Tradescantia Species, Moses-in-a-Basket, Boatlily, Oyster Plant, Christ in the Cradle

Tradescantia spathacea

Family: Commelinaceae (ko-mel-ih-NAY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Tradescantia (trad-es-KAN-tee-uh) (Info)
Species: spathacea (spath-ay-SEE-uh) (Info)
Synonym:Ephemerum bicolor
Synonym:Rhoeo discolor
Synonym:Rhoeo spathacea
Synonym:Tradescantia discolor
Synonym:Tradescantia versicolor


Tropicals and Tender Perennials

Water Requirements:

Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater

Sun Exposure:

Sun to Partial Shade


Grown for foliage


Good Fall Color


Foliage Color:




12-18 in. (30-45 cm)

18-24 in. (45-60 cm)


12-15 in. (30-38 cm)

15-18 in. (38-45 cm)

18-24 in. (45-60 cm)


USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 °C (20 °F)

USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 °C (25 °F)

USDA Zone 10a: to -1.1 °C (30 °F)

USDA Zone 10b: to 1.7 °C (35 °F)

USDA Zone 11: above 4.5 °C (40 °F)

Where to Grow:

Can be grown as an annual

Suitable for growing in containers


Handling plant may cause skin irritation or allergic reaction

Bloom Color:

White/Near White

Bloom Characteristics:

This plant is attractive to bees, butterflies and/or birds

Bloom Size:


Bloom Time:

Blooms all year

Other details:

May be a noxious weed or invasive

Soil pH requirements:

6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)

6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)

7.6 to 7.8 (mildly alkaline)

Patent Information:


Propagation Methods:

By dividing rhizomes, tubers, corms or bulbs (including offsets)

From leaf cuttings

From herbaceous stem cuttings

From seed; direct sow after last frost

Seed Collecting:

Collect seedhead/pod when flowers fade; allow to dry

Seed does not store well; sow as soon as possible


This plant is said to grow outdoors in the following regions:

Anniston, Alabama

Dothan, Alabama

Irvington, Alabama

Desert Hot Springs, California

Hayward, California

Pleasant Hill, California

Rancho Cucamonga, California


Bartow, Florida

Big Pine Key, Florida

Boca Raton, Florida

Brooksville, Florida

Cape Coral, Florida

Clearwater, Florida

Delray Beach, Florida

Fernandina Beach, Florida

Fort Lauderdale, Florida(2 reports)

Holiday, Florida

Hollywood, Florida

Homestead, Florida(2 reports)

Interlachen, Florida

Key Largo, Florida

Key West, Florida(2 reports)

Lakeland, Florida

Largo, Florida

Longwood, Florida

Lutz, Florida

Miami, Florida

Naples, Florida

New Smyrna Beach, Florida

North Miami Beach, Florida

Ocala, Florida

Orlando, Florida

Pompano Beach, Florida(3 reports)

Port Charlotte, Florida

Ruskin, Florida

Saint Cloud, Florida

Sarasota, Florida(2 reports)

Sebring, Florida

Seffner, Florida(2 reports)

Sugarloaf Shores, Florida

Summerland Key, Florida

Tampa, Florida

Tavares, Florida

Tavernier, Florida

Umatilla, Florida

Vero Beach, Florida

West Palm Beach, Florida

Winter Springs, Florida

Lilburn, Georgia

Willacoochee, Georgia

Kihei, Hawaii

Mount Vernon, Illinois

Cumberland, Maryland

Hagerstown, Maryland

Canton, Mississippi

Whiting, New Jersey

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Grenoble, Rhône-Alpes

Beaufort, South Carolina

Bluffton, South Carolina

Conway, South Carolina

Loris, South Carolina

Abilene, Texas

Alice, Texas

Austin, Texas

Broaddus, Texas

Freeport, Texas

Houston, Texas

Plano, Texas

Port Isabel, Texas

Richardson, Texas

San Antonio, Texas

Weatherford, Texas

Aberdeen, Washington

Bellingham, Washington

Sequim, Washington

Appleton, Wisconsin

show all

Gardeners' Notes:


On Nov 2, 2017, lafemmekatia from Loris, SC (Zone 8b) wrote:

I have just recently received a baby Tradescantia and I love it. The person who gifted it to me grew it from a cutting and it was Rooted in water. I potted it with commercial “cactus and succulent” soil, it’s what I had.
It’s two weeks later and every morning for three days, I find little white fuzz along the edges of the leaves. Just the edges. I washed it off of course.
I would send a photo but I don’t know how.
It does not look like a living creature, it has no legs, etc.
It looks like tiny flecks of chalk.


