Bolivian Jew, Turtle Vine, Chain Plant, Inch Plant
Synonyms of Callisia repens (11) (Updated on 12-14-22 from Plants of the World Online): Callisia hexandra DC. ex Hassk. (1870), Callisia hexandra var. caracasana Ernst (1889), Callisia hexandra var. mandonii Hassk. (1870), Callisia hexandra var. salzmannii Hassk. (1870), Callisia repens var. ciliata Roem. & Schult. (1817), Callisia repens var. mandonii (Hassk.) C.B.Clarke (1881), Hapalanthus repens Jacq. (1760), Tradescantia callisia Sw. (1797), Tradescantia repens (Jacq.) Vand. (1796), Tradescantia repens goeskii Jacob-Makoy (1870), Tradescantia repens variegata Jacob-Makoy (1870)
Callisia repens (Jacq.) L. is theaccepted 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 12-14-22 when this page was last updated, Plants of the World Online by Kew lists 19 species in the Callisia genus (there were 42 on the last update on 12-29-21). 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 said 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…
Information online says this species prefers damp soil, but not wet. Well, I must admit, mine was neglected at times, but it did fine for the most part.
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.
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 to get more shade. I had to move the potted plants inside on October 11 because a “you know what” 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. They look really great when they are green and growing, but not so much when their leaves and stems start dying…
I will continue adding more photos and information as time goes by when I find another one…
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