How To Treat Rotting Stems on a Wandering Jew Plant

The wandering Jew is one of the easiest plant species to grow, even for novice gardeners. But precisely for that reason, gardeners can overlook the minimal care required by this plant until it begins to present rotting stems. If this should happen, how do you treat rotting stems on a wandering Jew plant?

You can treat rotting stems on a wandering Jew plant by ensuring proper watering, moving the plant to a brighter location, and aerating the soil. Advanced stem rot in a wandering Jew will only be treated by pruning rotten stems or discarding plants whose stem rot is caused by root rot.

If you’re worried about stem rot issues with your wandering Jew plant, then this write-up is for you. You’ll find practical guidelines for reviving a wandering Jew with stem rot as well as crucial tips for determining when the stem rot is irredeemably advanced.

1. Trim Rotten Stems 

Wandering Jew stems that suffer rot from consistently sitting in soggy soil may not be redeemable. As such, you may need to trim these stems to prevent the rot from spreading to other stems. Of course, you will have to address the soil drainage issue to stop further plant damage. 

Removing a rotten stem is plenty easy. You can pull the stem out of the soil with ease, considering it’s already soft with rot. But stem rot often comes with root rot, and you may need to remove both the root and stem.

Here’s how:

  1. Remove the plant with rotten stems from the pot.
  2. Wash the root system under running water. Rotten roots will fall off in the process, and the rotten stems will detach.
  3. Use a sharp, sterilized pair of shears to cut away any remaining rotten stems and roots.
  4. Discard any soil left in the pot and clean the pot if you want to reuse it. Sterilize it with a bleach solution (9-part water with 1-part bleach).
  5. If you suspect a fungal infection, leave the plant roots in a fungicide for a while before repotting the plant.
  6. Repot the treated plant in a fresh, well-draining growing medium. 

2. Propagate Healthy Stem Cuttings in Fresh Soil

If your wandering Jew has too many rotting stems, but a few are still healthy, you can use these to create new plants and discard the damaged plant. Propagating a wandering Jew plant is easy as the stems root effortlessly in soil or water.

Propogating in Soil

Follow these steps to root the healthy stems of a wandering Jew and create new plants:

  1. Cut a healthy wandering Jew stem. Ensure you cut below a growth node using clean, sterilized shears.
  2. Fill a pot with a moist potting mix. Avoid overwatering the potting mix to keep it from becoming soggy.
  3. Plant the stem into the soil. Be sure to remove any leaves around the growth node. 

Propogating in Water

Alternatively, you can root the stem in water by following the steps below:

  1. Dip the cutting in a rooting hormone. This can help encourage your plant to grow roots.
  2. Fill a clear glass jar with distilled water. Since distilled water is void of nutrients, you’ll find pre-treating your stem cuttings in a rooting hormone very helpful. The water should be changed every 3 days.
  3. Dip the cutting inside. Ensure no leaves go into the water. You can also use masking tape at the jar opening to ensure the stem is floating and the tip is not touching the glass bottom. Otherwise, this could cause the stem to rot.
  4. Leave the stem to root. Rooting will take a week or so. Wait until the stem has around 2 inches (5 cm) of roots before planting your wandering Jew stem into a potting mix.

3. Discard Plants With Root Rot

If stem rot in a wandering Jew is a consequence of adverse root rot from poor draining soil or fungal disease, you will have to part with your plant. Rotten roots and stems cannot be redeemed, though you may be able to disinfect the soil for future use.

Nonetheless, you can grow a new wandering Jew by propagating a remaining healthy stem. If, however, the root and stem rots are due to fungal disease, discard the entire plant

You can tell if your wandering Jew has a fungal disease on the roots by checking their structure and color. Roots with the fungal disease will deviate from the typical firm and white root appearance and present brown and soft tissue. They may also show malformations, which are the culprit for poor water and nutrient intake.

4. Aerate the Soil for Proper Drainage

As a creeper plant, the wandering Jew grows low to the ground. If the plant is on poorly draining soil that retains plenty of moisture, the stems will be lying on wet soil consistently. This will promote stem rot.

Also, wet soil creates the right environment for fungal diseases in wandering Jew plants, such as faint leaf-blight, rust, leaf-spot, and white smut. The action of these fungal diseases on the root system will lead to crown and stem rot and, eventually, the death of the plant

Whichever of the above issues is causing the stems on a wandering Jew to rot, treating the plant should be prioritized.

If your wandering Jew plant presents wilting stems and foliage, but the soil is moist, the plant’s soil is most likely waterlogged. This may happen after heavy rains for garden plants or due to poorly draining soil for potted plants.

