps decrease to 50 degrees, but no lower than that.

The Nanouk is anything but cold-tolerant. In temps of 54 degrees, the cold is enough to stifle its growth. Temperatures in the 40s can damage this plant. 

You’ll easily be able to tell that’s happened because the green parts of the plant’s foliage will have turned unappealingly yellow. The leaves will also wilt. 

Seedlings will have reduced growth, and germination as a whole will be very poor. In the worst-case scenario, necrosis or tissue cell death can occur. Those leaves are toast and will have to be removed using sterile pruning shears.

You’ll then have to move your Nanouk plant to warmer conditions and carefully monitor it over the days to come. Most plants bounce back from one instance of cold stress easily enough, but don’t make a habit out of it! 

The Tradescantia Nanouk is more heat-tolerant, but I still wouldn’t push its conditions too far past 80 degrees. Sun scalding can occur, which will again affect the appearance of those gorgeous pink or purple-tinged leaves.

Let’s talk humidity. The Tradescantia Nanouk prefers at least 60 percent humidity. That’s 10 degrees over the average relative humidity in a home or office, which is usually between 30 and 50 percent.

You might create humidity through a humidifier. You can even put the Nanouk plant in your bathroom. 

However, the Tradescantia Nanouk has rather thick leaves, so it can tolerate lower degrees of humidity than some other Tradescantia varieties. 

Best Fertilizer for a Tradescantia Nanouk

Tradescantia Nanouk plants grow with such vigor that even if you skipped the fertilizer, you shouldn’t see yours slow down much.

That said, fertilizer is about more than just accelerating growth. You’re also providing your plant with the crucial macronutrients (like nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium) it needs to sustain itself.

It’s for that reason that I would recommend you fertilize your Nanouk plant. You only have to do this between the spring and summertime. 

Some indoor gardeners fertilize their Tradescantias every two weeks and others monthly. You can decide based on the health of your Nanouk plant which timeframe works better for you.

Regardless, use standard plant fertilizer on Tradescantia Nanouk. Make sure you dilute it to at least half-strength! 

Common Issues with a Tradescantia Nanouk

Next, let’s delve into some common issues you might face as you grow a Tradescantia Nanouk.  

Pests

The great thing about owning a Tradescantia Nanouk besides its appeal and status as a great conversation piece is that this plant is mostly pest-resistant. 

That said, its pest resistance is very much dependent on your care of the plant. A weaker houseplant cannot defend itself from pest attacks

If there’s one pest that might try to take your Tradescantia Nanouk down, that’d be the spider mite. These mites are one of 1,200 other species. 

Check the underside of your Nanouk plant’s pretty leaves, as that’s where you’re likeliest to see a spider mite infestation.

The trademark webs spider mites weave might be visible there as well.

The spider mite will suck the juices from plant cells until there’s nothing left. Then they’ll move on to another leaf or even another plant. They like plant species in the hundreds, so the spider mite is anything but a picky eater.

What causes spider mites?

Dryness and heat. Getting into a good watering schedule with your Tradescantia Nanouk will prevent dry soil conditions that could invite these unpleasant mites.

To prevent heat, maintain humidity in your home or office at 60 percent. Don’t set the temperatures too high and keep your plant away from direct sun for very long.  

Diseases

Here’s another piece of good news. The Tradescantia Nanouk doesn’t develop many diseases, mostly fungal infections. These infections are completely preventable.

The biggest fungal infection that your Tradescantia Nanouk might have is root rot. Healthy plant roots require both water and oxygen, so when you choke out one in favor of the other, the roots will die.

How to Treat Root Rot in a Tradescantia Nanouk

If your plant has root rot, I recommend un-potting it and assessing the state of the root ball. You’ll have to trim away every black or brown root you see using clean pruning shears. Disinfect them in bleach or isopropyl alcohol when you’re finished.

Repot your Tradescantia Nanouk in fresh soil and then water it only when its top inch of soil has dried out. If your plant had more healthy roots than unhealthy ones, it might survive. That said, there are no guarantees! 

Tradescantia Nanouk Common Questions

Do you still have some burning questions about the Tradescantia Nanouk? That’s fine, as you know I’ve got answers! 

Is the Tradescantia Nanouk Toxic?

If you have cats and dogs in the house, you might want to reconsider the Tradescantia Nanouk. The Tradescantia Nanouk is toxic to cats and dogs. 

In the stems grows a sap that pets find most upsetting when it enters their digestive tract. Even if they don’t ingest the plant, direct exposure such as a curious cat rubbing on the plant can still be irritating.

The symptoms of Tradescantia poisoning in pets includes fur loss, itchy skin, conjunctivitis, redness, nausea, and vomiting. If you suspect your dog or cat ingested or was exposed to the Nanouk plant, contact your vet immediately.  

Can Tradescantia Nanouk Grow in Water?

Yes! You can indeed use water as a growth medium.

It’s especially easy to grow in water when propagating a new Tradescantia Nanouk plant from cuttings.

To get started, select a Nanouk cutting that’s several inches. Then remove any bottom leaves. 

Next, fill a glass with clean water. Insert the cutting, taking care to avoid submerging it to the top. Then wait, monitoring your cutting over the days and weeks to come.

Within several weeks, you should begin to see new growth from the cutting. You’re now well on your way to a full-sized Tradescantia Nanouk!

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Fred Zimmer

I'm a lover of plants, animals, photography, & people, not necessarily in that order. Currently, I'm focused on photographing indoor plants & chachkies. I write & rewrite articles about creating an environment where indoor plants can thrive. I'm good at listening to music but bad at shopping to muzak.

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