A houseplant with amazing color (purple!) that’s extremely easy to care for and grows abundantly. It exists!
If you’re looking for a show-stopping houseplant but don’t want the more complicated care of orchids or Calatheas, you’ll love the Tradescantia genus. This particular variety, also known as the oyster plant, moses-in-the-cradle or boat lily, is perfect for beginners and can handle a bit of abuse.
Keep reading for everything you need to know about growing Tradescantia spathacea in your own home!
Note: Tradescantia spathacea is one of the only members of the genus Tradescantia that grows upwards rather than downwards. Looking for a hanging plant? You might like Tradescantia zebrina or Tradescantia fluminensis, both commonly known as wandering jew.
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Tradescantia spathacea care
This plant’s natural green variety was originally discovered in certain parts of Central America. Nowadays it can be found in various other countries, often escaped from gardens. Like other members of the Tradescantia genus it’s pretty hardy and can be quite invasive.
Tradescantia spathacea’s growth pattern and natural habitat give us some good care indications. This is a rather low plant that is used to being shaded by taller trees, so it prefers indirect light. It won’t react well to low temperatures and although its leaves are slightly fleshy it won’t appreciate its soil being left to dry out completely.
Tradescantia spathacea light, location & temperature
- Light. You’ll have to provide plenty of it to keep your Tradescantia spathacea happy. Direct sun is not ideal, especially not harsh afternoon sunlight. Instead, place this plant in a spot that receives lots of indirect light. Imperfect lighting conditions aren’t too problematic if they’re not permanent, but you might see your oyster plant starting to stretch in an attempt to reach the sky. Also, if you’ve got one of the selectively cultivated varieties with bright purple leaves, it might revert back to its natural green color in low light.
- Location. Apart from its demand for plenty of light, Tradescantia spathacea is not picky at all when it comes to its preferred location in your home. Although it doesn’t like overly dry air, the humidity in your home should be just fine.
- Temperature. As mentioned earlier, Tradescantia spathacea won’t do well in low temperatures. Keep it away from chilly windows during wintertime. Other than that, the regular temperature in your home should work well.
Planting Tradescantia spathacea
As with its other care requirements, potting up your Tradescantia spathacea is a breeze. No complicated soil mixes needed as long as excess water can drain without the soil drying out too quickly. Just mix potting soil with a small amount of perlite for added drainage.
Pot-wise, as always, go for something with a drainage hole. I prefer plastic nursery pots like this one rather than terracotta for plants that don’t need to dry out very quickly. They’re very cheap and you can easily hide their ugliness with a decorative overpot.
Watering Tradescantia spathacea
When it comes to watering, Tradescantia spathacea isn’t too difficult. During summertime when it’s actively growing it will appreciate lightly moist soil. Just let the first inch or so dry out before watering again, which will likely come down to watering around twice a week. This plant won’t appreciate wet feet, so be sure to remove any excess water if you happen to accidentally overwater. It’s better to water too little than too much.
During winter, when houseplants aren’t putting out much growth, you can reduce waterings. Let the soil dry out a little more; around once a week should work well during this time.
Tradescantia spathacea fertilizer
Like most houseplants, Tradescantia spathacea will appreciate a little fertilizer from time to time. During its growing period (spring to fall) you can mix in some diluted houseplant fertilizer like this one during watering to give your oyster plant a little boost.
Buying Tradescantia spathacea
This plant is widely appreciated for its gorgeous foliage, so you shouldn’t have too much trouble finding it. Do keep in mind that it’s still sometimes sold under its old name, Rhoeo spathacea, which can get a little confusing. Just look for that typical mix of green and purple and you should be able to locate the correct plant easily! If you don’t feel like going on the hunt, you can also buy Tradescantia spathacea online on Amazon here.
Is Tradescantia spathacea toxic to cats and dogs?
Unfortunately, yes. Tradescantia spathacea leaves contain irritating sap that can hurt your cat’s, dog’s or even child’s mouth and other areas it touches. So keep this plant out of their reach or skip it altogether if you’re worried! Also, be careful when repotting. If you happen to damage a leaf the sap can irritate your hands, so try wearing gloves if you have to handle your Tradescantia spathacea.