You’ll need to get rid of the extra moisture:

  • For potted wandering Jew plants, pass a chopstick through the hole(s) at the bottom of the pot to allow any standing water to drain.
  • For garden wandering Jew plants, drive a garden fork into the soil and loosen it in different positions to aerate the roots of the plants. The air that passes into the soil when you do this will make the soil dry faster.

In both cases, you should consider adding organic matter into the soil to promote better drainage.

5. Water Your Wandering Jew Correctly

Overwatering and overhead watering can cause your wandering Jew’s stem to rot. Therefore, you must employ proper watering techniques to prevent the salvaged stems from rotting.


Root rot, rotting stems, and yellowing leaves usually appear together when a wandering Jew is overwatered.

While these plants love moist soil, leaving the soil soggy for a long time will block the pore spaces in the soil. This means that the pores, which should be filled with air, will be filled with water, and oxygen will not pass through to reach the roots.

If you don’t do anything to fix overwatering issues, the plant will lose its vigor, the leaves will turn yellow, the stem will rot, and the plant will eventually die. 

Overhead Watering

It’s not a gardening crime to water your wandering Jew from the top and wet the leaves and stems in the process. However, if your plant is in a shady place, the leaves and stems will remain wet for a long time, creating the right conditions for rot. 

This is especially true because the stems and foliage of Tradescantia plants grow close together, and that limits airflow between stems. Airflow is necessary for rapid water drainage in the soil and moisture evaporation within the foliage.

Proper Watering Techniques

Considering that wandering Jew plants can easily retain moisture on the leaves and stems if watered from the top, the best practice is to water the soil directly

If your wandering Jew is in a garden, use your hand to move aside a section of the foliage and water the soil from this space. If you have a wandering Jew houseplant, gently lift the foliage to make way for watering the soil. 

You can also opt to water a wandering Jew houseplant using the bottom watering method.

Here’s how:

  1. Place the pot on a short stand in a tub or basin. 
  2. Add enough water to reach the lower third of the pot.
  3. Allow the soil to absorb it. 
  4. Wait until the potting soil is moist to the top. This usually takes 10-30 minutes.
  5. Place your pot on a drip tray for 15-30 minutes to let the excess water drain out.

Note that, for both garden and houseplant wandering Jews, watering should be done when at least an inch (2.5 cm) of the topsoil feels dry to the touch

If the foliage is watered and there isn’t enough sunlight to dry it, you may want to wipe away the extra moisture with a clean piece of cloth to counter the risk of stem and leaf rot.

How do you know whether you’re overwatering or underwatering your plants? Read my guide to learn more about the signs and ways to fix them: Overwatering vs. Underwatering Plants (Signs and Fixes)

6. Move Your Plant to a Brighter Location

Plants consume more moisture in warmer locations with bright sunlight. Your wandering Jew should not be exposed to strong direct sunlight. 

Although Tradescantia plants don’t like direct sunlight, they also don’t enjoy being in dark corners without any light. A wandering Jew plant requires the warmth of indirect sunlight to thrive. 

A Tradescantia plant that sits in a consistently dark spot, whether in a garden or as a houseplant, will consume less moisture. So, if you are watering your plant often but the water isn’t being consumed due to poor lighting, your plant has higher chances of stem and root rot

Note, too, that poor lighting also causes your wandering Jew to become leggy. This is common among houseplants that don’t get sufficient light.

Since poor lighting will create the conditions for stem rot, you should move your Tradescantia plant to a brighter spot if you notice it is not getting enough light. A window sill or spots close to a window are ideal locations for indoor wandering Jew plants. 

Alternatively, you can use grow lights, especially during cold and dark winter months. This will help ensure your wandering Jews can get sufficient light regardless of the season.

Final Thoughts

The wandering Jew plant loves thriving in consistently moist soil. However, this does not mean it should always sit in soggy soil. 

If your plant is consistently in wet soil, the roots and stems will eventually begin to rot due to poor aeration. Root and stem rot in a wandering Jew can also be caused by poor lighting. 

To counter stem rotting in a wandering Jew, ensure your plant receives bright indirect sunlight, whether growing in a garden or a planter. Most significantly, grow the plant in well-draining soil and water it appropriately.

If you found this guide helpful, I recommend my other article on how to make a wandering Jew more bushy. You’ll learn everything you need to know about growing healthy wandering Jew plants: How To Make a Wandering Jew More Bushy

Alexander Picot

Alexander Picot is the founder of and its lead content writer. He created the website in 2022 as a resource for horticulture lovers and beginners alike, compiling all the gardening tips he discovered over the years. Alex has a passion for caring for plants, turning backyards into feel-good places, and sharing his knowledge with the rest of the world.

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