Moses in the Cradle

Botanical Name: Tradescantia spathacea 

Moses in the Cradle is a popular house plant, related to the Wandering Jew plant. You'll find that it's just as easy to grow.

Dark-green, lance-shaped leaves with purplish-red undersides make this a beautiful house plant year-round. You can keep your plant indoors. But if you move it outdoors for the summer, keep it shaded from direct sun. Also, check the soil every couple days so that it doesn't dry out.

Pot it in a small decorative container for a stunning table accent. A newer variety, Rhoeo discolor 'Variegata' is even more spectacular, with striped foliage in burgundy, pink, green and cream.

moses in the cradle, moses in a boat, tradescantia spathacea, rhoeo spathacea

It blooms any time of year. Small, white, 3-petaled flowers grow in the leaf axils, nestled in the boat-shaped leaves, giving this plant its common names, Moses in the Cradle, Moses in a Boat and Boat Lily. 

No flowers? It's not getting enough sunlight. Grow your plant in bright, indirect light year-round to make it bloom. 

Raise the humidity in winter by misting the foliage with tepid water daily, or using a cool-mist room humidifier. Or place the pot on a tray of wet pebbles to keep the air moist around it.

Repot in spring when the plant becomes crowded, probably every couple years. Move up to a pot only 1 size larger to give it a little room to grow. Use a pot with drainage holes to prevent soggy soil, which leads to root rot.

Buying Tip

Tradescantia spathacea was formerly known as Rhoeo spathacea and is sometimes sold under that name in the nursery trade. One cultivar, Rhoeo discolor 'Variegata' has grown in popularity and is highly sought-after.

You'll find Moses in the Cradle for sale from online nurseries and garden centers in spring and summer.

Moses in the Cradle Care Tips

Origin: Mexico 

Height: 1-2 ft (30-60 cm)

Light: Grow your plant in bright, indirect light year-round for good foliage color and flowers. It will tolerate lower light, but the leaves will be more green than purple. Keep it out of hot, midday sun.

Water: Keep soil evenly moist spring through fall. In winter, allow the potting medium to dry out slightly between waterings. 

Humidity: Moderate room (around 40% relative humidity). Brown leaf tips indicate that the air is too dry. Stand the pot on a humidity tray or use a cool-mist room humidifier near the plant.

Temperature: Average to warm room temperatures (65-80°F/18-27°C) suit this plant year-round. It will tolerate a minimum temperature of 55°F/13°C. Keep Tradescantia spathacea away from drafty doorways or windows -- it doesn't like fluctuating temperatures.

Soil: Good-quality all-purpose houseplant potting mix.

Fertilizer: Feed monthly with a water-soluble houseplant fertilizer in spring and summer, while plant is actively growing.

Propagation: Division. Remove offshoots that grow around the plant with some roots attached and pot separately. Spring is the best time to propagate Moses in the Cradle because it is starting its most vigorous time of growth.

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