On Mar 9, 2017, fixerupper from Pompano Beach, FL wrote:

I suppose if you ignore this plant for a few years it might get out of control, but it's not as quickly invasive as other types of plants, like vines. Mine popped up from a neighbors little patch. After a couple years I decided to move them to a confined shady area to see how they do. I love the purple. Hopefully they do well there and continue to be slow growing.

Luckily, I don't seem to be allergic to this plant.


On Mar 16, 2016, coriaceous from ROSLINDALE, MA wrote:

Many of the comments describe a very common sterile dwarf cultivar. The species typically grows 12-18" tall and has leaves 6-12" long. At least in Florida, the dwarf cultivar is the more common landscaping plant. Because it is sterile, the dwarf is not a serious threat to natural habitat as the species can be, and it makes a great groundcover. Its rapid spread means it's not a good neighbor in a mixed planting.

The white flowers aren't ornamentally significant, as they're hidden beneath the foliage. Pink-flowered plants are T. pallida 'Purple Heart'.

All forms need good drainage, and do better with less water in winter---it's semi-succulent.

In a garden I worked on in West Palm Beach, FL, I found seedlings springing up all over the place, often ... read more


On Nov 16, 2015, Topiary21 from Isfield, East Sussex,
United Kingdom wrote:

Found this site when searching to identity a house plant. Having grown it on from an offshoot it formed a beautiful and easy to care for plant. If living in Southern England ....give it maximum light but probably not too much direct sunshine.
I recently entered it in the village Horticulture Show ...Class ,Interesting Indoor Plant
And gained First Place!!!! Am grateful to read here that it can cause skin rashes on humans and dogs ,useful knowledge.


On May 13, 2015, rakedeadmon from Desert Hot Springs, CA wrote:

We live in the Coachella Valley. This is a part of the hot arid Sonoran Desert. 3 years ago we planted Trandescantia spathacea or Moses-in-a-basket because my wife liked it. We knew nothing about it and didn't know if it would grow here. It was planted under a pygmy palm and against a block wall with too much shade. For a year and half it got too much water and we ignored it. It lived thru the winter and summer. Recently, I admired it for it's determination to live so decided to learn more about it and encourage it. We now keep it drier and give it more light and it is now even more attractive than ever.


On Apr 6, 2015, Brymo from Auckland,
New Zealand wrote:

Auckland, New Zealand, zone 9b/10. Saw this plant groing in someone's yard and loved it. So planted a small one in the garden. It kind of just sat there over winter but once the weather warmed up it started to take off, and now I am thinking it's going to need a bit of control before too long to stop it taking over. Various websites say it only grows a foot tall, but it seems to be about double that, it's loving our climate.


On Jun 25, 2014, BebeHall from Alger, WA wrote:

I received this plant from my dad, he split his own. I am growing it inside because it rains way to much for this delicate baby here in western Washington. Out of all my plants it is my favorite. I enjoy the changing colors and have become emotionally attached. I am sad to hear that some dogs are allergic. I have a friend with two dogs asking for a start. thanks for the info! I'll pass it along.


On Sep 3, 2012, Jchilds2 from Southeast Arcadia, FL wrote:

Beautiful plant. Became became apparent I was clearing brush. Beautiful plant. Came up in s/w FL - Arcadia, FL.

Soo cool. Green top, purple bottom w/with tiny little white flowers. & purple pods. HAd I tried to grow this myself it would have croaked.


On Jan 22, 2012, Jungleman from Pasadena, CA (Zone 9b) wrote:

I wondered why I hadn't seen this beautiful plant in Southern California gardens. Now I know. I bought three at a big box and planted them in an area that gets partial sun, even in the winter. I was careful not to water overhead, and kept them moist. They lasted for a while, but the minute we had a very light frost, they began to decline. The weather warmed up, and they continued to decline. Sunset listed them as being a tough plant, but that has not been my experience here in Pasadena (21 Sunset, 9a USDA). I think the soil in California may be too heavy, though this plant might be okay in beachside communities here. I don't know if they are dead to the roots yet. I'm leaving them in situ.


