Moses-in-the-Cradle - Tradescantia Spathacea


Tradescantia spathacea. Copyright: Crocus.co.uk



Contents

  1. Top Tips
  2. Location, Water, Humidity & Fertilisation
  3. Common Issues
  4. Origins, Temperature, Propagation, Repotting & Toxicity


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Top Tips & Info

  • Care Difficulty - Easy to Moderate
  • We recommend keeping your Moses-in-the-Cradle in a bright location, away from excessive direct sunlight or deep shade. Too much sunlight will increase the risk of sun-scorch, whereas the latter will result in leggy growth and weakened health.
  • Keep the soil evenly moist at all times, allowing the top two inches to dry between waters. Reduce the frequency of waters somewhat over the autumn and winter, ensuring it doesn't lead to dehydration. 
  • Fertilise using a 'Houseplant' labelled feed every four waters in the spring and summer, reducing this to every six in the colder months.
  • Repot every three years with a 'Houseplant' labelled potting mix; be sure to respect the roots as transplant shock is a big issue that could cause wilting, sudden leaf loss or even death.
  • Keep an eye out for Mealybugs that'll attack the juvenile growth of the plant.




Location & Light - 🔸🔸

To avoid elongated and leggy growth, be sure to provide a bright, indirect light away from excessively dark locations. Not only will the reduced rates of natural lighting cause an increased chance of root rot, but the loss of variegations (foliar patterns) dramatically increases.

Sunny locations should also be avoided; prolonged exposure to the sun or dry soil will result in pale leaves, stunted growth and crisping foliage. Remember, if it's too hot for a chocolate bar, it'll be too hot for the plant, too! The ideal location for Tradescantia is somewhere that boasts near overhead lighting - for example, a sill or bay windows. More than two metres from a light source could result in leggy internodes.


Water - 🔸🔸

Moses-in-the-Cradles craves moist soil. Once the pot begins to feel light when lifted, it's time for another water. Allow only the top two inches of the soil to dry between waters, reducing this somewhat in the colder months to replicate its dormancy. Be cautious when watering though, as wetting the foliage each time you come to hydrate the soil will allow excess moisture to settle, causing the leaves to yellow and rot away. Under-watering symptoms include crispy/curling leaves, a grey, washed-out appearance, yellowing leaves and a lack of new growth. These issues are commonly down to either too much heat/light forgetfulness. Dehydration is the number one issue among growers, so always keep an eye out for drying soil. Over-watering symptoms, on the other hand, include yellowing lower leaves, little to no growth and a rotting stem or leaves. Never allow a Tradescantia to endure long periods of soggy soil or a dark location as both will significantly increase the chance of over-watering and death. Finally, if you water your specimen from the top (over its foliage into the soil), be sure to blow the excess moisture from the leaves' cubbyholes to avert the risk of rotten foliage.


Humidity - 🔸🔸

Average humidity found in the home is more than enough to occupy this species. If the leaf-tips begin to brown over, it could be a sign of too low humidity; either finely mist the foliage weekly or introduce a humidity tray to keep life happy.


Fertilisation - 🔸🔸🔸

Fertilise every four waters during the growing period before reducing this to every six in the autumn & winter. Although an 'All-Purpose' fertiliser will still do the job, we'd recommend using a specific 'Houseplant' labelled fertiliser as it'll support the vital thirteen nutrients that this species will need to grow.




Common Issues with Moses-in-the-Cradle

A loss of variegations and leggy growth are caused by too little light. Although Tradescantia can be used in slightly dark areas, it'll come at the cost of the variegations. If you're not entirely bothered about this, simply skip this step. Move the plant into a brighter location to allow the patterns to re-develop on the new growth. Alternatively, extreme variegations that hinder the plant's green appearance is caused by too much sunlight.

Under-watering is the biggest issue. Typical signs of this include wilting, sunken and yellowed leaves and stunted growth. If the plant is in direct sunlight, relocate it to a slightly shadier area. Increase the number of waters, as Moses-in-the-Cradles tend to grow along moist forest floors that rarely promote droughts. As long as you keep an eye out for drying soil, success is inevitable.
Those situated in direct sunlight or within three metres of a radiator are most likely to suffer from this issue.

Too much sunlight will lead to sun scorch, with typical signs including browning or crispy leaves, dry leaf-edges, sunken leaves or stunted growth. Although too little light will cause over-watering issues, too much sunlight will be a detriment, too. If yours has fallen short of this, reduce the amount of the sun considerably and always be mindful of environmental shock (when two locations offer too different growing conditions). Remove some of the affected leaves and increase waters slightly.

Never situate it within four metres of an operating heat source, for instance, a heater or fireplace. Due to the heightened temperature, the plant will soak up far more moisture than those situated in cooler locations, increasing the chance of droughts and browning leaf-edges.

Root rot is another common issue. Typical symptoms include rapidly yellowing leaves, stunted growth and stem collapse. Those situated in darker locations and/or too-soggy soil are most likely to be hit with this issue. Take the plant out of the pot and inspect its root systems - if they sport a yellow appearance, you're okay, but if they're brown and mushy, action must be taken immediately. More information about addressing root rot can be found on this link.

