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TRADESCANTIA spathacea

Image of Tradescantia spathacea

Felder Rushing

Family

Commelinaceae

Botanical Name

TRADESCANTIA spathacea

Plant Common Name

Boatlily, Cradle Lily, Moses-in-the-Cradle, Oyster Plant

General Description

This bold tropical offers spreading clumps of green and burgundy-purple leaves all year around. When growing conditions are favorable, small white flowers appear in the boat-like cradles at the base of the leaves. Boatlily originates from Central America and is a popular houseplant as well as landscape plant.

The thin, juicy leaves of this succulent tender perennial are lance-shaped, upright and radiate outwards from a short basal stem. The lush green leaves have vibrant burgundy purple undersides. Three-petaled white flowers appear at the base of the leaves. The small blooms are subtended by purple bracts and are followed by beige fruits that produce lots of viable seeds. These seeds drop to the soil and self-sow without abandon.

A tough and adaptable plant, boatlily grows successfully in full sun to partial shade and any well-draining loam or sandy soil. If nipped back by mild frost, it will readily reappear in spring. In subtropical regions boatlily can become invasive, especially if frosts never occur. It spreads both by seed and vegetatively. New plantlets can form from the leaf segments and stem bits that come in contact with the soil. It only falters if subjected to wet soils or extreme drought.

Use this fast-growing tropical as a bedding annual or an accent plant for containers or hanging baskets. The cultivar 'Variegata' has ornate variegated leaves with cream and yellow stripes and grows a little more slowly than the standard form.

Characteristics

  • AHS Heat Zone

    12 - 1

  • USDA Hardiness Zone

    9 - 15

  • Sunset Zone

    H1, H2, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24

  • Plant Type

    Tender Perennial

  • Sun Exposure

    Full Sun, Partial Sun, Partial Shade

  • Height

    12"-18" / 30.5cm - 45.7cm

  • Width

    12"-24" / 30.5cm - 61.0cm

  • Bloom Time

    Indeterminate

  • Native To

    Central America

Growing Conditions

  • Soil pH

    Acidic, Neutral, Alkaline

  • Soil type

    Loam, Sand

  • Tolerances

    Pollution

  • Growth Rate

    Very Fast

  • Water Requirements

    Average Water

  • Habit

    Clump-Forming

  • Seasonal Interest

    Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter

Ornamental Features

  • Flower Interest

    Showy

  • Flower Color

    White

  • Fruit Color

    Burgundy, Tan, Sandy Brown

  • Foliage Color (Spring)

    Green, Purple, Dark Green, Burgundy

  • Foliage Color (Summer)

    Green, Purple, Dark Green, Burgundy

  • Foliage Color (Fall)

    Green, Purple, Dark Green, Burgundy

  • Foliage Color (Winter)

    Green, Purple, Dark Green, Burgundy

  • Fragrant Flowers

    No

  • Fragrant Fruit

    No

  • Fragrant Foliage

    No

  • Flower Petal Number

    Single

  • Repeat Bloomer

    Yes

  • Showy Fruit

    No

  • Edible Fruit

    No

  • Showy Foliage

    Yes

  • Foliage Texture

    Coarse

  • Foliage Sheen

    Glossy

  • Evergreen

    Yes

  • Showy Bark

    No

Special Characteristics

  • Usage

    Bedding Plant, Container, Edging, Groundcover, Hanging Basket, Mixed Border, Tropical

  • Sharp or Has Thorns

    No

  • Invasive

    Sometimes

  • Self-Sowing

    Yes