Moses in the Cradle Plant

Moses in the cradle (Tradescantia spathacea  variegata )  aka Moses in a boat is a favorite houseplant known for its eye-catching foliage.

The unique leaves are sword-shaped with tri-color tops of  green, pink and cream  and rich purple, glossy undersides. The upright position enables you to see both colors at the same time.

The plant is also known by a variety of other names such as Moses in the boat and the boat lily (because of it's small white flowers that resemble boats), and the oyster plant. The attractive foliage can grow up to 12 inches high and 3 inches wide.

Other common names:  boat lily, boat plant,  cradle lily, Moses in the basket, Moses-in-a-basket, Moses-in-the-bulrushes, rhoeo, and  three-men-in-the-boat.


It is a tropical perennial native to Central America and hardy in USDA zones 9 through 12. The plant cannot tolerate cold but is able to tolerate extreme heat. It is a succulent plant, which means it retains water and does quite well in drought conditions -- making it a popular plant.

The plant's hardiness enables it to thrive indoors with only minimal maintenance classifying it an "EASY Care" plant. It is tolerant of drier conditions so it is forgiving of forgetful watering.Its stunning looks make it an ideal ornamental plant for the house or outside garden. In mild climates the plant can be used in hanging baskets to add a tropical accent to outdoor containers.

How to Care for Moses in the Cradle

LIGHT:  Plant prefers bright, indirect sunlight at least 6-8 hrs a day An eastern window exposure is ideal. However, If you are in the northern hemisphere use a southern window exposure. In a southern hemisphere use a northern window for the best exposure.

WATER: Water and allow the top inch or two of soil to dry out before watering again. Keep plant drier during the winter when the plant is not actively growing. Always be careful not to overwater to prevent root rot and leaf spots

TEMPERATURE: Prefers average room temperature 65-80 during the day and about 10 degrees cooler at night.

POTTING SOIL: Use a good all-purpose potting soil that retains moisture yet drains well.

Humidity:  Medium to high humidity.  Mist with tepid water or place on humidity tray to prevent brown leaf tips.

FERTILIZING: Apply a well-balanced plant food at 1/2 the recommended strength once a month during the growing season. This will help produce a full and bushy plant with an abundance of little flowers. 

PROPAGATION: Propagate with offsets taken from the parent plant and place in new pots; they will root readily. You can also use stem cuttings. The plant likes to be root bound so repot about every 2-3 years.

Moses in the cradle (Tradescantia spathacea)  can be especially harmful to dogs.  The sap causes severe contact dermatitis where Dogs will scratch themselves until they are bleeding.  It is reported to  be poisonous if eaten in large quantities.  Keep away from pets.

Back to Top

  1. Home
  2. Directory
Share this page:
Enjoy this page? Please pay it forward. Here's how...

Would you prefer to share this page with others by linking to it?

  1. Click on the HTML link code below.
  2. Copy and paste it, adding a note of your own, into your blog, a Web page, forums, a blog comment, your Facebook account, or anywhere that someone would find this page valuable.

Recent Articles

  1. Starting Seeds Indoors

    Feb 17, 20 06:53 PM

    Starting seeds indoors is the smart way to get an early harvest from your gardening when you plant seedings for flowers, herbs, and root vegetables.

    Read More

  2. String of Pearls Plant

    Feb 02, 20 08:03 PM

    String of Pearls (Senecio Rowleyanus) aka Bead Vine is a lovely succulent plant with little green pea-shaped leaves strung on thread-like stems.

    Read More

  3. Neoregelia Fireball

    Feb 06, 19 11:53 PM

    Neoregelia Fireball is an extremely popular bromeliad plant known for turning deep red when exposed to strong light.

    Read More