This post about tradescantia nanouk care and propagation is the post you didn’t know you needed! Have you even heard of this plant yet? I’m sharing all about where it came from, how to get it, and how to help it thrive in your home!
Tradescantia nanouk care and propagation: Everything you need to know
Let’s get trendy, because today’s plant is very trendy. So trendy that the only nursery I’ve seen it in actually has a buying limit on it of 2 per customer per week! I really appreciate nurseries that do that.
Otherwise, poachers just buy them up to sell online for much more. Artificial supply and demand blows. (Yes, plant poachers and flippers exist. Wild, isn’t it?)
So what is it? It’s the tradescantia nanouk, often just referred to as “nanouk.” And sometimes “fantasy venice.” I picked myself up one not long ago. While it’s a trendy plant, it’s not a difficult plant. And it’s actually closely related to what many consider to be one of the easiest houseplants to care for—tradescantia zebrina, aka wandering dude!
Tradescantia is the genus that both of these plants belong to. This genus is native parts of Canada all the way down to parts of South America. They were introduced in Europe in the 17th century, so they’ve been houseplant staples for a while. Some species have even been naturalized on parts of almost all continents.
Fans of tradescantia will recognize that the shape and size of tradescantia nanouk looks a lot like tradescantia pallida (purple heart), which is a vivid, deep purple. I had it in a hanging basket last year and also put it as a “filler” in my elephant ear pot this year.
Where did the tradescantia nanouk come from?
Tradescantia nanouk is a newer cultivar that was created by cross-pollinating seedlings from tradescantia albiflora. This designer plant was created in a lab in 2012 in the Netherlands. Those who developed it hoped to create a tradescantia variety that was more compact, with beautiful flowers, and—of course—the stunning variegated colors.
The tradescantia nanouk is known for this gorgeous variegation. The foliage on the plants are a mix of light green, light purple, and cream. The purple is much more of a purple than the pinkish color on the leaves of the fluminensis tricolour and callisia repens.
However, it has a similar vibe to those plants since the variegated has mostly green, pink/purple, and cream. To me nanouk is a very spring-looking plant with lighter but highly saturated colors.
This plant was bred to be very full, and while it trails once the stems are long enough, it also had a bit of an upright spreading habit. If you want to further increase the plant’s bushiness, you can prune the ends of the stems to encourage more branching growth.
Tradescantia nanouk care: Light needs
As with most plants—and especially highly variegated plants—light is a big park of keeping this plant happy. It enjoys bright indirect sunlight or even full. But if you do full sun, make sure you work your way up to full sun so it doesn’t shock the plant and burn the leaves.
If your plant isn’t getting enough light, it will become leggy, meaning the stems stretch out, creating more space between the leaves. It’s literally reaching to find more light. The leaves will also be a bit smaller with much more green and much less variegation.
I now have my nanouk outdoors for the summer, and I have it in a shaded spot under my deck that is still bright. It’s right where I’ve got a calathea, a monstera deliciosa, a philodendron xanadu, a pothos, and a snake plant.
While these plants lightly won’t flower inside unless you have great light and the plant is super happy, flowering outside is likely. My purple queen in full sun flowers regularly—tiny, very light purple flowers. Though for me, flowering isn’t the main reason for loving this plant. The leaf variegation is.
How often should I water a tradescantia nanouk?
If you have your nanouk outdoors, you’ll need to water it much more often. It is so damn hot in Maryland right now that I give mine a little drink every day or so. The soil dries out that quickly. But indoors, the nanouk should be fine with watering once a week.
The biggest thing you have to worry about is actually overwatering. You should allow the top few inches of soil to dry out completely before watering the plant again. Allow the water to drain freely out a drainage hole, and then return the plant to its home!
You can also bottom-water this plant when it’s indoors. To bottom-water, ensure the plant is in a pot with a drainage hole. Then fill a tray with some water and set the pot in it for about 10 or 15 minutes. The soil will pull water up into its roots. This will also prevent water from sitting in the deep folds of the foliage.
Humidity and temperature needs
Tradescantias in general are very tolerant of regular indoor humidity levels. However, I’ve found that they often appreciate a bit more humidity. While they don’t necessarily need a humidifier like our dramatic and difficult friends calatheas do, they appreciate a misting with a water bottle every now and then.
Nanouks are happy in all normal household temperatures, meaning between about 55 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. It is not a hardy plant for outdoors in most areas, though. If you live in USDA hardiness zones 10, 11, or 12, you can probably keep it outdoors all year. For us? No way, sadly.
Soil, fertilizer, and potting
As I mentioned in the watering section, nanouks do not like to be in water-logged soil. That means that they thrive in good drainage. Any indoor potting mix should be fine, but if your soil is too compacted or heavy, you can mix some coco coir or fine moss, perlite, or both in to lighten things up.
This plant does not typically need fertilizer. In fact, many potting soils come with slow-release fertilizers in them, so make sure to check if yours does. Otherwise, if you choose to fertilize your plant with a houseplant fertilizer or something similar, it might over-fertilize it. Which plants don’t like.
Tradescantia nanouk care and propagation
Tradescantia nanouk is a prolific grower, meaning that you might need to prune or repot it frequently. When doing so, why not propagate a few pieces? Tradescantia nanouk is incredibly easy to propagate. It’s very similar to tradescantia zebrina (wandering dude). Here’s how you can do it.
Tradescantia nanouk propagation by division
When you buy a tradescantia nanouk, you’ll often notice that it has a few distinctly different stems in the soil. Even smaller ones. Mine had quite a few stems, so I split it! To do this, you literally just carefully take the plant out of its pot and gently divide it at the roots. Don’t worry if you have to do a bit of root ripping.
Then plant each in separate small pots using well-draining soil. Some plants suffer a bit of shock after being separated and repotted, so don’t worry if it doesn’t look too happy with you for the next week or two.
Tradescantia nanouk propagation by stem
You can also propagate tradescantia nanouk by stem clippings. This is a great approach to take if you are pruning your nanouk or if you accidentally knock a branch off. I have done this propagation method with purple queen, and it’s the exact same approach.
To propagate a nanouk stem cutting in water, take a cutting that is a few inches long and remove the leaves from the bottom. Pop in a glass of water, ensuring that the top foliage isn’t submerged. After a few weeks, you’ll have a good set of branch new roots and will be able to plant it!
To propagate nanouk stems directly in soil and skip the rooting-in-water step, take the same type of cutting. Remove the bottom leaves. Then plant the cuttings in a well-draining soil. Water a bit more than you would a regular plant to help keep the soil slightly moist.
This promotes root growth. Once you can gently tug on the cuttings and are met with some resistance, pull back on your water. The new roots have grown! Yay.
Since soil propagation is so easy, you can often even just get away with chopping a few stems and popping them right back into the pot your existing plant lives in. This helps to promote a big, bushy plant with fresh growth!
Back to watering—I know I keep harping on it, but it’s so important for all houseplants! Overwatering can lead to fungal issues and gnat infestations. If you have ever battled a gnat infestation, you know how annoying it is. Overwatering can also lead to root rot.
I also mentioned that this plant doesn’t necessarily need humidity but will benefit from having some. I saw that for most leafy house plants because dry indoor air can be a breeding ground for spider mites. Spider mites love dry, warm conditions, so misting with cool water helps to maintain an unappealing environment that also helps the plant.
Spider mites can very quickly destroy a plant. And usually when you notice their tell-tale fine webbing on the leaves, it’s too late. See this post about how to get rid of spider mites for more tips and pics.