Moses in the Cradle Plant Care Guide

Last Updated: October 16, 2023

Moses in the Cradle Plant

Moses in the Cradle Plant


Moses in the Cradle, also known as Rhoeo spathacea, is renowned for its striking purple and green leaves. This tropical beauty is a popular choice for houseplants and gardens alike due to its low-maintenance nature and striking and unique visual appeal.

You’ll be happy to know that the Moses in the Cradle plant is surprisingly easy to care for. It’s tolerant of a variety of conditions and can thrive in a range of light and water levels.

Origin of Moses in the Cradle plant

The Moses in the Cradle plant has a rich history and origin story. Originally known to flourish in the Eastern part of Mexico, this distinctive houseplant is now popular worldwide for its unique aesthetic and relatively easy care requirements.

This plant gets its name – Moses in the Cradle – from the unique shape and appearance of its flowers. Nestled in boat-shaped bracts or modified leaves, the small white flowers resemble a tiny baby Moses in his cradle.

Its origin in Eastern Mexico:

Native to the Eastern part of Mexico, specifically the Yucatan Peninsula, the Moses in the Cradle plant thrives in the region’s warm, humid conditions. In its natural habitat, this plant can commonly be found growing under the shade of larger trees, indicating its preference for indirect sunlight.

Distribution globally:

Today, the Moses in the Cradle plant can be found in subtropical and tropical regions worldwide. It’s particularly popular in the United States, particularly in Florida, Texas, and other southern states and it’s also grown extensively in Australia, Southeast Asia, and the Caribbean.

Characteristics of a Moses in the Cradle plant


The Moses in the Cradle plant stands out due to its distinctive, boat-shaped bracts that cradle small white flowers, similar to a baby in a cradle. This characteristic is what gave the plant its common name.

Even without the flowers, this plant is a marvel to behold. The leaves are sword-shaped, with a rich green color on the top and a stunning purple underneath. This contrast gives the plant a vibrant, bi-colored appearance that is sure to capture attention.


Moses in the Cradle plants are compact, typically growing anywhere from 1 to 2 feet tall, making them ideal for indoor cultivation. Despite their short stature, they can spread horizontally if given room.

Growth Habit

This plant grows in clusters, spreading outwards as it matures. The leaves, which grow in a rosette style, are dense, creating a thick cover that can fill any pot or container.


The Moses in the Cradle plant flowers periodically, but the bloom is not its main attraction. The flowers, which are small and white, hide within the boat-shaped bracts, so you may not even notice them.

Light requirements for Moses in the Cradle plant

Moses in the Cradle plants thrive best in bright, indirect light as these are the conditions that mimic its natural tropical habitat.

Direct Sunlight

Moses in the Cradle plants can tolerate direct sunlight, but too much of it can cause their leaves to scorch. If you wish to keep your plant in a sunny spot, make sure it is not exposed to intense midday sun during summer. It’s ok to expose your plant to more direct sunlight in winter as the sun is a lot weaker so you don’t risk leaf burn.

Indirect Light

These plants prefer bright, indirect light. A spot near a north or east-facing window where they can receive plenty of light without being directly under the sun’s rays is ideal. Too little light can lead to dull-colored leaves, so ensure your plant gets enough of it.

Tips for Light Management

  • Closely observe your plant’s leaves. If they begin to look scorched or bleached, they’re likely receiving too much direct sunlight. Similarly, if they appear dull and lack vibrancy, they’re not getting enough light.
  • Rotate your plant every few weeks. This ensures all sides receive equal exposure to light, promoting even growth and vibrant coloring throughout.
  • If indoor lighting conditions are poor, consider using a grow light to supplement natural light.

Watering your Moses in the Cradle plant

When it comes to hydrating your Moses in the Cradle plant, it’s important to reach a balance where the soil is allowed to dry out between waterings but not for too long.

Too much water may lead to root rot, while too little can cause your plant to become dehydrated and wilted.

As a general rule, water your plant thoroughly until the water starts running out of the drainage holes. Then, allow the soil to partially dry out before watering again. This ensures that your plant is getting the right amount of moisture without becoming overly soaked.

Overwatering is one of the biggest causes of plant death for any houseplant. Always ensure that your Moses in the Cradle plant is in a pot with adequate drainage to prevent water from pooling at the bottom and causing root rot.

Water Quality

The Moses in the Cradle plant is not overly picky about the type of water it receives. However, using water that is free of chemicals will help your plant thrive. This can be tap water that’s been left out overnight to allow chlorine to evaporate, rainwater, or distilled water.

Moses in the Cradle Humidity and Temperature Needs

If you want your Moses in the Cradle plant to thrive, paying attention to its humidity and temperature requirements is essential but both of these things are quite commonly neglected when caring for plants. These tropical plants prefer a warm and humid environment to mimic their native habitat.

Temperature Needs

Moses in the Cradle plants generally prefer temperatures between 60°F to 85°F (15°C to 29°C). They can tolerate a bit of chill but anything below 50°F (10°C) can damage them. In the cooler months, make sure to move your plant to a warmer spot if necessary as cold air will damage your plant over time. Avoid placing your plant near air conditioning vents or drafts which can lead to leaf damage.

It’s really important to stay on top of temperature changes in your home and the best way to do that is by using a digital thermometer. This will allow you to track fluctuations and react to them before your plant starts to suffer.

Humidity Needs

Moses in the Cradle plants love humidity and you should aim for the humidity level to be at least 50%. If you live in a dry climate or during the winter months when indoor air can become quite dry, consider these methods to increase humidity and avoid issues such as brown leaf tips:

  • Misting: Lightly spray your plant with water every few days. Ensure you’re using a spray bottle that can emit a fine mist to avoid the leaves getting too soggy.
  • Pebble Tray: Place your plant on a tray filled with pebbles and a small amount of water. As the water evaporates, it will create a humid microclimate around your plant.
  • Humidifier: Using a room humidifier can be an effective way to increase the overall humidity in the room for your plant without you having to do anything.

Fertilizing your Moses in the Cradle plant

Fertilizing your Moses in the Cradle plant is an essential part of maintaining its healthy growth and vibrant color. Like all plants, it requires key nutrients to thrive, and regular fertilization can help provide these.

Before you begin fertilizing, make sure you have the right type of fertilizer. A balanced, water-soluble houseplant fertilizer, like a 10-10-10 or 20-20-20 mix, is a good choice for Moses in the Cradle plants. This type of fertilizer contains equal parts of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, which are essential for plant growth.

To apply the fertilizer, follow these steps:

  1. Dilute the fertilizer: Most fertilizers are concentrated and need to be diluted before use. Follow the instructions on the fertilizer package to get the right dilution. We tend to dilute more than recommended on the bottle to avoid overfertilization.
  2. Apply the fertilizer: Pour the diluted fertilizer on the soil around the base of the plant, avoiding the leaves. Too much fertilizer on the leaves can cause them to burn.
  3. Frequency of application: During the growing season, which is typically from spring to early fall, fertilize your Moses in the Cradle plant once every three to four weeks. In the non-growing season, reduce fertilization completely.

Watch out for potential over-fertilization as this can lead to salt buildup in the soil, which can damage the plant. If you notice the leaves turning yellow or brown, or the plant becoming weak, it might be a sign of over-fertilization. In such cases, reduce the frequency or concentration of the fertilizer.

How, When and Why to Repot your plant

Identifying the Need to Repot

Typically, there are a few tell-tale signs that your plant is ready for a slightly larger pot. If you notice any of these, it’s time to consider repotting:

  • Your plant has become top-heavy and falls over easily
  • Roots are growing out of the bottom of the pot
  • Your plant’s growth seems stunted
  • You see more roots than soil when you look at the top of the pot

Choosing the Right Time

The best time to repot your Moses in the Cradle plant is just before its growth period, which is usually in the spring. Repotting at this time gives your plant a chance to adjust to its new pot before it starts its major growth phase. However, a healthy plant can often withstand the stress of repotting at any time in the year if needed.

Steps to Repot your Moses in the Cradle Plant

  1. Prepare a new pot that is 1-2 inches larger in diameter than the current pot.
  2. Fill the new pot with a high-quality potting mix.
  3. Remove the plant gently from its current pot, trying to keep the root ball intact.
  4. Place the plant in the new pot and fill with more potting mix, ensuring the plant is at the same depth as it was in the old pot.
  5. Water the plant thoroughly and return it to its usual spot.

Make sure to handle your plant gently during the repotting process. The roots can be quite sensitive and any damage could impact the plant’s growth and overall health. You shouldn’t worry too much about breaking the odd root here and there but substantial damage will cause issues for your plant.

Propagation methods for Moses in the Cradle plant

Propagation can be a relatively simple process, especially when you follow the right steps. Before you know it, you’ll have several new plants to either expand your own houseplant collection or give as gifts to friends and family. Both methods should ideally be done in spring and summer but you can sometimes successfully propagate through division at other points in the year as you do not rely on a new root system to grow.

Method 1: Division

The division is a common and effective propagation method for Moses in the Cradle. It involves dividing the root ball into several pieces, each with a healthy amount of roots and shoots.

  1. Firstly, remove the parent plant from its pot and gently shake off any loose soil.
  2. Locate the natural divisions in the root ball and using your hands, carefully separate the plant into two or more parts.
  3. Ensure each divided section has roots and foliage attached.
  4. Replant each division in a pot with fresh, well-draining soil.

Method 2: Stem Cuttings

Stem cuttings are also a good way to propagate your Moses in the Cradle plant but it is slower and can be less successful than division. The stem cutting method involves removing a piece of the stem from the parent plant and encouraging it to develop its own roots.

  1. Using a clean, sharp knife or scissors, cut a healthy stem from the parent plant. The cutting should be 3-4 inches long with at least two leaves on it.
  2. Remove the leaves near the cut end of the stem.
  3. Place the cut end into a glass of water or directly into moist soil. If using water, replace it regularly to prevent bacteria growth.
  4. After a few weeks, roots should begin to form. Once the roots are a few inches long, the new plant can be transferred to a pot with soil.

Toxicity of the Moses in the Cradle plant

For Humans:

The Moses in the Cradle plant is mildly toxic to humans as it can cause skin irritation. Individuals with sensitive skin may experience a rash or itchiness when they come into direct contact with the plant’s sap.

Precaution: Always wear gloves when handling, propagating or pruning your Moses in the Cradle plant to avoid potential skin irritation.

For Pets:

The Moses in the Cradle is toxic to animals and if ingested, it can cause vomiting, drooling, pawing at the mouth, and other signs of distress. Please keep this plant out of reach of your pets to prevent any potential health issues.

Common pests and diseases of Moses in the Cradle plant

Like most house plants, Moses in the Cradle is susceptible to a few common pests and diseases so it’s essential to keep a watchful eye on your plant for any warning signs.

Common Pests

The most common pests that might attack your Moses in the Cradle include:

  1. Spider Mites: These minute pests are often difficult to see with the naked eye, but their damage isn’t. You might notice yellowing leaves or a fine, silvery web on the underside of the leaves. Spider mites thrive in dry conditions, so maintaining a humid environment can help to keep them at bay.
  2. Mealybugs: These pests appear as tiny, cottony white masses on the plants. They suck sap from the plant, causing distorted and yellowing leaves. Regularly wiping the leaves with a damp cloth can help to control mealybugs.
  3. Scale Insects: Scale insects are small, brown or tan bumps that stick to the plant’s stems and leaves. They also extract sap, causing wilting and yellowing. Scraping them off or using a diluted alcohol solution can help to manage the infestation.

Common Diseases

Moses in the Cradle is relatively resistant to diseases, but it can still fall victim to a few common problems:

  1. Root Rot: Overwatering can lead to root rot, a disease that turns the plant’s roots black and mushy. The best prevention method for root rot is to ensure your plant has well-draining soil and that you are not overwatering it. Watch out for this one more in winter as the soil will take longer to dry out in cold temperatures.
  2. Leaf Spot: This disease is characterized by brown or black spots on the leaves, often surrounded by a yellow halo. To prevent leaf spot, avoid getting water on the leaves when watering, and ensure your plant gets plenty of air circulation.

Moses in the Cradle FAQs

Common Problems with your Moses in the Cradle

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