Proven Tips to Grow and Care for Moses in the Cradle

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If you’re looking for a plant that can turn heads in your hanging baskets, then Moses in the Cradle may just be the plant for you. Of course, you could also use other trailing plants such as the string of turtles but Moses plant seems to be typically trouble-free.

Besides, the plant has earned its place among plant collectors and houseplant enthusiasts alike. This is because it’s pretty dynamic when it comes to uses.

For instance, if your climate allows, you can add a nice tropical flair to your outdoor container plantings, and use it as a groundcover, or edging plant.

If you ask me, those are the traits I look for in a plant to add to my collection. Therefore, if you’re anything like me you do too.

That’s why in today’s guide, I will share everything you need to know to grow and care for Moses in the Cradle plant – and have the best-looking plant possible.

Let’s begin:

Moses in the Cradle Description

Moses in the Cradle (Tradescantia spathacea) is a herbaceous perennial, also known as ‘Oyster Plant’, 'Moses in a Basket', or ‘Boat Lily’. The plant belongs to the genus Tradescantia and has thick, glossy, and sword-shaped succulent-like leaves with purple undersides.

It has unusual flowers and attractive foliage. The blooms are white flowers that look like boats, hence the alternative name ‘boat lily’. The bract-enclosed flowers distinguish Moses plant from the other bromeliads.

Its leaves grow in an alternating pattern on upright stems.

Plant Profile at a Glance

Scientific Name: Tradescantia spathacea

Common Names: Moses in the Cradle, Boat Lily, Moses in a Basket, or Oyster Plant

Family: Commelinaceae

Genus: Tradescantia

Type: Flowering Herbaceous Perennial

Height: 6-12 inches (15-30 cm)

Width: 10-20 inches (25-50 cm)

Hardiness Zone: 8-11

Flowering: Produces white flowers inside pair of boat-shaped bracts

Light Requirements: Partial Sun to Shade

Water Requirements: Medium Water

Soil Requirements: Well-draining, fertile

Is Moses in the Cradle Toxic?

It is important to note that Moses in the Cradle plant is toxic, especially if you have children or pets. The sap can be irritating for both humans and animals or cause contact dermatitis, so it’s best to keep them away from this plant.

Alternatively, spray them with Bodhi Dog Bitter Lemon Spray which is effective in discouraging your pets from chewing on the plants - but this is only effective as far as pets are concerned.

Common Types of Moses in the Cradle

Tradescantia spathacea ‘Sitara’s Gold'

Tradescantia spathacea ‘Sitara’s Gold'

Aside from Tradescantia spathacea itself, there are three more common varieties of Moses in the cradle. These are;

  • Golden Oyster (Tradescantia spathacea ‘Sitara’s Gold') - The coppery-gold leaves have deep burgundy undersides and form rosettes creating a full specimen with ease.
  • Tricolor (Tradescantia spathacea 'Tricolor') - This cultivar has three-toned leaves of pink, green, and cream shades. Also referred to as 'variegata' in the market.
  • Vittata (Tradescantia spathacea 'Vittata'). Yellow-striped green leaves, sometimes with a reddish tinge.

How to Propagate Moses in the Cradle

The best way to propagate Moses in the Cradle is by division from a mature plant or from stem cuttings.

For division, carefully remove the parent plant from its pot and separate it into sections. Each section should have at least two sets of leaves - this will help ensure that it can successfully grow into a mature plant.

For stem cuttings, you’ll need to take a cutting from the mother plant and place it in moist potting soil. Make sure the cutting has several nodes (the bumps on the stems where new roots and leaves come out). These nodes will help the cutting to root more easily.

How to Plant Indoors and Requirements

When planting Moses in the Cradle indoors, it is important to provide it with the right conditions. Here’s what you need:

Potting soil

Moses in the Cradle needs well-draining and fertile potting soil. A mixture of equal parts peat moss, perlite, and vermiculite works best for this plant.

Growing pots/containers

Choose a container that’s big enough to accommodate the mature size of the plant. Besides, select a pot that is wide and shallow, as this will provide the most space for the plant’s roots to grow and help it stay healthy. 

To avoid issues that arise from waterlogging, the chosen pot planter should also have drainage holes at the bottom.

Growing Location

You can grow this plant either indoors or outdoors. If you keep it outdoors in summer, provide it with afternoon shade otherwise the leaves will be scorched. This is only possible in zones 9 or higher where it forms a dense mat groundcover.

On the other hand, if you choose to grow it as a houseplant in containers, make sure to provide plenty of indirect sunlight failure to which it can grow tall and lanky.

