Zigzag Spiderwort (Tradescantia Subaspera)

Plant: Table of Contents

Zigzag Spiderwort (Tradescantia subaspera): A Comprehensive Guide for Plant Enthusiasts

Plants are not just greenery decorating our gardens and homes; they are intricate living beings with unique characteristics and requirements. One such fascinating plant is the zigzag spiderwort (Tradescantia subaspera), which captivates with its elegant foliage and vibrant flowers. In this in-depth guide, we will delve into the world of the zigzag spiderwort, exploring its culture, uses, care requirements, propagation methods, common diseases, and much more. Whether you are a novice gardener or an experienced plant enthusiast, there is something to learn and appreciate about this captivating species.

What is Zigzag Spiderwort (Tradescantia Subaspera)?

The zigzag spiderwort, scientifically known as Tradescantia subaspera, is a herbaceous perennial plant that belongs to the Commelinaceae family. It is native to North America, specifically found in regions ranging from the southeastern United States to eastern Mexico. This species goes by various common names such as zigzag spiderwort, smooth spiderwort, and southern spiderwort. The name “zigzag” is derived from the unique arrangement of its leaves along the stem, forming a distinctive zigzag pattern.

Zigzag spiderwort is distinguished by its narrow, lance-shaped leaves that are typically deep green with a glossy sheen. The plant produces clusters of showy, three-petaled flowers in shades of blue, purple, or pink, adding a pop of color to the garden. It is valued for its ornamental appeal and ability to attract pollinators like butterflies and bees, making it a delightful addition to any landscape or garden design.

Key Takeaways – Zigzag Spiderwort (Tradescantia Subaspera)

Let’s take a closer look at the key aspects of caring for and appreciating the zigzag spiderwort:

  1. Culture
  2. Uses
  3. Water
  4. Sunlight
  5. Fertilizer
  6. Soil
  7. Pruning
  8. Propagation
  9. Container Popularity
  10. Common Diseases
  11. Disease Diagnosis
  12. Common Pests
  13. Botanist’s Tips
  14. Fun Facts
  15. Links to External Resources


Understanding the cultural requirements of the zigzag spiderwort is essential for successfully cultivating and enjoying this charming plant. Here are the key cultural aspects to consider when caring for Tradescantia subaspera:

  • Temperature: Zigzag spiderwort thrives in temperate to subtropical climates, preferring moderate temperatures and adapting well to both humid and dry conditions.
  • Watering: It appreciates regular watering, especially during periods of drought or intense heat, but it is important to avoid overwatering, which can lead to root rot.
  • Humidity: While not excessively sensitive to humidity levels, providing moderate humidity can promote healthy growth and blooming.
  • Pruning: Regular deadheading of spent flowers and removing old or damaged foliage can help maintain the plant’s vigor and appearance.
  • Soil: Well-draining soil rich in organic matter is ideal for cultivating zigzag spiderwort, ensuring that excess moisture does not accumulate around the roots.


Zigzag spiderwort offers various uses and applications, enhancing both indoor and outdoor spaces in numerous ways:

  • Ornamental Plant: Its graceful foliage and colorful blooms make it a popular choice for ornamental planting in gardens, landscapes, and containers.
  • Pollinator Attraction: The nectar-rich flowers of the zigzag spiderwort attract pollinators such as butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds, contributing to biodiversity and ecosystem health.
  • Ground Cover: With its spreading habit, zigzag spiderwort can be utilized as a ground cover to fill in empty spaces and create lush, green carpets in shaded areas.
  • Medicinal Purposes: Some traditional medicinal practices involve using certain parts of the plant for their purported healing properties, although it is important to consult reliable sources before using it for this purpose.
  • Indoor Decoration: As a low-maintenance plant, zigzag spiderwort can also serve as an attractive indoor decoration, bringing a touch of nature to interior spaces.


