Tradescantia is named after John Tradescant senior, who was gardener to Charles I and collected the first tradescantia from Virginia in the USA. Spathacea refers to the spatula-like leaves. Its common names are Moses-in-the-cradle, Oyster Plant and Boat Lilly.
It is a stunning clump-forming perennial with a short, sturdy stem and a rosette of lance shaped, fleshy leaves of green colour on the upper surface and purple on the lower surface, up to one foot long. The tiny white flowers with three triangular petals each that are produced are enclosed in its boat-shaped bracts nestled in the leaf axils. The flowers bloom throughout the year.
Originating from Central America, this plant grows in full or partial sun with a minimum indoor temperature of 55°. It makes a wonderful plant to go on the windowsill.
In many parts of the world where it grows outside, such as South America, the Pacific islands and China, it is extremely invasive as its roots form small broken pieces of plant.
Young plants are readily available and should be planted so that the leaves start about two inches above the soil line.
It comes from the Commelinaceae – spiderwort family that contains 50 genera and 700 species.
- It is an easy grower and tolerates moist to fairly dry soil.
- It is not resistant to frosty conditions but can be re-grown from underground.
- It likes part shade to full sun and will do well in high humidity, especially in summer, its growing season.
- The plant should be fed weekly during spring and summer but watered sparingly in the wintertime.
- They multiply rapidly and the foliage should be cut back in the autumn.
Did You Know?
Foliage contact can irritate skin.
Its flowers are used for medical purposes in South China to treat such ailments as dysentery. It is considered an herb succulent.