Callisia repens (Incorrectly labeled Callisia navicularis)-Bolivian Jew

Callisia repens (Bolivian Jew) after I brought it home on 5-1-19, #564-15.

Bolivian Jew, Turtle Vine, Chain Plant, Inch Plant

Callisia repens

kal-LIZ-ee-uh  REE-penz

Callisia repens (Jacq.) L. is the correct and accepted scientific name for the Bolivian Jew. It was named and described as such by Carl von Linnaeus in the second edition of Species Plantarum in 1762. It was first named Hapalanthus repens by Nicholas Joseph von Jacquin in Enumeratio Systematica Plantarum in 1760.

The genus, Callisia Loefl., was named and described by Pehr Loefling in Iter Hispanicum in 1758. Plants of the World Online by Kew currently lists 41 accepted species in the Callisia genus (as of June 28, 2019 when I published this page). These figures could change.

I was plant shopping at Wagler’s Greenhouse on May 1 (2019) and spotted this plant so I decided I would bring it home. The tag says it was a Callisia navicularis with the Common name of Bolivian Jew. When I was talking to a plant friend about my new finds that day, he said the Bolivian Jew was Callisia repens. He was correct and the plant was incorrectly labeled. If there is one thing that drives me crazy when it comes to plant collecting it is mislabeled plants.


Callisia repens (Bolivian Jew) on 5-19-19, #575-7.

I put it in a larger pot, of course, and it took off growing.

Family: Commelinaceae
Origin: Native from Southeast Texas down through tropical South America
Zones: USDA Zones 10a-11 (30-40° F)*
Size: 6+” tall x… maybe trailing around 48” long…
Light: Sun to part shade/full shade
Soil: Needs well-draining soil
Water: Average water

*Some information suggests down to USDA zone 8a to 9a (10-20° F). Ummm… Folks, this is a tropical plant. While it may survive cool temperatures, I highly doubt temperatures below freezing would do it any good. Certainly not outdoors…


Callisia repens (Bolivian Jew) on 5-25-19, #576-14.

This plant is related to Tradescantia species and can be mistaken as such by some. Their three-petaled white flowers even resemble Tradescantia species. This plant can be grown inside or out, but as with most plants, they prefer being outside when temperatures permit.

When you do a little research about growing various plants, you will find many websites that recommend this and that. I have been growing plants for a long time and there is no reason to stress out. Some plants work well no matter what and some do not. There are three main things you have to take into consideration which is soil, light, and water. You can also add temperature into the mix. To be successful you need to mimic its natural environment as much as possible. This plant prefers damp soil, but not wet soil. While different websites say you need to have this and that ingredient, you can avoid all the stress by just using a good brand name potting soil. I use Miracle Grow and sometimes Schultz, both with timed-release fertilizer. There are many good brands, and even some generic brands, that are just fine. As long as you keep the soil moist, you will have no problem with the peat-based mixes reabsorbing. Once peat based products dry out it can be somewhat difficult for water to reabsorb. Of course, since it is now summer, plants will be watered on a regular basis anyway and potted plants require more. So, give it a good soaking every few days.

If you don’t use potting soil with a timed-release fertilizer, I recommend using a liquid fertilizer when watering once a month from spring through fall. Most plants slow down over the winter and watering should be slowed down and they don’t need fertilizer. By then, the timed-release fertilizer in potting soil has usually run out, too.


Callisia repens (Bolivian Jew) on 5-30-19, #578-6.

Information says this plant’s stems can grow up to 4′. That may be true if grown in a pot but it could be a different story if grown in the ground. Ummm… Yes, you can grow this plant as a groundcover, or even as a living mulch, among other plants in the ground or in pots in full sun to part shade. Information suggests they grow OK in full sun, but I think that would depend on your climate. I wouldn’t push it… Right now, this plant is on the back porch where it gets pretty much full sun and I am not sure how it would do in full shade. This plant will take root at the leaf nodes if planted in the ground, so saying it will grow to 4′ long could be an underestimate.


Callisia repens (Bolivian Jew) on 6-19-19, #592-6.

This plant is definitely a trailer and will make great hanging subjects. If you want a bushier plant, simply pinch out the growing tips. It is recommended by some to cut this plant back after flowering, maybe back to 8-10 inches.


Callisia reptans (Bolivian Jew) on 7-15-19, #601-5.



Callisia reptans (Bolivian Jew) on 10-11-19, #639-12.

I had moved the Callisia reptans to the front porch but on October 11 I had to move the potted plants inside for the winter. An “F” was in the forecast.


Callisia reptans (Bolivian Jew) on 11-11-19, #648-2.

I took this photo on November 11 to show all the dead leaves. After a few weeks, it seemed to start adapting to being inside and was looking much better. You don’t really notice the dead leaves until you take a close look and they really show up on a photo. 🙂

One problem area could be during the winter months. Most plants should be watered less frequently during the winter, which includes this plant. Now, since I have just started with this plant, and it is summer, I have no idea what I am talking about. I will talk about these plants growing needs during the winter months when that time comes…

I will continue adding more photos and information as time goes by.

I hope you enjoyed this page and maybe found it useful. If you have any comments, questions or suggestions, I would like to hear from you. Please click on “like” if you visited this page. It helps us bloggers stay motivated. 🙂 You can check out the links below for further reading. The links take you directly to the genus and species of this plant. If you notice I made an error, please let me know. Of course, you can always send me an email at