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Moses in a Basket Tradescantia spathacea

Previously known as:

  • Rhoeo spathacea
Phonetic Spelling
trad-es-KAN-tee-uh spath-ay-SEE-uh
This plant has medium severity poison characteristics.
See below
Description

Boat lily is a tropical sculptural herbaceous perennial plant in the Commelinaceae family.  Boat lily is desired for its unusual inflorescence and attractive foliage. Look for the purple underside of the leaf and the unusual bract-enclosed flowers to distinguish this plant from other bromeliads. 

Typically grown as a houseplant, it can be in a patio plant that is brought inside during cold winters. Plant in well drained potting media and give it plenty of bright indicret light. When the plant does not receive enough light it may stretch out and become more lanky or its purple leaves may revert back to green.  If kept outdoors in the summer provide it with afternoon shade. Allow the top 1-2 inches of soil to dry out between waterings and cut back on the water during the winter months. 

This easy to grow plant will bloom at any time of the year and it is easy to propagate through stem cuttings, division, or through seed.

Grow this as a houseplant or in a container that can be moved inside when there is the threat of frost.  This is the only member of the Tradescantia that grow upwards instead of down so it will not work in a hanging basket.  In zones 9 and higher, it can grow outdoors where it will form a dense mat groundcover but beware because it naturalizes easily. 

Quick ID

  • Linear leaves with purple undersides are arranged radially
  • Flowers are axillary, white, inside pair of boat-shaped bracts

Insects, Diseases, and Other Plant Problems: In warm climates it has shown very weedy tendencies.  

See this plant in the following landscape:
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Vittata'
    Variegated leaves
'Vittata'
Tags:
#evergreen#poisonous#houseplant#easy to grow#showy leaves#colorful leaves#interiorscape#low maintenance#winter interest#fantz#problem for children#tropical feel#contact dermatitis#container plant#easy to grow houseplant
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Vittata'
    Variegated leaves
'Vittata'
Tags:
#evergreen#poisonous#houseplant#easy to grow#showy leaves#colorful leaves#interiorscape#low maintenance#winter interest#fantz#problem for children#tropical feel#contact dermatitis#container plant#easy to grow houseplant
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Tradescantia
    Species:
    spathacea
    Family:
    Commelinaceae
    Life Cycle:
    Perennial
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Division
    Seed
    Stem Cutting
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    S. Mexico to Guatemala
    Dimensions:
    Height: 0 ft. 6 in. - 1 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 1 ft. 0 in. - 2 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Ground Cover
    Herbaceous Perennial
    Houseplant
    Poisonous
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Broadleaf Evergreen
    Habit/Form:
    Clumping
    Maintenance:
    Low
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours)
    Soil Texture:
    Loam (Silt)
    Shallow Rocky
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    Occasionally Dry
    Available Space To Plant:
    12 inches-3 feet
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    9b, 9a, 10b, 10a, 11b, 11a
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Type:
    Capsule
    Fruit Description:
    Three-seeded capsule
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    White
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Long Bloom Season
    Showy
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Fall
    Spring
    Summer
    Winter
    Flower Shape:
    Star
    Flower Petals:
    2-3 rays/petals
    Flower Size:
    < 1 inch
    Flower Description:
    Inflorescence consists of axillary, boat-shaped, waxy pair of purple bracts with several flowers inside the 'boat', scarcely exerted, ca 1-2 inches; peduncles are 1-2 inches. Flowers are white, <1 inch, with 3 equal petals.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Broadleaf Evergreen
    Leaf Color:
    Cream/Tan
    Green
    Purple/Lavender
    Variegated
    Leaf Feel:
    Rough
    Leaf Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Alternate
    Rosulate
    Leaf Shape:
    Lanceolate
    Linear
    Leaf Margin:
    Entire
    Hairs Present:
    No
    Leaf Length:
    > 6 inches
    Leaf Width:
    1-3 inches
    Leaf Description:
    Leaves are alternate, radially arranged in a crowded apical rosette; simple, flat, linear-lanceolate, acute leaves, base sessile with a closed sheath and entire margin; green or variegated green and cream above, purple beneath, rough and stiff texture, 7-14 in x 1-2 in.
  • Stem:
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Description:
    Stems are short, stout, simple, and succulent.
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Container
    Houseplants
    Problems:
    Contact Dermatitis
    Poisonous to Humans
    Problem for Children
  • Poisonous to Humans:
    Poison Severity:
    Medium
    Poison Symptoms:
    TOXIC ONLY IF LARGE QUANTITIES EATEN. CAUSES SEVERE PAIN IN THE MOUTH IF EATEN! SKIN IRRITATION MINOR, OR LASTING ONLY FOR A FEW MINUTES. Stinging and itching following contact of cell sap with skin or eyes; ingestion causes irritation of the lips, mouth, tongue, and throat, also abdominal pain.
    Poison Toxic Principle:
    Unidentified
    Causes Contact Dermatitis:
    Yes
    Poison Part:
    Sap/Juice