Moses in the Cradle Plant: Tradescantia Spathacea Care Tips

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Moses in The Cradle or Boatlily is native to Belize, Guatemala, and southern Mexico. It is a tropical sculptural herbaceous perennial plant. It was Originally called the Rhoeo discolor (scientifically), which was changed into Rhoeo spathacea before being renamed Tradescantia spathacea.

It belongs to the same family as the well-known Wandering Jew Plants and Spiderworts. Apart from the Moses in The Cradle – it is also known as Oyster plant, Boatlily, Moses-in-a-Boat, Cradle Lily, and Moses-in-the-Bullrushes.

Like other tradescantia types, Moses in The Cradle is hardy, proliferates, and requires little maintenance. Works well as an ornamental house plant, this tradescantia survives the best in a well-lit, partially shaded area. But, it cannot stand the cold temperature and needs to be brought indoors in the colder months.

These brilliant purple-green plants can be grown as border plants in the garden. And if you wish for some color to show inside, grow them in indoor planters or flower baskets. Tradescantia spathacea need the least caring, and you won’t have to spend day and night worrying about their survival.

This specific feature makes this tradescantia extremely popular among those new to gardening. That being said, if you are new to Tradescantia spathacea, look for the purple underside of the leaves and the peculiar bract-enclosed blooms to differentiate it from the bromeliads.

Essential Facts About Moses in the Cradle

Essential Facts About Moses in The Cradle
Image Credit: Moses in the cradle (Tradescantia spathacea) by Mokkie (CC BY-SA 4.0) from Wikimedia

Before we get into the specifics of growing Moses in The Cradle Plants, let’s review some essential information about them.

General nameMoses in The Cradle, Boatlily, Cradle Lily, Oyster plant, Moses-in-the-Bulrushes

Botanic name

Tradescantia spathacea





Hardiness zones

USDA zones 9 -11


Bright and indirect light

Soil requirement

Light, moist and well-drained soil

Soil pH level

5- 6

Maximum height

Up to 1 foot

PropagationStem cutting


Yes; Moderate severity

Native toBelize, Guatemala, and southern Mexico

Growing Moses in the Cradle

Growing Moses in The Cradle
Image Credit: Moses in the cradle (Tradescantia spathacea) by Mokkie (CC BY-SA 3.0) from Wikimedia

As stated above, tradescantias are pretty straightforward to grow and care for. And if you follow the tips we are providing here; you can enjoy your evergreen perennial Tradescantia spathacea all year round.

Tradescantias do best in well-lit but partially shaded areas. So, you can grow these plants outdoors as well as indoors. The sections below have been dedicated to exploring the most suitable conditions for growing Moses in the Cradle plants.


As with any other tradescantia type, the best location you can choose for your Moses in the Cradle or Boatlily is the one that receives at least 6- 8 hours of bright sunlight. However, remember not to plant in a spot that gets direct scorching sun exposure.

Indirect light and a warm climate would allow your plant to have good foliage and flowers all through the year. It is crucial to mention that you will get green foliage rather than purple if you grow your plant in an overtly shaded spot.

Another thing to keep in mind in the context of location is never to keep your plant in a spot that receives frostbites. Your tradescantia will not survive in cold climates. Hence, during the winter season, bring your plant indoors and try to keep it near the eastern windowsill.


Image Credit: The proper sun exposure is essential for the plant growth from Maxpixel

Your Boatlily will be the happiest if you keep under bright sunlight. So, as we mentioned above, choose a spot that receives 6- 8 hours of sun exposure daily. Avoid exposing your plant to direct sunlight, which can cause the leaves to burn, especially in the afternoon.


Light, moist, and well-drained soil is the finest soil for Boatlily plants. As a result, they should be grown in loose potting soil that maintains moisture but drains fast. In addition, loose potting soil would prevent the plant root from staying wet for too long, eliminating the chances of root rotting.

pH Level

As far as the pH level is concerned, your plant would grow best in slightly acidic soil with a pH level between 5- 6.

We suggest you check the pH level of the ground or soil you are choosing to grow your Moses in the Cradle plant.

Temperature & Humidity

Throughout the day, 60°-85° F (16°-19°C) is excellent for a Moses in the Cradle plant, while at night the temperature can be somewhere around 10°.

This plant will thrive in high humidity. So, during the winter months, when the air gets a little dry, you can use a humidifier (in the case of indoor growth) to increase the level of humidity in the air. But if your plant is growing outdoors, make sure it is sitting on the pebbles.

You can also group more than one plant to create a greenhouse effect to uphold the humidity level in the air.

Caring for Moses in the Cradle

Bearing the hallmark characteristics of other tradescantia plants, Moses in the Cradle needs low maintenance. But first, you need to take care of the essential tips to ensure that your plant thrives and produces colorful foliage and blossoms.

And to help you in this, we have listed the caring tips and guidelines in the below sub-sections.


Image Credit: Watering your plant is crucial by kaboompics from Pixabay

By now, you know that Boatlily thrives in moist soil. So, the foremost thing to keep in mind while watering this plant is not to overwater it. Instead, it is advisable to check if the top layer of the soil is dry before rewatering.

Matured plants can tolerate drought and wet soil for a short period. Still, it is advisable not to create any of these situations for your Moses in the Cradle. Whenever the top 1 or 2 inches of soil appear dry, check it by poking your fingers and water accordingly. However, wait for 1-2 days before rewatering if you feel any moisture.

That being said, reduce the amount of watering in the late fall and winter, which the plant is not growing actively.


