Plants

Moses in the Cradle Guide: How to Grow & Care for “Tradescantia spathacea”

Guide to Moses in the Cradle plants for everything you will ever need to know! Tips for planting & caring for “Tradescantia spathacea”
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So, it seems you are interested in these exotic and mysterious-looking species. Fair enough! We love them too as they bring some diversity in our gardens and Moses-in-the-Cradle plants are really worth a chance to prove their heart-stealing abilities.

Tradescantia spathacea, usually known as Moses-in-the-Cradle, Boat Lily, Cradle Lily, Oyster plant, or the Bloaty, is a species of herbs in the Commelinaceae family. Moses-in-the-Cradle plants are originated in Belize, Guatemala, and regions of southern Mexico, such as Tabasco, Chiapas, and the Yucatan Peninsula.

These plants are naturalized in various areas of Hawaii, Florida, Texas, and some oceanic islands. Highly cultivated as ornamental plants, they have been introduced to many regions around the world, becoming one of the most peculiar houseplants beloved by many growers.

About Moses-in-the-Cradle

  • They have increased in frequency or abundance, making them a pretty invasive species in Florida and Louisiana.
  • Tradescantia Spatachea plants are named after two famous botanists and gardeners from the 16th and 17th century John Tradescant senior and junior.
  • These plants were called Rhoeo Spatachea in the past, so you might still find these plants in nurseries by their old name.
  • Moses-in-the-Cradle plants love bright and indirect light, but they can also grow well in locations with partial shade. They will exhibit purple-red foliage under proper sunlight exposure.
  • They prefer warm and pretty humid environments all-year-round. In winter, raise the humidity levels around your plants.
  • A well-draining potting soil that is rich in organic matter is an ideal medium for these unique-looking plants.
  • For optimal growth, provide Moses-in-the-Cradle plants with any water-soluble fertilizer monthly, during the warmer seasons.
  • While pruning and caring for Moses-in-the-Cradle, take some time to inspect your plant for any signs of pest infestations.
  • They produce a sap that can be toxic to humans and pets. Place these plants in a spot where curious cats, dogs, and children cannot get in contact with them.
Moses-in-the-Cradle plant
Moses-in-the-Cradle plant

Moses-in-the-Cradle Features: An Overview

  • Moses-in-the-cradle belongs to the Tradescantia genus that contains about 75 species of herbaceous perennial wildflowers.
  • The species from this genus are commonly referred to as spiderwort and Indian paint.
  • They are very attractive plants that can grow up to 1 foot (30 cm) in height.
  • Moses-in-the-cradle plants have fleshy rhizomes and waxy lance-shaped leaves that grow in rosettes.
  • The most important parts of these plants are the leaves which can grow up to 1 foot (30 cm) tall and 3 inches (7.6 cm) wide.
  • Their foliage appears in dark green to metallic colors above with a shiny and purple layer underneath.
  • Some species produce numerous forms of variegated leaves. For example, Vittata exhibits green and yellow stripes, Gold comes with many pale yellow bands, and Stripe-Me-Pink has green, pink, and cream stripes.
  • These plants bloom at any time of the year. Their small and white flowers are tucked away in a unique-looking bract that reminds us of Baby Moses floating in his tiny basket on the River Nile.
  • Their toxic sap can cause minor irritation in contact with skin. Moreover, if humans or animals eat this sap, it may cause severe mouth pain.
Tradescantia spathacea
Tradescantia spathacea

Growing Moses-in-the-Cradle

Moses-in-the-Cradle plants prefer bright and indirect sunlight all year round. They can tolerate lower light conditions like partial shade, but you will notice the best foliage color when you grow them in a sunny spot.

The ideal place for indoor growing should be near a south or east-facing window to provide them with plenty of morning sun. Make sure you protect these plants from the harsh midday sunlight.

They will grow healthy and happy in average room temperatures that range from 65 to 80 °F (18-27 °C). These plants do not respond well to fluctuating temperatures, so you should maintain a slightly warm environment for your Moses-in-the-Cradle babies in all seasons.

They can tolerate mid-cool temperature values that drop to 55 °F (13 °C), so avoid frost at any cost. Keep them away from cold windows or drafts, as these could affect their overall health.

Tradescantia Spathacea Rhoeo Plant, from Amazon

Moses-in-the-Cradle Soil Requirements

When it comes to choosing their potting soil, Moses-in-the-Cradle plants have no high demands. They can grow healthy in almost any type of soil as long as it has good drainage. Look for a good-quality all-purpose potting mix that is designed for houseplants. Moreover, to improve drainage and retain moisture, you can add some peat moss or other organic matter into the potting mix.