Proper watering is crucial for the health and vitality of zigzag spiderwort, ensuring that it thrives without succumbing to water-related issues such as rot or dehydration. Consider the following guidelines when watering Tradescantia subaspera:

  • Regular Moisture: Zigzag spiderwort appreciates consistent moisture, especially during the active growing season and hot periods, but it is important to avoid waterlogging the soil.
  • Observational Watering: Rather than adhering to a strict schedule, it is advisable to monitor the moisture levels in the soil and adjust watering frequency based on the plant’s needs and environmental conditions.
  • Established Plant Care: Once established, spiderworts are generally resilient and adaptable, requiring minimal supplemental watering, especially in regions with regular rainfall.


Understanding the sunlight requirements of zigzag spiderwort is essential for optimizing its growth and blooming potential:

  • Light Conditions: Tradescantia subaspera thrives in partial to full shade, making it suitable for shaded garden beds, woodland landscapes, or areas with dappled light.
  • Indoor Lighting: When grown indoors, zigzag spiderwort prefers bright, indirect light, making it an excellent choice for well-lit rooms or spaces with filtered sunlight.


Feeding zigzag spiderwort with appropriate nutrients can encourage healthy foliage and prolific flowering. Here are some considerations for fertilizing Tradescantia subaspera:

  • Balanced Fertilizer: Applying a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer with a formulation such as 10-10-10 or 20-20-20 at half the recommended strength can provide the necessary nutrients for vigorous growth and blooming.
  • Frequency: Fertilize zigzag spiderwort once a month during the growing season, from spring to early fall, reducing or ceasing fertilization during the plant’s dormant period in winter.


The choice of soil for cultivating zigzag spiderwort can significantly influence its overall health and performance. Consider the following soil requirements for Tradescantia subaspera:

  • Well-Draining Medium: Zigzag spiderwort thrives in well-draining, loamy soil that retains moisture without becoming waterlogged.
  • Organic Matter: Amending the soil with organic matter, such as compost or peat moss, can enhance its texture, fertility, and moisture retention capabilities, creating an ideal growing medium for the plant.


Regular pruning and maintenance can help ensure that zigzag spiderwort remains healthy, tidy, and visually appealing. Here are some pruning tips for cultivating Tradescantia subaspera:

  • Deadheading: Removing faded flowers can stimulate the plant to produce new blooms, prolonging the flowering period and enhancing its aesthetic appeal.
  • Foliage Maintenance: Trimming away damaged or discolored leaves and stems can promote new growth and prevent the spread of diseases.
  • Division: Periodically dividing mature clumps of zigzag spiderwort can rejuvenate the plant and prevent overcrowding, resulting in healthier, more vigorous growth.


Propagation of zigzag spiderwort can be an exciting way to expand your plant collection and share its beauty with others. Here are the key methods for propagating Tradescantia subaspera:

  • Division: Divide mature clumps of zigzag spiderwort in early spring or fall, ensuring that each division has a sufficient portion of roots and foliage to establish itself.
  • Seed Propagation: Although less common, zigzag spiderwort can be propagated from seeds, which should be sown in a well-prepared seedbed or containers and kept consistently moist until germination occurs.
  • Cuttings: Taking stem cuttings and rooting them in a suitable potting medium can also yield new plants, allowing you to create identical clones of the parent plant.

Container Popularity

Zigzag spiderwort’s adaptability and ornamental appeal make it a sought-after choice for container gardening. Consider the following factors for growing Tradescantia subaspera in containers:

  • Container Selection: Choose a spacious container with adequate drainage holes to accommodate the plant’s root system and promote healthy growth.
  • Potting Medium: Use a well-draining potting mix, preferably enriched with organic matter, to provide the necessary support and nutrients for the plant.
  • Placement: Position the container in a location that receives filtered sunlight or partial shade, ensuring that the plant is not exposed to intense, direct sunlight for prolonged periods.

