Bolivian Jew, Turtle Vine, Chain Plant, Inch Plant
Synonyms of Callisia repens (9) (Updated on 12-29-21 from Plants of the World Online): Callisia hexandra DC. ex Hassk., Callisia hexandra var. caracasana Ernst, Callisia hexandra var. mandonii Hassk., Callisia hexandra var. salzmannii Hassk., Callisia repens var. ciliata Roem. & Schult., Callisia repens var. mandonii (Hassk.) C.B.Clarke, Hapalanthus repens Jacq., Tradescantia callisia Sw., Tradescantia repens (Jacq.) Vand.
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.
As of 12-29-21 when this page was last updated, Plants of the World Online by Kew lists 42 species in the Callisia genus. It is a member of the plant family Commeninaceae with 39 genera. Those numbers could change as updates are made on POWO.
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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.
I put it in a larger pot, of course, and it took off growing.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. 🙂
Well, this plant just started fizzling out over the winter of 2019 and I didn’t find a replacement in 2020. Maybe I will find one in 2021. They look really great when they are green and growing, but not so much when their leaves and stems start dying… Give me another one and I’ll figure it out. 🙂
I will continue adding more photos and information as time goes by.
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