Wandering Jews (Zebrina pendula) are classically associated with indoor horticulture, but within U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 9 through 11 they do well outdoors too. They are an easygoing, tolerant plant that won’t require much of your time to grow and thrive. If you are growing them in a flower bed, however, you might be wondering when you ought to clean them out.
With their extremely fast growth rate and moderately dense leaves, wandering Jews make an excellent groundcover. They grow to between 6 and 12 inches, and have bright, variegated leaves, usually striped purple, green and silver. The undersides of the leaves, which are about 2 inches long or less, are purple. Pink flowers appear periodically throughout the year, and foliage stays the same in the fall. Other cultivars have green leaves and white flowers, or variegated leaves in different hues. Wandering Jews prefer shade and regular moisture for best growth.
While wandering Jews grow perfectly happily during summer in many places, they will die when cold weather hits outside of their hardiness range. They grow best in temperatures between 60 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit, so if you don’t live in such an area you have two choices. You can either dig up and save your plants by bringing them indoors to overwinter, where they like bright, indirect light and only moderate watering, or you can clean them out of the bed, toss them and replant the following year.
Within their hardiness range, wandering Jews make great perennial plants. They grow well in containers, of course, but also serve a variety of other purposes in the garden. Their main use is as ground covers, where they will hide little from overhanging trees or naturalize in a tropical garden. They will also cascade down a wall or out of a hanging basket. If you use them as a perennial, you don’t need to clean them out of the bed unless they look ragged or begin to invade.
One good reason to clean wandering Jews out of your flower bed is their invasive potential. Because they root wherever their stems touch the ground and grow quickly within their hardiness zones, you might find that they are too much to keep up with. If they are overgrowing their designated area or not playing nicely with other plants, you may wish to remove them entirely. However, they are more than happy to tolerate trimming, so that’s an option as well. You can trim or remove wandering Jews any time of year.