Tradescantia Tricolor vs Nanouk – The Difference?

Tradescantia Nanouk (left) and Tricolor (right)

Plant enthusiasts are always on the lookout for interesting plants that are different from the crowd. While looking for a unique cascading plant, I came across the Tradescantia Nanouk and Tradescantia Tricolor that seemed very similar online. However, after growing them for several months, I’ve learnt some notable and vital differences between the two.

The main differences between the Tradescantia Nanouk and Tradescantia Tricolor are their leaf sizes, growth rate, stem thickness, and growing habits. The Tradescantia Nanouk have thinner stem structures and thumb-sized leaves, which generally cause them to droop once they reach a certain height. The opposite is true for the Tradescantia Nanouk, where its chunky stems allow it to grow upright. These plants are often confused by their similar foliage patterns of green, pink, and purple variegation.

For me to learn more about the Tradescantia Nanouk and Tradescantia Tricolor, I had to order these from eBay as there were not available around my local nurseries:

After months of growing these Tradescantias, I’ve learned that neither the Nanouk nor Tricolor varieties were suitable as cascading plants, as initially thought.

This article aims to share the differences between the Nanouk and Tricolor for you to make a better purchasing decision between the two.

The Similarities Between Tradescantia Tricolor and Nanouk

The obvious similarity between the Tradescantia Tricolor and Nanouk is their white, pink, and purple variegated leaves. The color saturation of the pink intensifies as it receives more sunlight. However, they are both prone to brown spots and crispy edges from the harsh sun. So, I found the best results when I placed them under the shade, where they received bright indirect sunlight.  

Tradescantia Nanouk (left) and Tricolor (right)
A closer look.

Both the Nanouk and Tricolor were easy to propagate by cutting the stems below the nodes. However, I noticed that the Tricolor took much longer to root, about 4 to 6 weeks before sufficient roots had grown ready before transfer to soil. With the Nanouk, it usually took about 2 to 3 weeks to grow enough roots.

As with most houseplants, they both grew well in well-draining soil. I repotted these plants in a soil mixture comprising 50% premium potting mix and 50% peat moss.

The Differences Between Tradescantia Tricolor and Nanouk

While the colors of the Tradescantia and Nanouk are similar with their green stripes, white-creamy variegations, and tints of pink, the leaf sizes between these two plants are distinctive. The Nanouk grows elongated leaves that are pointy towards the end. In contrast, the Tricolor’s leaves are shorter and have a shape resembling the blade symbol in a deck of cards.

When rubbing your thumb against these Tradescantias, the Tricolor is noticeably waxier and hence a shinier appearance. While there was some wax-like substance feel to the Nanouk, it had more of a rougher texture that reminds me of the polyester fabric found in artificial plants.

I’ve also discovered that the Tradescantia Nanouk grows much faster than the Tricolor.

After owning these plants for nine months (August 2021 to April 2022) through the Spring, Summer and Autumn, the Nanouk has definitely shown a fast growth rate compared to the Tricolor. With some pruning, the Nanouk gives a nice bushy appearance. I’ve also been able to propagate the Tradescantia Nanouk into a few more cuttings.

The same could not have been said for the Tradescantia Tricolor.

The Tricolor grew at a slower pace than the Nanouk, which might be due to the sensitivity to weather conditions. For example, the skinny and delicate stems of the Tricolor made it vulnerable to windy weather days. When I placed the Tricolor in an open environment, I found that a few of its stems had broken off during the rainy and windy days.

During the hot days of summer, the thin leaves had suffered sunburn and crispy brown leaves. I eventually brought the plant back under the carport, where it’s protected from sun and wind.

Should I Buy the Tricolor or Nanouk?

If you had to choose between the Tradescantia Tricolor or Nanouk, I recommend getting the Nanouk because it’s easier to grow. I have found the Nanouk to be much more weather resistant than the Tricolor. For ease of care, the Nanouk performs better when it comes to withstanding wind disruptions and sunburn.

The Tradescantia Nanouk is a low-effort fast-growing plant.

Both of these Tradescantia can serve different purposes for your planting needs.

If you’re looking for a cute plant that doesn’t take a lot of space, I recommend the Tricolor because of its smaller foliage and root system. It goes well with a small pot and provides an uplift to any office desk.

For a more significant visual impact, go for the Nanouk, as it has larger leaves and deeper shades of pink. When placed amongst other green houseplants, the Nanouk stands out with its blushing color giving a soft sense of femininity to any given room.

Before I bought these Tradescantias, I looked for a cascading plant for my curtain rod. I decided between the Tradescantia Tricolor and Nanouk due to the unique colors. I couldn’t tell the difference at the time, so I bought both.

I learned that both of these Tradescantias were not good cascading plants for different reasons.

The Tricolor grew too slow and had irregular stems. Stems would branch off in different directions, and they did not grow straight. The Tricolor could not give a nice waterfall effect as well as other plants could, for example, the string of pearls.

Also, the Nanouk has a habit of growing vertically, which means that I couldn’t achieve the cascading effect I wanted. This seemed to be because of the chunky stem structure that holds the plant upwards until the stems were long and heavy enough to droop down. I found the Nanouk was most attractive when it was regularly pruned into a bushy shape where the plant is most beautifully viewed from the top angle.

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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