Yellow central leaves are the result of excess moisture settling on the foliage, typically promoted by dark locations. Instead of pouring water directly onto the foliage, irrigate at the soil line by lifting the foliage at the side to prevent wetting the leaves.

Too-low humidity will cause the browning of leaf tips with yellow halos, commonly caused by nearby operating radiators. As dry air is a big issue among households during the colder months, introducing a humidity/pebble tray will help deter this issue, along with providing better growth. Although this won't help with the already-affected leaves, its new growth will look as good as new. The use of artificial humidifiers is only needed whilst the radiators are operating.




Origins

This species was first described in 1778 by Olof Peter Swartz, during a voyage to the Americas. The term, Tradescantia, was first penned by Carl Linnaeus who honoured the 17th century English father and son due of John Tradescant Snr. and John Tradescant Jnr. The latter went on three voyages to America, being of the first to bring live specimens of Tradescantia back to the UK in 1629. The specific epithet, 'Spathacea', refers to the loosely spoon-shaped bracts produced during its flowering process. 


The Distribution of Tradescantia spathacea.


Temperature

12° - 30°C   (54° - 86°F)
H1b (Hardiness Zone 12) - Can be grown outdoors during the summer in a sheltered location with temperatures above 12℃  (54℉),  but is fine to remain indoors, too. If you decide to bring this plant outdoors, don't allow it to endure any direct sunlight as it may result in sun-scorch and dehydration. Regularly keep an eye out for pests, especially when re-introducing it back indoors.


Spread

Up to 1.5m in length and width, when given enough space. The ultimate height will take between 5 - 8 years to achieve. The growth rate is rapid - some cases can see specimens grow up to 15cm per year!


Pruning & Maintenance

Remove yellow or dying leaves, and plant debris to encourage better-growing conditions. While pruning, always use clean utensils or shears to reduce the chance of bacterial and fungal diseases. Never cut through yellowed tissue as this may cause further damage in the likes of diseases or bacterial infections. Remember to make clean incisions as too-damaged wounds may shock the plant, causing weakened growth and a decline in health.


Propagation

Via Seed or Vine Cuttings.


Vine Cuttings

  1. Choose the healthiest, most established vines from the leading growths. This propagation method can be taken from spring to summer, using between three to six leaves, with the vine being at least 8cm (3 inches) in length. Remove the bottom half of the leaves to aid the production of roots.
  2. Cut directly below a node (leaf), using a clean knife to reduce bacteria count. Have a look at the image above if you're stuck.
  3. Place the bottom half of the cutting into water to root - this process will be quick and should only take a few weeks. Once small roots surpass 3cm in length (1 inch+), it's time to prepare the soil and pot.
  4. Use a 5cm (2 inch) pot that has good drainage holes - plastic or terracotta are both acceptable in this instance.
  5. Set the cutting's rooted half into a well-draining compost, for example, 'Houseplant' or 'Multipurpose' compost, keeping the foliage above the soil line.
  6. Avoid direct sunlight and offer good humidity by placing the potted plants into a transparent plastic bag for the first couple of weeks. 
  7. Open the bag every two days for half an hour for the prevention of disease. After a month of being placed in soil, remove it from the bag and treat like an ordinary houseplant.


Flowers

This species will readily flower in the summer if its previous dormancy period has been served well. Small, white or pink flowers will develop at the vines' terminals that can last up to ten days once opened. The quality of its blooms largely relies on the quality of the dormancy period served in the previous winter.

To replicate its dormancy period over the course of autumn and winter:

  1. Reduce temperatures down to around 15°C (59°F) from late autumn until early spring, with little hydrations or fertilisation.
  2. Allow all of the soil to dry out for at a fortnight in between irrigations thoroughly, and never apply cold water as this may damage the roots.
  3. Provide a few hours of off-peak direct sunlight with one fertilisation throughout this period, until the first bud develops at the end of spring.


Repotting

Repot every three years in the spring, using a 'Houseplant' labelled compost and the next sized pot with adequate drainage. Moses-in-the-Cradles are far better being potbound for several years due to the heightened risk of root rot and repotting-issues (like transplant shock), so only repot if you feel it's wholly necessary - restricted root growth will also increase the chance of blooms, too.

Hydrate the plant 24hrs before tinkering with the roots to prevent the risk of transplant shock. For those situated in a darker location, introduce an extra amount of perlite and grit into the deeper portion of the pot to downplay over-watering risks. Click here for a detailed step-by-step guide on transplantation, or via this link to learn about repotting with root rot.

Book a 1-to-1 video call with Joe Bagley if you'd like a personal guide to repotting your houseplant. This will include recommending the right branded-compost and pot size, followed by a live video call whilst you transplant the specimen for step-by-step guidance and answer any further questions!


Pests & Diseases

Keep an eye out for spider mites, mealybugs, aphids, whitefly, root mealybugs, scale & thrips. Typical diseases associated with Tradescantia are leaf-spot disease, botrytis, powdery mildew & root rot. Click here for more information about how to identify and address any of these issues.


Toxicity

Not known to be poisonous when consumed by pets and humans. If large quantities are eaten, it may result in vomiting, nausea and a loss of appetite.


Retail Locations

Online Stores.



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