Boat Lily (Tradescantia spathacea) Indoor Care, Propagation and Growing Problems


Boat Lily, Tradescantia spathacea

Botanical name: Tradescantia spathacea
Synonym: Rhoeo spathacea
Family: Commelinaceae
Common names: Boat Lily, Moses-in-the-Cradle, Moses-in-a-Boat, Cradle Lily, Oyster Plant

Description

Boat Lily (Tradescantia spathacea) also called Moses-in-the-Cradle, Moses-in-a-Boat, Cradle Lily or Oyster Plant is an easy care plant that is ideal for small spaces.

Boat Lily bears small white flowers in purple 'boats' at the base of the lower leaves and hence the common names, 'Moses-in-the-Cradle', 'Boat Lily' and 'Moses-in-a-Boat'.

Moses-in-the-Cradle flowers at any time of the year if grown under good light. It is a low-growing plant with a short stem.

Cradle Lily leaves are fleshy, sword-shaped, glossy green with purplish-red undersides.

Origin

Tradescantia spathacea is native to Mexico, West Indies and Central America.

Varieties

Boat Lily has many new varieties like the spectacular cultivar Rhoeo discolor 'Variegata' which bears foliage that is striped in burgundy, pink, green and cream.

Is Boat Lily Poisonous?

Boat Lily (Tradescantia spathacea) is mildly toxic to both humans and pets.

If ingested, the plant sap causes burning in the mouth, tongue and throat. The sap may also cause skin irritation in sensitive skin; always wear gloves when handling the Moses in the Cradle Plant.

Where to Buy

If you are looking to add Boat Lily to your collection, here is our Link to Etsy Shops.

Boat Lily, Tradescantia spathacea

Tradescantia spathacea Care Indoors

Boat Lily (Tradescantia spathacea) grows best in bright, indirect light, average warmth and moderately moist, fertile, well-drained soil coupled with monthly feeding during the growing season. It has no need for high humidity.

Tradescantia spathacea requires repotting only when extremely pot-bound as it grows best when slightly root-bound.

Regular pruning is needed to keep it neat, to reduce pest and disease infestations, to encourage a bushy, compact growth and to rejuvenate growth. Keep reading for more on these growing conditions and how to achieve them.

Watering

Water Boat Lily thoroughly during the growing season while allowing the top 2-3 in. of soil to dry out between waterings and maintain the soil moderately moist.

Cut down on watering in cold season to keep the soil slightly moist as growth is minimal but do not allow the soil to dry out completely.

Make sure that the pot has a drainage hole to prevent the soil from getting soggy soil as it can lead to root-rot disease and death of the plant.

Temperature and Humidity

Boat Lily requires an average warmth of 18-270C with a minimum 130C inorder to thrive. A room temperature that is comfortable for you is ideal for this plant.

Keep the Moses-in-the-Cradle away from drafts as they can cause leaf drop and reduced growth. It is not a cold hardy plant.

Boat Lily has no need for high humidity. Moderate (average) air humidity is adequate for this Plant.

However, where the room temperatures are too high, set the pot on a wet pebble tray or use a cool mist humidifier to raise humidity.

Light Requirements

Boat Lily grows best in bright, indirect light away from direct sunlight. It can grow in semi-shade (partial shade) but the growth will be slower.

Keep the Moses-in-the-Cradle away from direct sunshine as it can lead to scorching of the leaves.

Regularly rotate the pot to ensure that the plant receives light on all sides for uniform growth.

Oyster Plant can also grow under a grow light where the natural light is not adequate.

Potting Mix

The best potting mix for Boat Lily should be rich in organic matter and free-draining to prevent it from getting soggy while providing the required nutrients.

Most multi-purpose potting mixes are ideal for Oyster Plant. Buy quality Potting Mix from Etsy.

Fertilizer

Feed Boat Lily with a balanced, liquid fertilizer every 4 weeks during the growing period for lush growth.

Do not feed Moses-in-a-Boat during the cold season as the growth is minimal and feeding at this time may lead to fertilizer burn and eventual death of the plant.

Regularly, flush out accumulated salts from the soil by running a stream of water through the soil until it comes out through the drainage holets. Let it run for a few minutes and repeat the process several times.

