Moses in the Cradle

Moses in the Cradle (Tradescantia Spathacea)

Moses in the Cradle is botanically known as Tradescantia spathacea and informally called boat lily, Moses in a basket, Moses-in-the-bulrushes, and oyster plant. The plant is native to Mexico and Central America. It is commonly known for its beautiful dark green, lance-shaped leaves with purplish-red undersides. This Herbaceous perennial easy to care plant can thrive in a wide range of conditions as long it has moderate access to water. Despite their undeniable beauty, they are poisonous and should be kept away from children and pets.


Many people water their plants based on a schedule. This approach does not apply to Tradescantia spathacea. Expert advice suggests growers should only water the plant when the first two inches of soil dry. The 'water little but often' technique is also not suitable to Tradescantia spathacea. This is because little water may not reach deep-seated roots but will create a damp layer of soil, which can encourage fungus gnats. It is advisable to water the plant adequately and allow it to drain. In winter, when growth is minimal, try to keep the soil dry.

Light and humidity

Moses In The Cradle plants require six hours of indirect bright light daily. Keep the plant away from direct sunlight lest you want to scorch it. It can tolerate low light conditions, but the leaves will be more green than purple. Humidity levels should be kept medium – around 40 percent. Brown leaf tips are an indication of dry air. You can increase humidity levels using humidifiers or placing the plant pot on a humidity tray. Alternatively, just mist the leaves. Though it can survive in temperature above 55°F, warmer conditions of 65-80°F are considered optimal for the plant.

Soil and Fertilizer

The plant grows well in light soil that retains moisture for long but drains water quickly. To achieve these two conditions, create a potting mix using an equal amount of peat moss and perlite. Alternatively, apply organic matter and sand. Moses in the cradle is a relatively fast-growing plant that requires substantial feeding during growing seasons – spring and summer. Apply a water-soluble balanced fertilizer diluted to half strength once in a month. Avoid overfeeding the plant- it can cause mineral accumulation in the soil, thus killing it.

Cleaning and pruning

Wipe off the dust using a damp soft piece of cloth or put the plant in the rain or the shower and let the water run over it. Pruning is essential for keeping Tradescantia spathacea in shape. Pinch off growing tips to help the plant have a bushier appearance. Also, trim off dead and dying leaves to improve appearance. 


Propagation is done through stem cuttings, root division, or seeds. The most straightforward approach is root division or stem cutting. It can also be propagated from suckers produced by mature plants. Root division method entails removing a clump of stems at the roots, checking for any disease, and transferring the divisions to appropriate pots. The stem cutting approach involves cutting a 4-inch section of a stem from a healthy plant, putting it in water to grow roots, and transferring it to a soil medium.


These plants grow quite fast; thus, they should be repotted much frequently. Repot after every one or two years to prevent the plant from becoming root-bound. When repotting, use a pot that is one size up. To repot, remove the plant from its container gently, run water on the roots to clean, and untangle them. Half-fill the new container with fresh potting mix, put the plant in its new home, and fill the remaining half. Water it thoroughly and return it to its location.


Moses In The Cradle is poisonous; hence it should be kept away from children and pets. It can be infested with aphids, mealybugs, spider mites, and scale. These pests can be removed by spraying or dusting the plant with conventional pesticides. Check root rot complications by watering the plant correctly. Trim off ailing leaves to minimize the chances of the disease spreading to other parts.

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