My Tradescantia Nanouk Has Brown Spots! – Here’s My Mistakes

The Tradescantia Nanouk is one of my favorite plants because it has these beautiful purple streaks that you don’t see in many other plants. It also grows relatively quickly, which gives plenty of propagating opportunities.

However, one irritating issue with the Tradescantia Nanouk is the appearance of brown spots. And I’ve discovered that certain environmental factors encourage the spread of these browning eyesores.

The Tradescantia Nanouk will most likely develop brown spots under low humidity levels. The severity of browning worsens when exposed to direct sunlight, dry air, and underwatering. For these reasons, placing the Tradescantia Nanouk in a sheltered area where it can receive bright indirect light is best.

In this blog post, I will share my experience with the browning issues of the Tradescantia Nanouk.

Just to put a disclaimer – Like most people, I do not operate a lab to precisely measure environmental variables. These are purely my observations based on the experiment of placing the plant in various locations around the house.

Now, let’s dive in!

My Experiment

To this day, I’ve had the Tradescantia Nanouk for close to a year (Aug 2021 to July 2022).

So, I’ve seen the plant go through all four seasonal changes (I’m based in Sydney, Australia, in case you didn’t know). Temperatures range from 10 to 35 degrees Celcius (50 to 95 Fahrenheit) throughout the year. We don’t have frost here in Sydney.

I had four Tradescantia Nanouk plantings situated in different areas of the house:

  1. Front yard – Full direct sun and rain throughout the day
  2. Under the carport – No direct sun at all. Sheltered and shaded.
  3. Side of the house – Direct sun from about 10am to 2pm (four hours)
  4. Front deck – Direct morning sun from about 7am to 12pm. Bright indirect sun for the rest of the day.

Regardless of their location, all of my Tradescantia Nanouks had experience browning patches at some point. Keep reading for details and photos of my observations.  

Likely Causes of Browning Leaves

First of all, the browning of Tradescantia Nanouk leaves is common and perhaps part of the growing process. Other gardeners have also found that browning leaves is almost inevitable. However, several factors may contribute to brown spots:

1.   Low Humidity / Dry Air

During the dry periods of summer, I noticed that brown spots appeared more prevalent when humidity levels were between 50% and 60%.

I misted the leaves lightly every week to counter the low humidity issue. Just two squeezes of the misting bottle were sufficient.

Also, make sure that your plants are under a shaded area. I found that misting the leaves under direct sunlight actually worsens the problem of browning spots. I believe this might be due to the leaves’ sensitivity to moisture and sunlight that it doesn’t seem to like.

Another alternative to raising the humidity is placing the Tradescantia Nanouk in the bathroom or using a humidifier.

2.   Sun Damage

I read from a few sources that exposing the Tradescantia Nanouk to sunlight would increase the purpleness of the leaves. So, I placed one of the test plants in the front yard, where it gets full direct sunlight throughout the day.

It was clear to me that the Tradescantia Nanouk does not like direct sunlight!

I noticed that the leaves dry up pretty quickly and tend to crisp because they don’t have thick waxy surfaces. Take a look at the photo that I took at the top of this blog post.

I tried to increase the amount of watering, and it made no difference.

The lesson learned here is not to place your Tradescantia Nanouk under direct sunlight!

3.   Overcrowdedness

Initially, I wanted to grow the Tradescantia Nanouk into a bushy appearance.

However, as I’ve left the stems to grow longer, I’ve noticed that brown spots were appearing and spreading a lot faster.

I’m not exactly sure of the science behind this. I suspect that it might be due to the excess moisture that remains at the base of the plant because sunlight cannot be reached.  

Here’s a photo of my Tradescantia Nanouk at its bushiest:

You might not be able to see the brown spots from a distance. But here’s another photo where I’ve cut the affected leaves.

After some heavy pruning, the plant has shown some new growth!

Just remember that the Tradescantia Nanouk grows very quickly, so don’t be afraid to prune regularly and cut off brown leaves. They will grow right back!

My preference is to keep the Tradescantia Nanouk short and stumpy. It looks a lot cleaner, and there are fewer brown spots.

4.   Root Rot

Another cause of brown patches in Tradescantia Nanouk is root rot. This is when the roots have already detached from the plant, leading to a slow deterioration.

I’ve found that the Tradescantia Nanouk is very susceptible to root rot, and I only realized this when I first planted it in a mostly premium potting mix. The soil was not draining well and was mostly very moist. This was the result:

So keep your Tradescantia Nanouk in well-draining soil. I have since added peat moss into my soil mixtures to improve soil aeration.

Other Causes of Browning for Tradescantia Nanouk


I did not come across pests in my Tradescantian Nanouk experiments, but I have discovered one cause of browning and crispy leaves that are worth mentioning.  

Youtuber “Desert Plants of Avalon” shares her experience of browning leaves that were not caused by environmental factors such as weather but by pests. In her case, her plant was infected by thrips!

Thrips are tiny, slender insects with fringed wings that suck up the contents of leaves. So if you think you’ve done everything for your Tradescantia Nanouk, you might want to check out this video to see if you’ve got a case of thrips:

If you identified having thrips or any infestation of pests, you should:

  1. Bring the plant to the shower.
  2. Gently hose it down with lukewarm water to wash away thrips.
  3. Let the plant dry.
  4. Protect the plant with neem oil.

Final Words

My top tips to keep your Tradescantian Nanouk free from brown spots are:

  • Place the plant in a shaded spot where there is bright indirect light.
  • Avoid the leaves having direct contact with sunlight.
  • Plant in well-draining soil.
  • Increase humidity where possible, such as using a humidifier or placing the plant in the bathroom.
  • Keep pruning the stems to keep the plant compact.
  • If you see browning leaves, you can simply cut them off. They will grow new leaves.

Hope you found this blog post helpful and good luck!

Plantician Guy (Mike)

Hi I'm Mike, a self-proclaimed plantician (an invented profession to describe a plant enthusiast). Based in Sydney Australia, I enjoy the great outdoors and the greenery things around the garden, in particular, indoor climbing plants.

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