Repotting

Repot Boat Lily during the growing season only when the plant has become extremely pot-bound. Use a pot one size larger than the current one and free-draining soil that is rich in organic matter.

Ascertain that the pot has a drainage hole to prevent the soil from getting soggy as it can lead to root-rot disease and eventual death of the plant.

Pruning

Pruning Boat Lily involves regular removal of dead foliage to maintain the plant neat and tidy as well as reduce pest and disease infestations.

To control the growth and encourage bushyness, pinch the growing tips. Cut back leggy stems at the beginning of the growing season to rejuvenate growth.

Propagation

Boat Lily (Tradescantia spathacea) can be propagated during the growing period by plants divison or from stem-cuttings.

How to propagate Boat Lily by plant division

Water the Boat Lily thoroughly at least 1 day before to make it easier to divide and also hasten establishment. A well hydrated plant suffers less shock and takes a shorter time to take root.

Take the plant out of its pot and carefully divide it into sections. Ensure each sections has adequate roots and at least one set of leaves.

Select a 6 or 8 in. pot and ensure that the pot has a drainage hole to prevent the soil from getting soggy as it can lead to rotting.

Fill the pot with free-draining soil and make a hole in the center of the pot. Ensure that the hole is slightly wider than the root base of the section.

Place the section in the previously made hole and lightly firm the soil around the base while taking care not to bury it too deep; maintain the section at the same soil level it was in the previous pot.

Water the soil thoroughly and place the set up in a well-lit, warm place until the new Oyster Plant is well established after which you can begin routine care.

How to propagate Boat Lily from stem cuttings

The stem cuttings root easily so there is no need for rooting hormone. Take a stem cutting from a healthy Boat Lily of about 4-6 in. and ensure it bears at least two sets of leaves. Strip off the lower leaves.

Allow some time for the formation of a protective callus tissue over the cuts of the cuttings to prevent rotting.

Once callused, insert the cuttings in moist, free-draining and place in warm, well-lit place away from direct sunlight.

Maintain the soil moist until new growth emerges and there is substantial growth.

Transfer the rooted Tradescantia spathacea stem cuttings into individual pots and begin routine care.

Boat Lily, Tradescantia spathacea

Tradescantia spathacea Growing Problems

Boat Lily (Tradescantia spathacea) problems include leggy growth, shrivelled leaf tips, yellowing leaves, lack of blooms, plant death, pests and diseases among others. Keep reading for more on these problems and how to fix them.

Brown and shrivelled leaf tips

Brown and shrivelled leaf tips in Boat Lily is due to too dry air especially where the temperatures are too high.

To elevate humidity, set the pot on a wet pebble tray or use a cool mist humidifier. Check out techniques on how to raise humidity for houseplants.

Yellow and spotted leaves

Yellow and spotted leaves in Boat Lily are caused by underwatering. This results in too little moisture in the soil.

Underwatering means that there is not enough water in the soil for the plant to take up. As such, the leaves begin to turn yellow and die.

Water the Oyster Plant liberally during the growing season and allow the top 2-3 in. of soil to dry out between waterings maintain the soil moderately moist through out.

Lessen watering during the cold season to keep the soil slightly moist but do not allow the soil to dry out completely.

No blooms

Boat Lily will not produce the white flowers where the light is too low (inadequate light) as it grows best in bright, indirect light away from direct sunlight.

Move the Moses in the Cradle Plant to a brighter spot where it will receive bright, indirect light or instal a grow light if you do not have adequate light in your home.

Plant dying

Boat Lily dying is caused by root-rot disease which is promoted by soggy soil due to poor soil drainage.

Ensure that the soil is free-draining and that the pot has a drainage hole to prevent the soil from getting soggy.

Also, decrease watering during the cold season as growth is minimal at this time and thus the plant does not require a lot of water. Read more on how to treat root-rot in houseplants.

Diseases

Another common disease in Boat Lily is leaf spot disease. Isolate the affected plant to prevent spread to the other houseplants and treat the plant appropriately for the disease.

Pests

Common pests which attack Boat Lily are Mealy Bugs, Aphids and Scale Insects. Isolate the affected plant and treat it appropriately for the pests. Read on how to identify and get rid of pests in houseplants.

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