Callisia Navicularis: Houseplant Care Guide And Growing Tips

Callisia navicularis, sometimes known as the Chain Plant, Phyodina navicularis or Tradescantia navicularis, is a lovely succulent that forms part of the spiderwort plant family.

What makes it a great houseplant is that it is so easy to care for, and can thrive on less care than other house plants will tolerate.

You can also control its appearance to an extent by giving it different growing conditions, and this plant propagates without much encouragement, too.

Not sure if Callisia navicularis is the next plant on your list? Here’s everything you should know.

Callisia Navicularis Care Guide

While primarily grown as a houseplant, Callisia navicularis will survive year-round outdoors if you live in USDA zone 10 or above. 

It hails from Mexico, and like plenty of plants from the Tradescantia genus, it grows as a ground cover in its native habitat, but in cultivation, it’s generally grown as a hanging plant.

Here is everything you need to know to make this plant thrive.

Ideal Position And Light Levels

This plant can survive in a range of light conditions, and it’s worth noting that before you choose a spot for Callisia navicularis, how much light you give this plant dramatically changes its appearance.

If you were to grow two Callisia navicularis plants in two different positions: one with lots of light and some direct sunlight, and one with nearly no light, you would be forgiven for thinking that these plants are different species.

In a windowsill that does not get any direct sunlight, or a North-facing window, the leaves will be deep green, and the space between the leaves on the vines will be much more pronounced.

If you could grow this plant in direct sunlight, it will look entirely different. In bright light, the foliage takes on hints of pink to purple, and the green is a lighter shade to match.

You’ll also notice that the leaves are practically stacked on top of each other like beads on a necklace.

There is nothing wrong with either version: it’s just how the plant reacts to different types of light.

To achieve the more compact, brightly-colored leaves, you’ll want to place the plant somewhere it can get as much direct sunlight as possible, such as a South-facing window, or use a decent grow light.

If you prefer a more wild look with lots of greenery, North-facing windows are best for this plant.

Maybe your plant has gotten leggier than you want it to be. Don’t worry, you can trim it back and use the cuttings for propagation, moving your plant to a brighter spot to encourage denser growth.

If you give this plant enough light, it will eventually flower, producing gorgeous lilac flowers very similar to those found on Tradescantia plants, hence the synonym name. 

These blooms are short-lived, however, and will only last a day, so appreciate them while you can!

Soil Mix

With any succulent, it’s important to get the soil mix right. While you could just settle for a premade succulent or cactus mix, altering it by adding some pumice makes a huge difference to the roots.

Use 2 parts of good quality succulent soil to one part pumice, which will not only help divert excess water away from the roots, but it will also help keep the soil aerated.

Water Needs

How often you need to water this plant heavily depends on the amount of light the plant gets. 

Brighter light and direct sun mean that the plant will dry out much faster than in a darker position. 

Either way, you will need to be careful of how much you water, as this plant is very sensitive to overwatering.

Always check the soil before you water. Allow the top inch of the compost to dry out in between watering during spring and summer.

Scale this back during fall and winter, as the reduced growth means that the plant will go for longer without water.

If you’re unsure, pinch a leaf between your fingers. If it wrinkles, it’s time to water the plant.

Should You Feed Callisia Navicularis?

It’s a good idea to feed this plant during the growing season, but it is worth noting that succulents are sensitive to too many nutrients, as they have adapted to survive on very little.

With this in mind, it’s worth using a cacti or succulent fertilizer, following the dosage instructions on the label. Do this every couple of weeks when you water.

Do not feed this plant in winter.

How To Propagate Callisia Navicularis

Callisia navicularis is a very easy plant to propagate, as long as you do so through stem cuttings. 

Take a couple of cuttings at a time during the growing season, making sure that each one is at least a couple of inches long.

Put them aside, letting the wounds dry out a little for a few days, and this will help stop the cuttings from rotting.

You can then either put the cuttings into compost or in water to root, making sure that no leaves sit beneath the soil or water line. 

If you’re using soil to propagate, make sure that it is just about damp, and this will help the cuttings form roots.

Final Thoughts

Callisia navicularis is a stunning plant that can adapt to varying conditions, which also means that you can tailor your plant’s appearance to how you want it to look by changing the light levels.

If you like, you could also move this plant outdoors for the summer, where it can soak up as much sunlight as possible, taking advantage of the brighter light and air circulation.

If you do want to move your indoor plants outside for a while, it’s worth noting that they will need some time to adapt to the different conditions, so don’t plonk them directly outside for all the time and hope for the best.

Instead, gradually harden off the plant, bringing it indoors just before the temperatures drop again.

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