Tradescantia Spathacea: Boat Lily Plant Care

Key Takeaways

  • Tradescantia spathacea is also known as Rhoeo spathacea and is commonly known as an oyster plant, boat lily, or Moses-in-the-Cradle plant.
  • It is a harder plant and with its purple and green hues, it makes a great landscaping plant.
  • Boat lily plants are easy to care for:
    • Water them when the soil is dry.
    • Plant them in an area that has indirect sunlight for most of the day.
    • They thrive in temperatures between 55 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Make sure when watering that any excess water can drain away or through drainage holes if you have them in a pot.

If you want a beautiful ornamental houseplant but don’t have a green thumb, Tradescantia spathacea, also known as Rhoeo Spathacea, is an excellent choice.

The oyster plant, boat lily, or Moses-in-the-Cradle are other common names for this plant.

Because of its attractive foliage and flowers that bloom throughout the year, Tradescantia spathacea is a wonderful indoor and outdoor plant to have.

The trailing plant makes a lovely houseplant, as it looks great in hanging baskets, windowsill baskets, pots, and along shelves.

Alternatively, oyster plants are a popular ground cover choice for outdoor areas.

They are easy to grow in clumps of foliage and are a beautiful addition to rock gardens and borders.

However, you’ll have to be careful because it is so good at covering the ground, it can sometimes spread to other parts of the landscaping garden and become invasive.

Key Features of the Boat Lily Plant

Sun ExposureFull sun or Partial Shade
Moisture Requirements Moist
SoilLoamy(Silt) Rocky, Well drained
Soil pH Level Acidic, Neutral
Life Cycle Perennial
Bloom TimeSeasonal
USDA Zones9-11
Bloom CharacteristicsTiny white flowers are borne down between two boat-shaped purple bracts.
Bloom ColorWhite, pink
Maximum Height45 cms
PropagationBy seeds, cuttings, and division of the clumps
ToxicToxic to animals and humans

Blooming Flowers of the Oyster Plant


The oyster plant is an evergreen perennial that grows in groups. Its leaves are more well-known than its flowers.

The tiny white flowers, which are tucked away in boat-shaped purple bracts, are barely visible.

The three-petaled flower appears to be a tiny pearl tucked away within the bracts of this plant.

The plant’s well-known names, Moses-in-the-cradle and oyster plant, are derived from the arrangement of its blooms and bracts on the plant’s stem.

The long, lance-shaped, and fleshy dark green leaves have a purplish underside and are long and lance-shaped.

It can be hard to tell which types of plants have variegated leaves and which have solid leaves, so we’re going to show you how to tell them apart.

How to Care for Tradescantia Spathacea Plants

Tradescantia spathacea is a plant species that is easy to care for, making it a wonderful and pleasant plant to keep and grow indoors or outdoors.

There aren’t many problems or diseases that can affect its growth.

You should, however, keep an eye out for common pests such as mealy bugs, scale, spider mites, and whiteflies, among others.

The following is a basic guide to help you care for your oyster plants so that they thrive. 

Growing Season

Tradescantia spathacea is a spectacular plant that grows all year, from early spring to fall, and is distinguished by glossy green leaves with purple undersides.

It has been known to bloom in the summer, but it does not usually bloom until late autumn.

As a result, it is one of the most popular houseplants on the market today.

However, when the weather turns cold, the plant goes dormant. When the temperatures begin to rise in late spring, it begins to grow again.

The plant will be able to bloom again as long as there are no frosts during this time. The main issue is that if you do not water them on a regular basis, the roots dry out and die.

To keep the plant alive during the winter, water it at least twice a week, depending on how cold it is outside and whether the soil is dry.

If you have a container with drainage holes, the best way to use it is to fill it with pebbles to allow excess water to drain.

If you live in a climate where winter lasts for months, you may need to bring your plants inside every now and then to avoid any frost damage.



In bright indirect light, the oyster plant thrives. It can even survive in direct sunlight, but it must be protected from direct sunlight at noon.

