A Moses in the Cradle plant grows beautifully both as an outdoor plant and as a colorful indoor plant. The scientific name of a Moses in the Cradle plant was originally Rhoeo discolour, then Rhoeo spathacea, and now it’s Tradescantia spathacea. It is the same family as the popular Wandering Jew plant and the spiderwort.. A Moses on the Cradle plant has several common names such as Oyster plant, Boat Lily, Moses-in-a-Boat, Cradle Lily, and Moses-in-the-Bullrushes. Whichever name you decide to call these colorful plants, native to Mexico, the West Indies, Guatemala, and Central America, they are easy to care for and grow well both as an outdoor plant in temperate climates and as a houseplant. The varieties sold as indoor plants are usually “dwarf” types and only reach a height of about 6”-12.” A Moses in the Cradle plant needs about 6-8 hours of bright, indirect light or it gets leggy. When that happens it’s a good time to aggressively prune the plant during the spring. You can use the stem cuttings to propagate a new Mosses in the Cradle plant.
A Moses in the Cradle plant is easily recognized by its rosettes of long, lance shaped, waxy leaves with vibrant, purple undersides. The leaves come out from the bottom of the plant, just above the ground. The most popular varieties sold have leaves that are green, or a mixture of green, white, and purple stripes. Other attractive Moses in the Cradle plant varieties are the “Golden Oyster” (Tradescantia spathacea ‘Sitara’s Gold) which has bright, golden yellow and green strappy leaves and the “Tricolor” (Tradescantia spathacea Tricolor) which has colorful pink, green, and cream variegated, strap-like leaves. A Moses in the Cradle plant is grown for its vibrantly colored leaves rather than its small, three petaled, white flowers. The flowers grow out of spathes that are “boat” or “cradle” shaped which is how the plant got its distinctive name.
Keep an eye out for spider mites, that could drain the color from the leaves, and mealy bugs that often hide inside the clumps of leaves. A Moses in the Cradle plant is considered poisonous and toxic to cats, dogs, and small children. Read more about common houseplants that are poisonous in my book Don’t Feed Me to Your Cat! A Guide to Poisonous Houseplants.
A Moses in the Cradle plant needs very bright light. If the plant gets less than 6-8 hours a day of bright light, the stems become leggy.
Before watering a Moses in the Cradle plant, allow the top few inches of soil to dry out. Keep the soil drier during the winter months, when all houseplants, not just a Moses in the Cradle plant, are not actively growing.
A Moses in the Cradle plant needs to be fed monthly in the spring and summer with a balanced plant food diluted to 1/2 the recommended strength. The plant does not require plant food during the autumn and winter.
The ideal temperature for a Moses in the Cradle plant is 60°-85° F (16°-19°C) during the day and about 10° cooler at night.
Moses in the Cradle plants prefer high humidity which is often not available in our homes, especially during the winter months. There are few things you can do to increase the humidity around your plants. Place a small humidifier nearby. Place your Moses in the Cradle plant on a tray of wet pebbles. Be sure the plant is sitting on the pebbles and not in the water. Grouping plants together creates a mini greenhouse effect and increases the humidity. I’m not a fan of misting plants since is not that beneficial and often encourages pests and diseases.
A Moses in the Cradle plant produces small, three petaled, white flowers tucked inside purple, boat shaped spathes.
Spider mites and mealy bugs can infest a Moses in the Cradle plant, often hiding in the clumps of leaves where it is difficult to see them. You can see a picture of these insects and learn how to treat them in the Glossary of the website.
Because a Moses in the Cradle plant likes high humidity, root rot (caused by the plant roots staying wet too long) and leaf spot disease are a problem. Read more about leaf spot disease and how to identify and treat it in the Glossary of the website.
A Moses in the Cradle plant grows best in a loose potting soil that retains moisture yet drains quickly. This type of soil prevents the roots from saying wet too long and developing root rot.
A good time to repot a Moses in the Cradle plant is in the spring but only if the roots have filled the existing pot. When re-potting any houseplant, always use the next size pot and nothing larger. There must be drip holes in the bottom of the pot so excess water can escape.
I recommend vigorously pruning a Moses in the Cradle plant during the spring to keep the plant looking full and bushy. Always wear gloves when pruning since the sap ion a Moses in the Cradle plant is toxic and very irritating. You can use the stem cuttings to propagate new plants.
A Moses in the Cradle plant is propagated by plant division or stem cuttings. Read more about these and other propagation techniques in the Glossary of the website.
Poisonous Plant Info
A Moses in the Cradle plant is a poisonous plants with a #3 toxicity level. The sap can causes severe pain if it gets in the mouth or eyes and skin irritations. A Moses in the Cradle plant is toxic to cats, dogs, and small children so please keep this colorful plant out of reach.
There is a new variety of Moses in the Cradle plant called Rhoea discolor ‘Variegata.’ It’s a very spectacular looking plant with striped leaves in burgundy, pink, green and cream.
There could be several things going on. If your Moses in the Cradle plant is sitting in direct sun, the intense direct light may cause the color in the leaves to fade. If your plant is not getting enough indirect bright light the color may fade. The most serious cause would be an infestation of Spider Mites. You’ll need to spray all parts of the plant with the “ green solution” (1/2 alcohol, ½ water, a few squirts of biodegradable soap) There are complete care instructions in the Glossary on how to treat Spider Mites.
The ends of the leave of your Moses in the Cradle Plant are turning brown because there is not enough humidity in the air around the plant. You can put a small humidifier next to your plant or place itt on a wet pebble tray. Be sure the plant is sitting on pebbles and not in the water. I don’t recommend misting these plants since wet leaves encourage fungal & bacterial diseases.