Oyster Plant (Tradescantia spathacea) Pruning & Propagation

dezzo77(6a-6b)February 19, 2014

I've got a Tradescantia spathacea (Oyster plant) here which I've had for 1 month. It's growing extremely fast and now can't support itself and is leaning over.

I've attached two pictures which show the growth over the past month.

What's the best way to keep these plants pruned?

If I cut off the long part and stick it into the soil, will it root and start a new plant?

I believe I read that this plant can be propagated from cuttings. Is it better to root the cuttings in a separate pot where you can water it differently from the main plant until the cuttings are rooted? etc.

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And here's a picture of the plant 1 month ago just after I brought it home.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2014 at 9:18PM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

Looks like it's not getting enough light. Do you see any root nubs on the stem of the longer part yet?

    Bookmark   February 20, 2014 at 8:52AM
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Hmm, I have it on the top shelf in an open area with windows on three sides, but it is about 6-10 feet away from the windows, depending on the window. It gets a short bit of direct morning sunlight at this time of year. I'm limited as to where I can put it.

I'm not sure what the root nubs would look like, however on the main stem there is a small offshoot and another which appears to be coming from the soil very close to the stem.
(see attached pic)

    Bookmark   February 20, 2014 at 1:43PM
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paul_(z5 MI)

That is likely too far away for decent plant growth as born out by how stretched out (etiolated) the plant appears to be. Two things to keep in mind when contemplating light:
1) The amount of light a plant needs for photosynthesis is FAR greater than our eyes need by which to see. Just because an area seems plenty bright to our eyes, doesn't mean it is enough light to meet a plant's needs.
2) Light intensity falls off rapidly the further away you are from the source. It follows what is known as the invenvers square law -- the intensity of the light falls off with the square of the distance one is from the light source. So if we assume the light right at the window is "the source" (and therefore strongest), if you plant is 6ft away from the window it is only receiving 1/36 of the light it would have received right by the window. If the plant is 10ft away, it is only receiving 1/100 the amount of light.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2014 at 8:24PM
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Thanks for the explanation. I am aware that to a plant it's not always as bright as it is to us, but it sounds worse than I was aware. I really wish I had more locations near windows I could put them, but that's just not possible.

Most of my plants are doing well on the multi-level shelves where this plant is located, though I'm noticing a few, such as this one we are discussing, are clearly wanting more light.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2014 at 4:20AM
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So, does anyone know about propagation?

Can I chop off the tall pieces and stick them back in to the pot and start new plants?

Should they be cut at any specific spot?
Should they be rooted in water or in a separate pot so watering can be controlled differently vs. having them planted back with the parent plant?

I was reminded of this plant again today when I noticed it has grown another couple of inches! :)

    Bookmark   February 28, 2014 at 4:07AM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

I've not tried propagating pieces that didn't have aerial root nubs yet. I don't see any on your plant, but if you pull the brown bits of lost leaves off (in the last pic,) you'll be able to see them when they start, you may see bumps under the brown bits now. If there's not enough light for the mama to grow correctly, I don't think you'd have great results trying to propagate right now. Doing it outside in the humidity of summer would be the best thing to try.

I agree, your plant looks like it's reaching for light, it could/should be standing up straight, eventually developing a trunk appearance though I haven't left my plant(s) alone long enough to know if the stem actually lignifies with age. This plant is not a creeper. Are you able to offer more light by putting plants outside for summer? You wouldn't want to put this in direct sun, except maybe the first or last hour of the day, but the shade outside is infinitely brighter than inside.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2014 at 9:13AM
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