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Tradescantia spathacea (Moses-in-the-cradle)


Scientific Name

Tradescantia spathacea Sw.

Common Names

Moses-in-the-cradle, Christ in the Cradle, Moses-in-a-basket, Oyster Plant, Boat Lily


Ephemerum bicolor, Ephemerum discolor, Rhoeo discolor, Rhoeo spathacea, Tradescantia discolor, Tradescantia odoratissima, Tradescantia versicolor

Scientific Classification

Family: Commelinaceae
Subfamily: Commelinoideae
Tribe: Tradescantieae
Subtribe: Tradescantiinae
Genus: Tradescantia


Tradescantia spathacea is a clump-forming evergreen perennial that grows as an up to 12 inches (30 cm) tall rosette. The leaves are narrow, spirally arranged, linear-lanceolate, stiffly-ascending, sword-shaped, up to 12 inches (30 cm) long, and dark green with purple undersides. White flowers in axillary cymes are enclosed by long-lasting, boat-shaped, and purple bracts. The flowers bloom throughout the year. They are followed by 3-celled capsules.


USDA hardiness zones 9a to 11b: from 20 °F (−6.7 °C) to 50 °F (+10 °C).

How to Grow and Care

Growing Tradescantia is easy, and you will find the plants to be quite resilient. These plants typically grow in moist, well-drained and acidic (pH 5 to 6) soil. Tradescantias do best in partial shade but will do equally well in sunny areas as long as the soil is kept moist.

You can grow Tradescantia indoors too as long as suitable conditions are given. Provide the plant with either a soilless mix or loam-based potting compost and keep it in bright filtered light. You should also pinch out the growing tips to encourage bushier growth.

Allow it to spend warm spring and summer days outdoors, if feasible. During its active growth, water moderately and apply a balanced liquid fertilizer every four weeks. Water sparingly in winter.

These plants like to be kept fairly moist, so water regularly, especially if you are growing them in containers. Cutting the plants back once flowering has ceased can often promote a second bloom and will help prevent re-seeding. Cut the stems back about 8 to 12 inches (20 to 30 cm) from the ground. See more at How to Grow and Care for Tradescantia.


Tradescantia spathacea is native to Belize, Guatemala and southern Mexico, but widely cultivated as an ornamental and naturalized in parts of Florida, Texas, Hawaii and various oceanic islands.


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