If you follow my houseplanthouse page over on instagram, you might have seen how my tradescantia nanouk has flourished from a pretty tiny plant, through multiple re-pots, into something slightly out of control within the space of ten months or so! I can always tell when I’m captivated by a plant when I share it frequently on my feed. Over this time I’ve had lots of ‘nanouk’ related questions + put together a big care guide, which I’m glad so many of you are referring to. The latest flurry of queries largely concerns their growth habit, propagation options + how to keep more mature plants looking their best. That is what this update post is all about.
My nanouk has now been with me for almost a year…+ little did I know when buying this during the first lockdown as a post-move pick-me-up that we’d still be indoors + locked down at ‘home’. Side note…I also did not imagine I’d still be in my temporary rental with my belongings in boxes + living out of a suitcase in two small rooms; my houseplants hanging on for dear life in this freezing cottage. But anyway, let’s not dwell on that… my nanouk became my ‘lockdown plant’ because I quickly learned that there would not be a great deal of plant buying happening for the foreseeable.
Tradescantia might be considered a bit of a basic plant to some, but the pink varieties are some of my favourite houseplants + I firmly believe they brighten a space + are cheerful to have around. The other main reason for choosing this plant was that tradescantia + I get on — I did not need anything too demanding + an added bonus was that it was (relatively) small.
My love for my other favourite tradescantia (the fluminensis tricolour) was soon rivalled by this chunky-stemmed pot of pink which I genuinely had to move away from my work desk because I was getting so distracted by it when I was trying to write over the Summer! ‘…ooooh look how the sun makes the leaves glow… Hmm, let me just get my watering can, it’s looking a little dry, oh my goodness, it needs repotting again!’ You know how it goes.
Tradescantia nanouk growth.
For context, lets start with a bit of plant progress — my nanouk has hands-down been the fastest growing of all my houseplants over the last year! As a caveat to this statement, it’s important to note that smaller plants are a lot easier to move around, which means that they can sometimes get favourable treatment as you can identify their optimum growing positions more easily than with larger, more cumbersome houseplants that take up square-footage. That’s generally why I advocate starting small with houseplants — it gives the plant time to settle in to your environment but it also gives you time to understand what it likes + needs. I always prefer to grow small plants, or propagations on rather than starting with a large pot, particularly with things like trailing plants… plus, it’s more affordable + more rewarding too!
As you can see in the photo below left, this was my nanouk when I got it —a small, compact pot, full of potential + an array of pink + green hues. I know from growing my fluminensis tricolor for a long time now, that as soon as the light gets behind the foliage, those leaves just glow. I started off with a small re-pot a few weeks after it arrived because the roots were quite compacted + circling around the pot. Tradescantia are fast growers when they get going + in climates where they can grow outdoors, are sometimes considered weeds + much like oxalis, can take over a bit if left to their own devices.
Here’s an instagram post from August where I’d say it was at it’s prettiest:
This is how my plant was looking last week (January 2021) :
As you can see, it’s really matured into a plant that is almost too big to keep on my coffee table now! The foliage has got larger + the stems are all sturdy + just starting to trail a bit. I’m pleased that the variegation has been stable in my conditions too — it’s actually remained really pink with no pruning, unlike my fluminensis tricolor which really needs regular trims of the greener stems to keep the plant nice + colourful (more on that here).
I’ve been really undecided as to what to do with this plant for the last month or so — it’s got to that point where I either hang it + let it grow wild, or give it a haircut + keep it neat, whilst propagating the stems.
Propagating Tradescantia nanouk.
As you’ll be able to tell from the next few photos, I decided to chop + prop a little bit of my plant this month to show you how to do it — I’ve had loads of questions about this over on my instagram so if you sent me a message about this, this part of the post is for you! This plant is quite commonly available here in the UK but it seems less common in the US currently. Please also bear in mind that the nanouk is a patented variety which means that you are not allowed to trade or sell cuttings or plants grown from propagated cuttings. So always buy your plants from a reputable source + keep your nanouk as part of your own personal collection.
But before we get into nanouk propagation, I wanted to highlight that the process is the same as with all other tradescantia — the series of photos below are from my ‘How to make a new tradescantia plant from cuttings’ post to show the similarities. The main difference with nanouk stems is that by comparison, they are a lot thicker + I know this has made some of you a little nervous to get the snips out…
Here’s the process of taking cuttings of my nanouk this weekend… I made an annotated IGTV video too for those that asked me to film the process — here’s the link to my instagram page to watch it, just click the IGTV tab on my page.