Place the container plants on your patio and bring them inside when there is the threat of frost.

How to Care for Moses in the Cradle

Moses in the Cradle is a relatively easy plant to care for, but it’s important that you provide it with the right conditions and care if you want it to thrive. Here are some tips:

Watering the Plant

The plant thrives with regular watering, but keeping the soil too wet can encourage disease problems, such as root rot.

As a rule of thumb, always remember that potted plants tend to dry out more quickly than their in-ground counterparts. To determine whether your Oyster plant needs watering, poke your finger an inch into the soil to make sure it is dry below the surface.

Alternatively, there are inexpensive moisture sensors you can find at many hardware and home or online stores like Amazon that help you learn when a plant is dry.

It may also help to lift the plant in their containers to have a feel of the weight when dry. With time, this will be a reliable way to check if your plant needs watering.

After checking, water your plants thoroughly preferably early in the morning until water comes out of the drainage holes.

When the temperature drops as it does in winter, reduce watering significantly. 

You can learn more about watering potted plants by checking out this guide. In the guide, you'll learn about watering frequency, water quality, and quantity amongst other stuff.

Applying Fertilizers

It is usually not necessary to fertilize Moses in the Cradle very often.

You can, however, apply a liquid fertilizer about once every month during spring and summer months when the plants are actively growing. During that time, they need more energy and nutrients to produce new foliage and those beautiful blooms.

Avoid fertilizing in winter or when the plant is starting to go dormant. Doing this will only scorch the plant since the nutrients are no longer needed.

Light Quality and Intensity

This plant needs plenty of indirect sunlight. However, avoid exposing it to too much direct sunlight as this can cause sunburns on the foliage. Therefore, if you're growing it outdoors, screen it with a bit of shade for the best color.

On the other hand, if you're growing it indoors, place your plant near a window that receives lots of sunshine but make sure to provide it with some shade when the intensity is too high.

Temperature and Humidity

Moses in the Cradle does well in temperatures ranging between 60-85°F. Lucky for us, this plant is rather tolerant to heat and mild drought. Therefore, you can rest assured that it will survive in most homes environment.

Besides, boat lily will benefit from higher humidity levels. Hence, you should consider misting it regularly or grouping your houseplants together as this helps increase the humidity around them.

Alternatively, just get an indoor plant humidifier to help you with the chore. Here's a list of the best plant humidifiers.

Do check them out:


There are several reasons why pruning this plant is important. First, after a long dormant period like in Winter, pruning can spur new vibrant growth. This is especially important in Spring.

Second, you can prune to remove dead leaves and disease-infected plant parts to make them neat and healthy.

And lastly, pruning or pinching can help make the plant bushier - especially if it's looking tall and lanky due to insufficient light exposure.

When you choose to prune, make sure to use sharp shears or scissors when trimming and dispose of the cuttings properly.

Besides, you can remove spent blooms regularly to create space for new flowers.


You should consider repotting your plant every two years or when you notice roots growing out of the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot.

Make sure you choose a container that is wider and deeper than the old one with good drainage holes as this will give your Moses in the Cradle enough room to thrive and spread its roots.

Also, repotting helps keep the soil fresh since it has lost some of its nutrients over time. Plus, you get to keep soil-borne pathogens at bay.

Pests and Diseases Management

Moses in the Cradle is a relatively easy plant to care for as it does not usually suffer from pests or diseases. However, mealybugs, aphids, and spider mites can affect it if the environmental conditions are right.

To prevent any pest infestations, keep your plant healthy by providing it with good light, water, and nutrition.

If you notice pests on your plants, try to remove them manually or use a natural insecticide to get rid of them.

Common Problems to Watch Out For

If your Moses in a Basket has stopped growing and blooming, it could be an indication that you need to give it more light or repot it - the issue is almost always with the roots.

On the other hand, yellow leaves usually mean that there's too much water around the roots or a nutrient deficiency - mostly Nitrogen.

Lastly, wilting or drooping leaves could either be a sign of overfertilizing or underwatering your plant.


This is one of those plants that can add a great focal point to your landscape as well as add a tropical flair to your plantings.

Besides, it can be very forgiving to neglect. However, if you want to experience the beauty of those striking foliage, a little more work is required on your part. And that's what this post has been all about.

But as they say, very few things are without baggage - there's only one drawback of Moses in the Cradle plant: It naturalizes quite fast!

In fact, it's considered invasive in some areas - particularly central and southern Florida. So, check before you plant it outdoors.

Let me know your thoughts!

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