Because the leaves of this plant are extremely heat sensitive, they will turn yellow if exposed to high temperatures.

You should also avoid placing it near windows or other sources of direct sunlight, as this may cause the roots to overheat.

It will continue to grow in the shade, but the foliage will lose its vibrancy and the leaves will begin to droop.

Water your plants regularly in the morning or afternoon to avoid droopy leaves. This aids in keeping the root system at a constant temperature.

Even if the weather is hot outside, it is best to do so because the soil around the base of the plant’s stem can quickly dry out.

Finally, to maintain a healthy growth rate during the summer months when there is little rainfall, water your plants on a regular basis.


Watering Tradescantia spathacea is a crucial part of its maintenance. It’s critical to keep the soil moist but not soggy.

This will aid the plant’s growth and strength. The plant may develop root rot if the soil is too wet, which can be fatal.

The plant may not be able to absorb enough water if the soil is too dry, and it may die. Only water what is necessary, and then check the moisture level in the soil to see if your plants require additional water.

If you live in a drought-prone area, such as California, make sure you adjust your watering schedule accordingly.

It’s very easy to overwater an established oyster plant because it’s drought-resistant.

Only water it when the top 2 inches of the soil feels dry during its growing season (Spring, Summer, and Fall).

Lightly mist the plant every two weeks from late fall to late winter. Lastly, obviously, don’t underwater your plants!

If your plants are becoming limp, reduce the amount of water you give them. If they’ve started to wilt, water them more frequently.

Soil and Fertilizer

For your oyster plant, you can use either sandy loam or succulent soil. These plants prefer acidic to neutral pH, well-draining, fertile soil.

If you’re planting them in containers indoors, use any potting soil that has been mixed with perlite.

While the plants are actively growing, such as in the Spring and Summer, feed them with a water-soluble houseplant fertilizer to encourage more vigorous growth.

However, too much fertilizer will cause the leaves to turn brown at the tips, so be cautious.

The best time to feed them is when they begin to show signs of stress, such as yellowing leaves.

This means that how much fertilizer you use is determined by how quickly your plants grow.

It’s possible that you’ll have to experiment until you figure out what works best for you.

If you’re not sure, use half-strength fertilizer every two weeks rather than full-strength every week.



Temperatures between 55 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit are ideal for this Tradescantia spathacea.

Your oyster plant will not survive the winter. Temperatures below 50 degrees Fahrenheit can cause the roots to become too cold and die.

Throughout the winter, keep an eye on them to see if any roots have died back or appear weak. When they do, relocate them to a warmer environment until spring.

Tradescantia spathacea, on the other hand, cannot tolerate direct sunlight and should be brought into the shade when temperatures begin to rise.

It’s possible that the leaves will turn yellow and fall off prematurely. This indicates that the heat has harmed the root system.


When the atmosphere is humid, Tradescantia spathacea thrives.

Although the plant can tolerate dry conditions, it thrives in a moist environment with moderate temperatures and consistent humidity levels all year round.

During periods of drought, it should be watered on a regular basis to avoid wilting or yellowing leaves.

Plant them outdoors with other plants to increase humidity. Indoors, a humidifier can be used or placed in the bathroom if there is adequate sunlight.

Placing a dish with pebbles and water under the pot is another simple way to increase humidity.

Excess moisture from your watering solution will collect on top of the stones instead of evaporating into thin air.

You might also want to put a small fan near the pots to keep them from getting too hot while still allowing enough airflow for proper ventilation.


During the growing season, prune the leaves of your Tradescantia Spathacea on a regular basis to keep them looking bushy.

By removing old foliage from the base of each leaf, pruning promotes new growth at the base of each leaf.

When you notice signs of yellow or brown spots in the center of the stem, you can perform this procedure immediately.

Any branches that have fallen over due to disease or insects should be removed as soon as possible so that they do not rot in the ground.

However, you must exercise extreme caution because the houseplant is toxic and can cause severe skin irritation, as well as, in rare cases, severe pain in the mouth if it is consumed.

