Tradescantia spathacea - a perfect houseplant for people with black thumbs
For an uncommon houseplant, T. spathacea has a lot of common names: oysterplant, boatlily, Moses-in-a-basket, Moses-in-a-boat, Moses-in-a cradle (sheesh - shouldn't Charlton Heston be around here somewhere? :-) ) I rarely see it for sale here in the Northwest, but I've seen it online occasionally.
I'm surprised it isn't sold more, because it's a great houseplant. It grows quickly with no pampering and offers both interesting flowers and beautiful leaves with rich purple undersides. It's a great houseplant for black thumbs, because it's very tolerant of abuse and benign neglect. It prefers medium to high light and moist soil, but it tolerates lower light and dryness well. It's also a great office plant. Mine thrives about 4 feet from a south-facing window here in cloudy Portland and looks none the worse for wear when I return from a week's vacation. A colleague of mine grows one with no natural light at all, only fluorescent light from ceiling fixtures about 7 feet away. It doesn't grow very fast or bloom, and it doesn't have the rich purple color under the leaves, but it looks OK and has survived these conditions for several years.
Propagation is easy. Stem cuttings root quickly in water or moist soil and soon grow into healthy-sized plants. The plants also produce lots of seeds, but I haven't tried starting any that way.
T. spathacea is hardy to zone 9. But if you live in zone 9 or above, please note that it is considered invasive in Florida and Louisiana, so you may want to keep it where it can't naturalize. For more information on T. spathacea, see http://www.floridata.com/ref/T/trad_spa.cfm.
On a personal note, I got my first T. spathacea as a stem cutting from a friend; I brought it back to Portland from Georgia in my carry-on bag. My friend died several years ago of breast cancer, making my plant is a living memento of our friendship.
Rainy Day Gardening is brought to you by Meg and Janet, two librarians who like to play in the dirt.
Born and raised in Northern California, Janet started gardening when she was about 4 (mumble mumble years ago). After relocating to Portland, OR, she became a true rainy day gardener, gardening in the rainy Northwest for 14 years. In 2010, she picked up stakes (and other garden implements) and moved to Southern California, where rainy day gardening is a rarity. She now gardens on about 2/10 of an acre, growing vegetables, fruit, flowers, trees, shrubs, and a fine crop of weeds. Her interests include carnivorous plants, citrus, cottage gardening, her greenhouse, and anything edible.
Meg was born in South Carolina and raised all over the country (plus Japan!), but has been living in Seattle since 1992 and now considers it "home." She has only been gardening for about two years (just bought her first home) and is still in the learning stages. Her interests include bright colors, plants she can snack on while she's weeding, and learning how to keep things healthy and happy without using chemicals.