On Aug 11, 2011, leannemck from brisbane,
Australia wrote:

While I love this plant for its clumping ability, and thus it will cover a large area with time, I am severely allergic to the plant and have been advised to completely coverup when gardening.
Wherever the plant touched my skin a break out in a raised reddened area. Even more weird - I also get these red itchy patches where I haven't had direct contact, but only after direct contact. For example, today I purposely rubbed the plant on my forearm as a test and came out in a red rash at that spot, but also on my upper thigh.
I'm highly amused to read that dogs commonly are allergic to this plant.


On Oct 10, 2010, katz301 from Hagerstown, MD wrote:

I bought this plant for the purple color and pretty pink blossoms but did know much about it. Planted it in a large pot by the walkway and have enjoyed it. I have a dashund that has been to the vets several times over the past few months with sores from scratching on his stomach & back. The Dr. knows he has an allergy & asummed it was from the yard grass. He has been on steroids, antibiotics, creams, twice in 3 mos. He's fine in the front yard. After hundreds of dollars & reading this I do think I know now what his allergy is from. Thank you so much.


On Oct 3, 2010, Miamigardner from Miami, FL wrote:

Extremely aggressive. Taking over my garden, although I had it pulled out about a year ago. It has reseeded itself and continues to grow from the rhizomes left behind. I am in the process of doing the job myself and taking out the rhizomes and as much of the roots as possible. It is very difficult to get all the little seedlings carpeting the ground. The worst part is that it seems that I am allergic to the plant. I developed a rash similar to poison ivy. I know what poison ivy looks like and do not have any in the area where I have been clearing up the oyster plant. I have no dogs, which I understand to actually be allergic to this plant. I had this problem before and that was the reason why I hired workers to clear this pest. Has anyone heard of contact dermatitis from oyster p... read more


On Jul 3, 2009, WillowWasp from Jones Creek, TX (Zone 9a) wrote:

I haven't had this one long enough to make any judgments as to how my experience is. I can see for reading the other comments it could be a problem. Since I have dogs and it can become invasive I will keep it in pots and see how it does. I may change my notes on this later.


On Feb 2, 2008, BayAreaTropics from Hayward, CA wrote:

This is a tricky to maintain plant. Left in a pot in the winter here in the bay area is almost sure death for the Variegated Moses,hard,but not as hard on the plain species. Kept outside under shelter is best. Slug and snail favorite.


On Dec 30, 2007, Blackthumb25 from Lincoln, NE wrote:

I think this is a lovely houseplant here in Nebraska. I received it as a college graduation gift from my great-Aunt. It was originally my great-grandmother's. My only problem is that the shape has really changed since I've had it. It's gone from more compact and bushy to very spread out. Does anyone know of a way to prune it maybe to get it back to the compact fullness that is so pretty with the purple leaves?


On Sep 9, 2007, ckvohden from Kailua Kona, HI wrote:

We live in Kailua-Kona, HI and the plant does very well here. Unfortunately we have dogs and they have developed a terrible rash that only steriods help. As I post, we are removing the Oyster plants. Be safe and don't use these plants if you have dogs, the rash symptoms are terrible and causes pain to the dog as it scratces itself raw until they are bleeding.


On Sep 4, 2007, MatrixMerlin from Naples, FL wrote:

I have 2 dogs who liked to lay in this cause it stays cool.
They both develop terrible rashes on their paws and belly that is hard to cure. Only with shots and benedryl.


On Aug 30, 2007, zelskid from Pompano Beach, FL wrote:

I have been researching this plant. It grows in various locations on my property. I have allowed it to run free and it is spreading everywhere. . I find it quite attractive as a ground cover. It is almost totally weedfree and highly drought resistant. I am trying to water minimally and certain plants fit well into my scheme. Sorry if it's invasive, but I love this plant for my South Florida property.


On Aug 20, 2007, staceysmom from (GayLynn) Appleton, WI (Zone 5a) wrote:

I have the varigated oyster plant. Love it! I grow it as a houseplant obviously since I am so far north. It loves to be outside in full shade during the summer months and really grows quite well during that time. Mine has never flowered. Very pretty plant.


On Mar 24, 2007, plant_friend from Fort Lauderdale, FL wrote:

For many years I thought that the oyster plant was a harmless plant that provided good ground cover along fences in Florida. Recently my dog, I discovered, has developed a horrible allergy to this plant. Her underside breaks out in a rash which is hard to control. After a week long regimen of benadryl and steroids the itchy rash subsides, but the steroids cause other complications (uncontrollable urinating and an increased appetite). And then if we are unlucky enough, she manages to get into the plants again while playing with the neighborhood squirrels.