Tradescantia spathacea is a very light feeder. So, fertilizing them too often is not advisable. Also, you may never need to feed your outdoor Boatlilies. But if you are growing them in containers or baskets indoors, you can apply liquid or slow-release fertilizer.

Fertilize these plants during spring and summer but never in the winter months. Also, remember to dilute the fertilizer 1/2 the recommended strength.


Your Moses in the Cradle is a fast-growing tradescantia, so you must prune it heavily during the spring months to keep the plant in good shape and size.

To improve the look of the plant, remove any dead or decaying leaves. Don’t panic. Tradescantia spathacea is a fast-growing plant that will eventually return to its former glory.


Tradescantia spathacea cannot stand cold. Hence, if the air temperature drops lower than 50°F or 10°C, you must bring your plant inside and keep it in a bright warm area. In this case, we recommend planting your Moses in the Cradle in portable containers so that you can transport them indoors during the winter months.

Pests & Issues

Pests & issues
Image Credit: Aphid infestation by Catkin from Pixabay

Boatlilies are not susceptible to pests or diseases if adequately cared for. Still, if you are growing them indoors, you must keep an eye to check if the plant is facing any pest-related issues.

That being said, common pests that may bother your Boatlily plant include mealybugs, spider mites, aphids, and scales. Spider mites are tiny and difficult to detect with the naked human eye. Mealybugs are whitish, cottony, or waxy and can be seen on the plant. On the other hand, whiteflies are small, flying insects that, when disturbed, might seem like a cloud.

You can manually remove the insects from the leaves’ surface or use water to wash them away. Nonetheless, using insecticidal soaps, horticultural oil sprays, or chemical insecticides in high insect infestation can be practical.

Other than the insects, your plant may also get bothered with diseases, including root rotting, curling leaves, leaf drops, etc. To get rid of these issues, ensure to offer Moses in the Cradle a sufficiently warm environment, indirect bright light, and a high humidity level.

Propagating Moses in the Cradle

Cutting stems or splitting roots are the easiest ways to propagate a Moses in the Cradle plant. However, a well-established plant may also produce side shoots that can be pruned and replanted.

To divide your plant, you remove a clump of stems at the root. Afterward, fill a mew container with the potting soil, and plant the newly cut section.

To propagate this plant by stem cutting, you need to cut a 4-5″ portion of steam from a healthy plant.

Place the stem cutting in a container of water. You should see new roots appearing after a few weeks. Wait until the new roots are about 1″ long before transplanting the stem-cutting to its final destination.

Tradescantia spathacea is very quickly disseminated by seed. The flowers can self-pollinate. Insects pollinate them, and the wind disperses the seeds.


Moses in the Cradle plants may look beautiful, but they are toxic. Yes, you heard it right. These plants have toxicity level-3, and although they may not prove fatal, you may get skin irritation if you touch their sap.

And if ingested in large quantities, Boatlilies may cause abdominal pain, sore throat, mouth irritation, pain, etc. That being said, you should also keep your pets away from this plant to avoid any allergic reaction or irritation among them.

Despite its poisonous sap, the plant is used for medicinal purposes in Mexico and Southeast Asia. In some places, cancer, fungal infections, coughs, and diarrhea are all treated using the leaves and petals of Moses in the Cradle plants.


You have learned that, like other types of tradescantias, Boatlilies also tend to crawl and spread pretty fast. In fact, in some gardens, you may find Boatlily infestation. So, repotting your plant might become essential if you find the roots have filled the existing pot.

Spring is the best time to repot your plant and take a new pot next to the size of the current one to do it. Ensure that the new container has 1- 2 holes at the bottom to facilitate water drainage.

Now, remove the root tip of your plant from the old pot and place it in the new container. Fill the container with moist and well-drained soil leaving 1- 2″ below the rim. Finally, consistently water the newly repotted plant.


Q1. Is it easy to grow a Moses plant at home?

Ans. Yes, it is effortless to grow a Moses plant at home. Follow the growing and caring tips mentioned above to ensure a healthy and flourishing Moses in the Cradle plant in your backyard or indoors.

Q2. Is Moses in the Cradle toxic?

Ans. Moses plant or Tradescantia spathacea could be toxic, if not lethal. Both humans and animals can get affected by its level 3 toxicity.

Q3. Can I ingest the Moses plant?

Ans. No, it is never advisable to ingest Tradescantia spathacea. Doing so may cause abdominal issues, mouth ulcers, sore throat, and other diseases.

Q4. What is the blooming time of this plant?

Ans. Tradescantia spathacea produces tiny white blossoms, and its blooming time is spring and summer. This plant goes into a dormant state during the autumn and winter months.

Q5. What problems may I face if I touch Moses plant sap?

Ans. Accidentally if you touch this plant’s sap, you may experience skin irritation and related issues like dermatitis. But don’t worry, as the symptoms are short-lived and you will get relief from them eventually. Still, if you face persistent problems, consult a dermatologist.


To summarize, we can state that growing Moses in the Cradle is pretty straightforward and hassle-free. All you would need is to give your plant some primary care, and they are good to grow and thrive.

By now, we are sure that you have learned how to take care of Tradescantia spathacea. Treat it like any other house plant. Please place it in a warm spot, feed it with indirect sunlight, water it regularly, and prune it from time to time. That’s it!

These plants demand almost nothing from you, but they will present a color show all year round in return. What else can you ask for?

So, go ahead and start your Moses plant venture soon.

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