Common Diseases

Zigzag spiderwort, like many plants, can be susceptible to certain diseases and health issues. Being able to identify and address common diseases is crucial for maintaining the plant’s well-being:

  • Fungal Infections: Spiderworts may be prone to fungal diseases such as leaf spot, powdery mildew, or root rot, especially in excessively moist or humid conditions.
  • Pest Infestations: Pests like spider mites and aphids can occasionally target zigzag spiderwort, causing damage to its foliage and compromising its overall health.

Disease Diagnosis

Diagnosing and addressing plant diseases promptly can be essential for preventing their escalation and minimizing their impact on the plant. Here are some pointers for diagnosing and managing diseases in Tradescantia subaspera:

  • Visual Inspection: Regularly inspect the foliage, stems, and soil for any signs of discoloration, lesions, wilting, or abnormal growth, which could indicate the presence of a disease.
  • Isolation and Treatment: If a disease is suspected, promptly isolate the affected plant to prevent the spread of the condition and consider appropriate treatment measures, such as applying fungicides or addressing underlying environmental factors contributing to the issue.

Common Pests

In addition to diseases, zigzag spiderwort may encounter various pests that can impact its health and appearance. Here are some common pests to watch out for when caring for Tradescantia subaspera:

  • Aphids: These small, sap-sucking insects can congregate on the foliage of zigzag spiderwort, causing distortion of leaves and excreting honeydew, which may attract sooty mold.
  • Spider Mites: Spider mites are tiny arachnids that can infest the undersides of leaves, leading to stippling, discoloration, and overall weakening of the plant.

Botanist’s Tips

As researchers and enthusiasts study and appreciate zigzag spiderwort, certain tips and recommendations emerge to enhance the plant’s cultivation and enjoyment:

  • Mulching: Applying a layer of organic mulch around the base of the plant can help conserve soil moisture, suppress weeds, and provide a uniform, aesthetically pleasing appearance.
  • Companion Planting: Consider planting zigzag spiderwort alongside compatible species that share similar cultural preferences, creating harmonious and visually appealing combinations in the landscape.
  • Seasonal Care: Adjust your care practices for zigzag spiderwort based on seasonal changes, such as reducing watering in winter, providing additional shade in summer, and protecting the plant from harsh weather conditions.

Fun Facts

Discovering intriguing and lesser-known facts about zigzag spiderwort can deepen your appreciation for this captivating plant:

  • Ecological Significance: In addition to attracting pollinators, zigzag spiderwort can serve as a food source and habitat for various beneficial insects and wildlife, contributing to the ecological balance of its surroundings.
  • Herbal Lore: Some cultures historically used spiderworts for their reputed medicinal properties, employing them in traditional herbal remedies and tonics, although caution and proper consultation are advised before using the plant for medicinal purposes.
  • Historical Significance: The genus Tradescantia is named after John Tradescant, an eminent English botanist and gardener from the 17th century, highlighting the plant’s historical connections and botanical legacy.

Links to External Resources

For further information and resources on zigzag spiderwort, consider exploring the following links:

  1. Caring for Zigzag Spiderwort – Gardening Know How
  2. Native Plants Database – Zigzag Spiderwort
  3. The American Horticultural Society – Tradescantia Subaspera

As we unravel the rich tapestry of traits and care considerations for zigzag spiderwort, it becomes evident that this plant offers not only visual allure but also ecological and cultural significance. From its graceful foliage and vibrant flowers to its adaptability in various settings, Tradescantia subaspera has much to offer to plant enthusiasts, gardeners, and nature admirers alike. Embracing the art and science of cultivating zigzag spiderwort allows us to appreciate the inherent beauty and resilience of this remarkable species, enriching our lives and the natural world.

Happy gardening!

Disclaimer: The information presented in this guide is intended for educational purposes and does not serve as professional botanical or medical advice. For specific inquiries or concerns related to plant care, diseases, or medicinal uses, it is essential to consult qualified experts and reliable sources.

Picture of Peter Taylors

Peter Taylors

Expert botanist who loves plants. His expertise spans taxonomy, plant ecology, and ethnobotany. An advocate for plant conservation, he mentors and educates future botanists, leaving a lasting impact on the field.