I do not recommend this plant in any yard that has house pets that like to travel along the fence where the plant likes to grow. The plant has juices that can cause burning and itching to human skin as well.


On Oct 22, 2006, easter0794 from Seffner, FL wrote:

I have the dwarf variety of this oyster plant. It is not invasive and is a great border plant. It says where I put it and doesn't pop up in unwanted areas. It has filled in nicely after about 5 years.


On Oct 22, 2006, Lady_fern from Jeffersonville, IN (Zone 6a) wrote:

I grow this as a houseplant up here in Indiana. When I put it outside for the summer, it really gets full and bushy and full of its little flowers. Mine is the purple variety, making a very nice accent wherever I put it. Surely growing it up here does not contribute to its invasive tendencies further south.


On Sep 15, 2006, Gina_Rose from Hollywood, FL (Zone 10b) wrote:

I see this plant far too often to find it pretty... It pops up everywhere here if there is another oyster plant nearby. There are pups completely covering the ground in some of my beds, whether it be in shade or in sun. If they had blooms like bromeliads, I might change my mind about the plant. :)
As it is, the white blooms are hardly noticeable, and now that I know it spreads by seeds I find them even less appealing! Please show sympathy for Floridians by taking some home with you after you've visited us.


On Jul 20, 2006, crabbygirl from Sequim, WA wrote:

I received a small piece of this plant from a friend. I put it in soil mixed with orchid bark and it lives inside in a pot next to the kitchen sink. It is very interesting and seems to be very happy. When I look at this plant it reminds me of some weird type of orchid.


On May 17, 2006, amyl411 from Rancho Cucamonga, CA wrote:

I am in southern California (zone 8) for about 6 months and it didn't do well outside. It gets up to 115 here in the summers and the air is dry the majority of the time. The leaves burned or shriveled up even in the shade. The stems were starting to shrivel also. Zero growth even with reg watering. But after reading this forum, I moved it inside to the bathroom where it thrives in the humidity. I keep it on the bathroom sill where it gets very strong CA sun. Now it has grown significanly in only two weeks. It sprouts new leaves almost everyday! Green leaves slowly turn to a deep purple. The "spray" of the leaves reminds me of the Spider plant which I adore. Two plants have now sprouted into four. I read somewhere that they love to be rootbound so I won't disturb it for a long time. I nearl... read more


On Aug 3, 2005, Stuber from Fernandina Beach, FL wrote:

I have to say I like this very attractive and "well groomed looking" plant, but can tell in the few seasons I've grown this species there is the distinct possibility it could become invasive as far north as extreme north Florida (8b-9a). Mine is well contained within concrete barriers and wooden fences, but it does quite fine here hard on the Georgia state line -- even in shady and damp conditions. It spreads nicely, but not aggressively in a fairly low light situation. I can only imagine what it might do in the hot, dry climate it apparently prefers. A couple of severe freezes (multiple nights in the low to mid 20's) here in N. Florida only knocked it down a bit --- it came roaring right back in the spring from the roots. Thanks to all who warned about it aggressive tendencies.


On Jan 6, 2005, NativePlantFan9 from Boca Raton, FL (Zone 10a) wrote:

Boatlily, Moses-in-the-Cradle or Moses-in-the-Basket or Oyster Plant (Tradescantia spathacea) is highly invasive in the U.S. in disturbed areas, coastal strand, vacant lots, around old buildings as well as in very many natural habitats in central and southern Florida from zone 9a south along both coasts through the Keys, Bahamas, and parts of the Caribbean, where it also is invasive in some or many areas. It is fast-growing, propagates by underground roots and runners (also often by seed), and quickly invades and colonizes disturbed sites such as around old or abandoned buildings, in the cracks of sidewalks and concrete, and in vacant, weedy or undeveloped lots as well as very often in parks, nature preserves and natural habitats, crowding out other low native groundcovering vegetation and... read more


On May 29, 2004, nanawaters from Anniston, AL wrote:

I got this plant from my husband's great aunt(she's 86)and together we have supplied the family with pieces of it. It's a wonderful potted plant around here. I've been afraid to plant it out in the ground myself for fear of losing it. The City of Anniston planted it last year in the median of one of the main throughfares and around the entrance of one of the city buildings. I couldn't believe they came up with this plant when usually it was some other everyday plant for this area. I wanted to go and ask for them during the fall because they dug them up and I haven't seen them since. So who knows where they are now. I put one of the plants in the house every winter and the rest of mine are in the greenhouse. They are such a pretty plant to have indoors during the dead of winter.


