The soleirolia soleirolii (pronouned as so-lay-roll-ya) is best known for being an indoor plant, but makes a low maintenance alternative to grass and can act as effective ground cover. Other common names for the plant include paddy’s wig, irish moss, bread and cheese and babies’ tears.
Its spreading bun of densely packed leaves works well for ground cover amongst larger plants, in conservatory beds and also for simple arrangements. It is an evergreen perennial and grows quickly. The slender stems are green or pink, carrying small pink-white flowers during summer and tiny rounded leaves.
The origins of the soleirolia soleirolii are in the Mediterranean region. The plant is often seen growing in damp spots between rock cracks and paving stones.
The plant is easy to propagate and once established it can survive dry spells and recover well. It can be propagated by division, from spring through to the middle of summer. New plants are potted by digging out small sections and placing them in fresh compost pots. Keep moist and cool and the new plant will soon establish itself.
The plant comes from the urticaceae and it has two primary varieties, namely the aurea, which is one of the two colour variants and the variegata. Both will quickly revert to green, so to avoid this, cut away any plain green shoots as soon as they appear.
Keep the plants compact by exposing them to plenty of good light, but do avoid direct sun as it may scorch the foliage. Compost should be kept moist, as the foliage does rapidly turn brown if the plant is left to dry out. Remember that higher temperatures will require greater humidity. Control the plant growth by cutting it back or pulling out the shoots.The plant’s leaves are generally killed by winter frost, but do recover to grow back vigorously in the spring.
Did You Know?
Esprit Requien named the plant after recreational botanist Joseph-Francois Soleirol, since he used to collect it in Corsica.
Soleirolia soleirolii is often mistaken for moss, but it is actually herbaceous. Interestingly, though, it is often used as a substitute for moss in Japanese gardens.