During their active growing period, Moses-in-the-Cradle will benefit from regular fertilizing. Feed your plants with a water-soluble fertilizer once a month in spring and summer to boost their growth.

If your Moses-in-the-Cradle plants become quite crowded in their container, you can repot them in spring. They usually need repotting once a few years to provide them with extra room to grow. Transplant your plants in a pot that is one size larger than the current one. Make sure that their new pot has drainage holes to prevent the soil from staying soggy.

Pruning Moses-in-the-Cradle Plants

These plants do not require pruning, but you can trim off some leaves if you want to maintain a certain size and shape. The ideal period for pruning your Moses-in-the-Cradle plants is in spring, as then begins their active growth.

To protect the plants from any diseases, it is suggested you use a blade that is always wiped in rubbing alcohol before each cut.

A great thing about growing Moses-in-the-Cradle plants is that they are not susceptible to many diseases while planted in well-draining soil. However, they can be occasionally bothered by mealybugs, whiteflies, and spider mites.

If you notice any common sign of infestation, such as holes in the foliage or web-like covering, you can treat your plants using insecticide, pesticide, or a cotton pad dipped in rubbing alcohol. You can also remove the unhealthy parts from the plants to prevent a possible spread.

Beautiful Colors
Beautiful Colors

Watering Moses-in-the-Cradle

Moses-in-the-Cradle plants are very easy to please as long as they watering needs are met. If you pay attention to your plants’ behavior, you can become a master in caring for these lovely species. And you will also have a little fun while doing it!

The frequency of watering these plants remains a mystery for many growers, so it is not something you should count on. From spring to fall, they thrive in constantly damp soil. When the winter has settled in, you should water your Moses-in-the-Cradle less often than usual. Make sure you always check the first inch (2.5 cm) of soil in-between waterings to avoid over-watering your plant. If the soil feels dry to the touch, it is the perfect time for watering.

The most common mistake that many gardeners make is watering their plants more often and in low quantities. This method may affect Moses-in-the-Cradle plants in the long term because the water cannot reach their roots. Your plants will be properly hydrated with deep, thoroughly soaking, and good drainage.

Moses-in-the-Cradle plants will benefit from medium to high humidity. During the warmer seasons, the humidity around your plants should be kept at 40%. In winter, however, you need to raise the humidity levels, as they appreciate more humid environments. If the air around your Moses-in-the-Cradle plants is too dry, you can maintain the ideal humidity using a humidifier or by misting them regularly.

Moses-in-the-Cradle in a hanging basket
Moses-in-the-Cradle in a hanging basket

Propagating Moses-in-the-Cradle

Are you so fascinated by these alluring species that you want to share some with your plant-lovers friends? This is an excellent time to improve your gardening skills!

Instead of looking for more Moses-in-the-Cradle in nurseries or markets, you can easily propagate them through divisions or stem cuttings. Keep in mind that these plants respond well to propagation only in spring, as this is when they have the most vigorous growth.

If you want to propagate these plants through stem cuttings, you can use any long vines in the process. Look for healthy stems that have at least three leaves and cut about 4 to 6 inches (10-15 cm) using a sterilized knife.

For optimal results, you should dip the cuttings in rooting hormone to boost growth. Fill some pots with fresh and damp potting soil and plant your cuttings gently. If you place the pots in a bright, warm location and provide them with enough water, you will notice a stable root development in about one or two months.

When it has reached maturity, your Moses-in-the-Cradle is more likely to produce offshoots that can be used in propagation. These offshoots usually grow around the mother plant and they already have some roots attached. All you have to do is to carefully remove those offshoots and transplant them into their new pots filled with fresh potting soil.

From now on, the offshoots can be considered individual Moses-in-the-Cradle babies and cared for as usual.

In Conclusion

Who would not wish for these plants to be their companion at least once in a lifetime? Due to their easy-going nature, Moses-in-the-Cradle plants are pretty simple to grow and care for.

The only thing they dream of is a loving owner who can provide them with a comfy home that mimics their natural habitat conditions. The best thing about these beauties is that they come in various lovely blends of colors, making them a must for growers that love plants with pleasant and unique stripe patterns.

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Miruna Secuianu

Miruna is an experienced content writer with a passion for gardening. She is the proud owner of an outdoor rose garden and an indoor collection of tiny succulents. She bought her first succulent 10 years ago - an adorable Echeveria Setosa. Now she owns more than 100 succulents and cacti of different colors, shapes, and sizes. Miruna is a versatile writer and, as you might have guessed, her favorite topic is gardening. Contact miruna@gardenbeast.com

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