On Apr 24, 2004, cottontail from Oklahoma City, OK wrote:

I like this plant. I grow it in pots, because it must come in before frost here in zone 7..
I have hd it blister my arms with a newly broken leaf...
This year I am havinf problems with Squirrels ating the darn thing! I have had this pkant for 5years, and there is not much left of it now, never had this problem before!! Any one else??


On Aug 8, 2003, suncatcheracres from Old Town, FL wrote:

This is one tough plant! In St. Petersburg, Florida you can often find it growing at abandoned or boarded up businesses, like an old service station for sale, or a building waiting to be torn down, where the plants can live for years surrounded by concrete, just on rainwater.

In a regular garden it makes a very attrractive and colorful groundcover for a sunny spot, which can be a difficult situation in such a hot climate. I didn't realize that it would grow up here in Northcentral Florida, zone 8b, so I am going to give this old favorite of mine a try, probably as a groundcover under white crepe myrtles, along with some blue agave, out by my gate to the dirt road--probably the most difficult situation on my property, because it gets hot noon-day sun, and car fumes and whit... read more


On Aug 7, 2003, MotherNature4 from Bartow, FL (Zone 9a) wrote:

Though this plant was formerly listed on the Exotic Pest Plant list in Florida, it is not found listed on either category of the 2003 list. It is a good ground cover where many other things won't grow.


On Aug 7, 2003, ranch45 from Interlachen, FL wrote:

LOL ~ Good answer!!

Loosely translated, Sanchezia says that in Mexico, the plant is used to cure wounds or infections; the juice from the leaves are used to disinfect.

Yes the plant can become invasive, however, it really is pretty and quite hardy! Here in Northern Florida, we get a few hard freezes but the plant comes back in the spring.


On May 31, 2003, vince from Bilbao,
Spain (Zone 9a) wrote:

Invade me!!!


On Apr 16, 2003, Myrsine wrote:

I live near the coast of SW Florida. After planting quite a few Oyster Plants outside my home I discovered, via The Native Plant Society, that this plant is highly invasive in Florida, propagating by spreading and by air-carried seed to places far from the original plant. As it spreads it covers the ground thickly and prevents other tree and native plant shoots from coming up. If you live in FL please take this seriously.


On Apr 3, 2003, Sanchezia from Coatzacoalcos,
Mexico wrote:

esta planta es muy apreciada en el sur de Mexico por sus virtudes como curativa. En México es conocida con el nombre de Maguey morado y es utilizada en cataplasmas para curar heridas o infecciones. El jugo de sus hojas asadas es utilizado para desinfectar. Yo considero que además de ser curativa es una planta bella por su color y la rareza de sus "espatas". En ¨México esta planta es reproducida por vástagos y no por hojas, y yo considero que crece mejor en sombra brillante o a la media sombra.


On Dec 16, 2002, Chamma from Tennille, GA (Zone 8b) wrote:

I divide my rhoeo by tranplanting the suckers...I have never heard of propogation by leaf cuttings but could be worth a try!


On Jun 16, 2002, tzflyboy wrote:

I recvd a small portion of this plant from a nearly dead mother plant which was left for several weeks in a home w/ no water. Very hardy plant as we still found green on this otherwise dried out husk. Not knowing at the time what type of plant it was, I placed this small green leaf in water to root. This plant took off, rooting after a week or so, and continues to be a welcome addition to our home nearly two years later. Seeds may be harvested by plucking the pods and allowing them to completely dry out. Seeds sown in soil will begin new plants. You may also propogate by allowing leaf cuttings to root. Very hearty and easy to grow!


On Aug 13, 2001, Trish from Jacksonville, TX (Zone 8b) wrote:

Stems to 8in high. Leaf tufts frow to 6-12in. wide, with a dozen or so broad, sword-shaped, rather erect leaves that are dark green above and deep purple underneath. Flowers are interesting rather than beautiful; the small, white, three-petaled blooms are crowded into boat-shaped bracts borne down among leaves. Selection 'Variegata' has leaves stiped red and yellowish green.

Avoid overwatering; try to keep water out of leaf axils. Tough plant that takes high or low light intensity, casual watering, low humidity, and heat. Plant most often grown in pots or in hanging baskets; grown as ground cover and edging in Florida.