Here are some photos too:
I like to take cuttings near the base of the stem to keep the main plant looking nice. I get questions about this with my other tradescantia + I think it keeps the plant looking neater if there are no blunt ends on the stems just sticking up.
Here are the two stems I trimmed today — the next part of the process is to cut off the lower leaves on the part of the stem to get them ready to propagate. This is the part that will be placed in water / potting mix / sphagnum / perlite etc. for rooting — it’s your preference of what you use for this, but for tradescantia, I generally use water or potting mix with these stems.
As the photo below shows, nanouk stems are thicker so I like to leave for 2 days for the cut to callus over (more on that here) before propagating:
My top 3 frequently asked ‘nanouk’ questions.
There’s lots of detailed information over on my nanouk care guide, but to conclude the post I wanted to specifically answer the three questions I get asked the most…
‘How do you get your plant to grow like that… mine is all stretched out!’
This is perhaps the most common question + it relates to what I was saying earlier about growing it from a small plant. A lot of larger plants in nurseries are grown from cuttings + can quickly start to look a bit overgrown + lacklustre. Growing a smaller plant which has compact growth in a smaller pot can keep the plant looking fuller for longer. As you can see from my recent photos, my plant has now got to that ‘grown out’ stage + I’m going to trim + propagate it to make a small pot, similar in size to this one was 10+ months ago.
The other thing to bear in mind is that these smaller plants come to retail direct from the grower, where the plants are kept in optimal conditions + when they are placed in normal household conditions, they will go through a period of adjustment which can change their growth somewhat — often by stretching out a bit in search of more light.
My leaves have lots of brown patches on them — what am I doing wrong?
This can be a result of a few things, so it’s often a process of elimination to determine the exact cause. If the patches are at the ends of the leaves like in the photo above, it can be due to a lack of humidity, or too much direct sunlight, literally causing the ends to crisp up. Brown patches can also be a result of inconsistent watering + this has also been something I am guilty of. As both the leaves + stems are thicker then some of the other tradescantia types, I’ve found the nanouk to be more forgiving in this regard, though I’d recommend trying to avoid inconsistent watering where possible.
Water temperature is another important consideration if you are getting lighter brown, straw coloured splotches — be mindful that tepid water (room temperature) is always best for houseplants + if you are watering with very cold water, this can send your plant into shock + will result in markings on the foliage + a bit of a grumpy plant overall. Over winter, this is especially important if like me, your tap water is very cold! Tepid water is also more easily absorbed too, so I like to fill up a few jugs of water a day or two before watering + allow these to get to room temperature before using.
Dry air is another common cause + in winter, this can be unavoidable with the heaters on. But keep away from draughts + heat sources, or place your plant on a pebble tray or cluster with others. This doesn’t make a huge difference, so if you really do have low humidity, consider using a propagator over winter or a humidifier if your home is suitable (not all homes are). My place is naturally very humid so this has not been an issue for me. Leaf markings can also signal your nanouk wants repotting…
My plant looks unhappy + I can’t figure out why.
The first thing to look at is the roots. Gently wiggle your plant out of the nursery pot + give it a close inspection. These tradescantia grow fast + quite often, they will have outgrown their pot + are drying out too quickly. This can make the whole plant throw a bit of a strop + just generally look a bit worse for wear. A plant that has been left in this state for a while can have dried up roots which should be pruned before repotting.
As an additional point, I wouldn’t advise planting a nanouk in terracotta unless you are a serial over-waterer as they just dry out too quickly for my liking, causing dry, crispy ends on those lovely leaves! Speaking of over-watering this alternative possibility is also cause for concern + if you have been overwatering your plant too much it can start to droop + look a bit sad. Shake off any excess potting mix + study the roots, looking out for any soggy, rotting parts. Prune back any of these areas until only healthy roots remain. Re-pot in fresh potting mix, water in + monitor.
As always I will keep you updated of the progress + the new propagations over on my Instagram + Pinterest! Hope this has been helpful for those asking for a Tradescantia nanouk update post. If you are ever looking for anything specific on HPH then use the search bar on my homepage or for my other tradescantia posts, click here.
Here are some pins to share or save too: