Moses-in-the-Cradle

These plants grow just about anywhere and are known by a variety of names.

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Plant type: Herbaceous perennial
Hardiness: USDA Zones 9 to 11

Known by a variety of names, including Moses-in-the-cradle, boat lily and oyster plant, this tropical perennial grows in low, spreading clumps that reach about one foot tall. The glossy, sword-shaped leaves are held upright, so both the deep green tops and rich purple undersides are visible. The foliage is evergreen in frost-free areas. Moses-in-the cradle blooms too, with small, white flowers tucked into purple bracts. The blossoms can appear pretty much any time of year, but they aren't nearly as eye-catching as the dramatic foliage.

How to use it: Long a favorite with houseplant enthusiasts, Moses-in-the-cradle also adds a tropical flair to outdoor container plantings and hanging baskets. In mild climates, it's widely used as a groundcover and edging plant.

Culture: Moses-in-the-cradle can grow just about anywhere, from full sun to full shade, although it seems to prefer light shade. Average, well-drained to dry soil is fine. The plant thrives with regular watering, but keeping the soil too wet can encourage disease problems, such as root rot. Propagate by seed or by dividing the offsets.

Special notes: Appreciated for its striking foliage, as well as its amazing heat and drought tolerance, Moses-in-the-cradle is typically trouble-free. Be aware, however, that it's considered invasive in some areas—particularly central and southern Florida. Note: the sap may be irritating to sensitive skin, or if it's ingested.

Selected cultivars

  • 'Variegata'. White-striped green leaves often blushed with pink; also sold as 'Tricolor'.

  • 'Vittata'. Yellow-striped green leaves, sometimes with a reddish tinge.

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