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How to Grow Moses-In-A-Cradle — Rhoeo

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Rhoeo–commonly called Moses-in-a-cradle–is a small evergreen perennial native to Mexico. It has lance-shaped leaves that are colorfully two-toned, dark green on top, and iridescent purple underneath.

Rhoeo thrives in regular potting soil. Keep the soil moist but not soggy. During winter allow the top half-inch of soil to dry out between waterings.

Rhoeo is commonly listed as Tradescantia spathacea.

Get to know Rhoeo

  • Plant type: Tropical evergreen perennial
  • Growing Zones and range: 9-11
  • Optimal growing temperature: Prefers cool night of 50°-55°F (10°-13°C) and daytime temperatures of 65°-70°F (18°-21°C)
  • Light: Bright sun, filtered light, or deep shade
  • Height and width: 6”- 1’ tall
  • Foliage: Clusters of long sword-shape leaves along a thick stem up to 8” long; leaves are dark teal-tinged deep green on the top and rich violet below. Leaves grow from a mounded rosette to 1 foot (30cm) tall.
  • Flowers: Small white three-petaled flowers are hidden in boat-shape purple bracts
  • Bloom time: Year-round blooms
  • Uses: Houseplant, groundcover in warm-winter regions
  • Common name: Moses-In-A-Boat, Moses-in-the cradle, Moses-in-the-bulrushes, man-in-a-boat, boat-lily, oyster plant
  • Botanical name: Rhoeo spathacea (syn. Trandescantia spathacea)
  • Family: Commelinaceae
  • Origin: Brazil, Guatemala, Southern Mexico

Where to plant Rhoeo

  • Rhoeo will grow in bright sun to deep shade.
  • Grow Rhoeo in all-purpose potting mix or soil rich in organic matter but will grow in sandy soil
Moses-In-A-Boat, Tradescantia spathacea
Moses-In-A-Boat, Rhoeo

How to water and feed Rhoeo

  • Keep the soil just moist for Rhoeo. Allow the soil to just dry between waterings.
  • Fertilize Rhoeo twice a month in spring and summer.

Rhoeo care

  • Give plants extra humidity by placing the container on a tray with pebbles and water.
  • Repot Rhoeo only when the plant is crowded in its container.
  • Too little light will make the plant lanky and not as colorful; move the plant to a brighter spot.
  • When older plants begin to look shabby, start new plants.

Growing Rhoeo as a houseplant

  • Rhoeo needs bright light, an average room temperature, and medium to high humidity.
  • The soil should be allowed to dry between watrerings.
  • Fertilizer can be applied regularly in spring and summer.

Rhoeo pests and diseases

  • Rhoeo is susceptible to mealybugs and spider mites.

Rhoeo propagation

  • Take Rhoeo offsets or divide at any time or remove and repot seedlings that appear in the pot.

Rhoeo varieties to grow

  • Rhoeo is sometimes listed as Tradescantia spathacea.
  • ‘Variegata’ leaves are striped with pale yellow.

Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. has more than 10 million visitors each year.

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