Do not handle it with your bare hands, as you would if you were dealing with other plants.

Wearing gloves and a sharp knife or pair of garden shears is recommended when pruning your Tradescantia spathacea.

If you’re looking for a pair of shears, we highly suggest looking at some of these pruning shears. They are not expensive, and they will be easy on your hands when pruning your plants.



Take stem cuttings from a mother plant and root them in either water or soil to propagate Tradescantia spathacea.

Just after the plant has stopped blooming and while there are still some healthy leaves on the stem, it is the perfect time to take a cutting from it.

If you are paying close attention, you will keep an eye out for new plant shoots towards the base of the plant.

Wait for these shoots to reach a height of at least 4 inches before gently plucking them from the ground together with the root system.

For best results, a container that is one size larger than the root ball should be used to plant these stem cuttings, along with their roots.

Sprinkle rooting hormone powder on the cut end of the stem after it has been cut. Insert the stem cutting into a moist growing medium, such as soil or vermiculite, and allow it to soak for several hours.

Soak the cuttings in the water and place them in a warm, sunny position until they begin to grow roots.

Finally, one of the most critical considerations is the time of year in which you reproduce the plant.

If you are propagating Tradescantia Spathacea, you should do so in the spring when the temperatures are warm enough to favor growth but not so hot that the plants are stressed.

For more information on propagating Tradescantia plants, read more:


Tradescantia Spathacea plants are relatively resistant to insect infestations. Aphids are the only insects that could pose a threat to your garden’s health.

Aphids are microscopic insects that feed on the leaves of plants and can be found anywhere.

If you don’t take care of them, they can become a nuisance to your plants and can cause harm to your garden if left unattended.

Aphids have the ability to deplete a plant’s nutritional reserves, causing it to become sick.

Spraying your plants with an insecticide that is certified for use against aphids will help to keep them away from your flowers and plants.

You should also make sure to remove any dead or dying plants as soon as possible so new growth isn’t affected by pests.  


Tradescantia Spathaceaplants are not vulnerable to many diseases, but there are a few that can be harmful to their growth and development.

Leaf spot is the only disease that has been identified as attacking them. Small dots appear on the leaves as a result of this illness.

The disease can be extremely difficult to eradicate because it can spread from plant to plant or through the water.

So it is best to prevent it from happening in the first place.

If you find that your oyster plants are showing symptoms of leaf spot, it is important to treat the infected leaves with a fungicide that has been designated for the treatment of leaf spot.

Neem oil will do the trick if used correctly. It should not be sprayed directly onto the leaves; instead, Neem oil should be mixed into a solution and then applied by misting.


How do you take care of Tradescantia Spathacea?

To take care of a Tradescantia Spathacea (or Moses In the Cradle), Provide indirect, bright light for your oyster plant in order to maintain its vibrant hues. However, the hues may fade to green if the scene is under less lighting. It is time to water your oyster plant when the top half of the soil is dry. Completely soak the plant until you see water draining out of the drainage hole.

Does Tradescantia Spathacea like to be root bound?

Yes, the tradescantia Spathacea prefers to be root bound. Therefore, they must be repotted every two to three years in the spring, or else they will eventually suffocate and stunt the growth of the plant. You should repot your plants when you see signs of bound roots, like roots shooting out of the drainage hole. This means that they need a bigger container.

Is Tradescantia Spathacea a succulent?

Yes, Tradescantia Spathacea is a succulent. It is a perennial evergreen succulent, commercially grown as groundcover for rock gardens, bedding, and tropical gardens. Indoors, it blooms beautiful purple and green foliage that adds color to any home decor.

Other Tradescantia Plants (Wandering Jew plants) to Consider

If you’re looking for a houseplant or some landscaping plants, there are other varieties of Tradescantia to consider. Wandering Jew plants are a great choice for indoors as houseplants or outdoors as groundcovers. Other types of Tradescantia plants to consider are listed below.


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