Ruby red spike moss

Spike Moss Care: Information And Tips For Growing Spike Moss Plants

We tend to think of moss as small airy green plants that decorate rocks, trees, ground spaces and even our houses. Spike moss plants, or club moss, are not true mosses but very basic vascular plants. They are related to the family of ferns and closely aligned with fern ecosystems. Can you grow spike moss? You certainly can, and it makes an excellent ground cover but needs consistent moisture to remain green.

About Spike Moss Plants

Spike moss has a similar structure to ferns. The relationship might lead one to call the plants spike moss fern, although that is technically not correct either. These common plants are part of many native flora situations and are nursery plants for some varieties of wild seed, which grow up through them. Selaginella spike moss are spore producing plants, just like ferns, and can produce large mats of deep feathery green foliage.

The Selaginella genus is an ancient plant group. They formed around the time ferns were evolving but

took a u-turn somewhere in the evolutionary development. The moss’s leaves cluster into groups called strobili, with spore bearing structures on the terminal ends. There are over 700 species of Selaginella that span the globe. Some are moisture lovers while others are perfectly suited to arid zones.

Many of the spike moss form into a dark, dry little ball when moisture is scarce. In fact, periods of dryness cause the moss to desiccate and go dormant. This is called poikilohydry. The plant bounces back to green life when it gets water, leading to the name resurrection plant. This group of fern and club mosses are called Polypoiophyta.

Spike Moss Care

Although closely aligned with ferns, spike moss plants are more nearly related to ancient plants such as quillworts and lycopods. There are many varieties available for the gardener, from Ruby Red spike moss fern to ‘Aurea’ Golden spike moss. Other varieties include:

  • Rock moss
  • Lesser club moss
  • Pin cushion
  • Lacy spike moss

They make excellent terrarium plants or even as accents to beds, borders, rock gardens and containers. Plants spread from trailing stems and one plant can cover up to 3 feet over a couple of seasons. Where else can you grow spike moss? Over time the plant will adhere to most vertical surfaces, such as fences and boulders.

These plants are remarkably durable. In most cases, a pressure washer can’t even disturb them. They are hardy to USDA zone 11 and down to cool temperatures of 30 degrees Fahrenheit or -1 degrees Celsius.

These mosses require rich, well-drained soil in part to full shade. Plant them in a mixture of peat moss and good garden soil to enhance moisture retention. Another useful fact about spike moss is its ease of division for propagation. Cut apart sections and replant them for a carpet of soft green foliage.

How to Grow a Resurrection Plant

The name resurrection plant can apply to a whole group of plants that appear to die when unwatered and spring back to life when watered. The most common plant sold under the name resurrection plant is selaginella lepidophylla, a primitive desert plant that is also called rose of Jericho or siempre viva (everlasting). A resurrection plant that has balled up and appears dried out is simply dormant from lack of water. If you want to properly grow and care for this plant, you shouldn’t let this condition last for extreme periods, as contrary to its name, it can die.

Set up an appropriate habitat for your resurrection plant. These do not require soil like most plants; you can think of them more like a moss or lichen. Set out a clay or ceramic dish of your choice that has a lip to keep water from spilling over.

Put a thin layer of fine gravel in the dish. Resurrection plant doesn’t have roots; it simply grows in a self-contained ball. Setting it on the gravel will keep it from soaking in the water and rotting. Pour a shallow layer of water into the gravel and place the plant on top of the gravel.

Place the plant in the sun. Resurrection plant is a desert plant, and is designed for long hours of sunlight and warmth. It should be in a location where it gets direct sun for about 12 hours a day. It doesn’t tolerate temperatures below about 40 degrees Fahrenheit

Water rarely. Let the resurrection plant go without water until it begins to curl up. The plant uses water very efficiently, and this is the best way to be sure you are not over-watering it.

Divide the plant by cutting. It sprouts quickly from new cuttings at any time of year. Just place the cuttings in moist compost or loose soil and water.

Watch the Magic Unfold: How to Care for Rose of Jericho

Few houseplants inspire as much legend as the Rose of Jericho, also known as the dinosaur plant or resurrection plant.

The Rose of Jericho gets the name of resurrection plant from its amazing ability to “come back to life” after completely drying out.

And while drying out may sound like a recipe for disaster, it is actually the secret to this plant’s success. Rose of Jericho is a type of moss native to desert regions where water is scarce, so this plant can completely dry out, curl up over itself, and blow around like a tumbleweed until it finds water. When it finds a water source, it unfurls to reveal gorgeous green fern-like fronds. Once it exhausts its water supply, it dries out again and blows on to the next watering hole.

Pretty cool!

History of Rose of Jericho

It’s important to note that there are actually two plants that we call Rose of Jericho.

First, there’s Anastatica heirochuntica, or a true Rose of Jericho. This plant is native to the deserts of northeast Africa and the Middle East (you know, Jericho).

The second plant is Selaginella lepidophylla, or the false Rose of Jericho. This plant is actually native to Mexico and the southwest U.S., but it functions in exactly the same way. It’s also cheaper, a lot easier to find, and is considered to be much prettier than the true Rose of Jericho, so this is the plant that most people choose.

Because of its incredible ability to seemingly resurrect itself, Rose of Jericho plays a role in several world religions. Hoodoo practitioners often use Rose of Jericho in prosperity spells. Santeria associates the plant with the spirit of thunder and lightning and uses it as a spiritual offering. Catholic families often bring out their Rose of Jericho to bloom around Christmas and Easter because it symbolizes the resurrection of Christ.

(On a related note, you can actually store this plant in its dried, curled-up state and bring it out when you want it to bloom. How cool is that? Just pop it in a paper bag and place it in a safe closet or cupboard where it won’t get squished.)

Rose of Jericho Care

Ready to try your own Rose of Jericho?

The good news is, it’s hard to truly kill a Rose of Jericho. You can let it dry out completely and it will be good as new when you put it in water again. If you’ve ever had issues with mindful plant watering, then this is the plant for you!

The only thing you don’t want to do is leave it in water for too long, as this can cause it to rot.

The trick is to let a Rose of Jericho rest in between waterings instead of leaving it in water indefinitely. This allows it to dry out and refresh between periods in water, which will keep the plant alive longer. These plants are actually very long-lived and have even been passed down generations in families!


When you purchase your Rose of Jericho, it will look like a brown, dried-up ball of moss, which is basically what it is.

It does have roots, but they don’t actually need to attach, so you don’t need soil (it’s more like hydroponics).

To “plant,” fill a small pot or bowl without drainage holes (first time you’ve heard that, right?) with pebbles or gravel, and fill with water until the pebbles are just barely submerged. Perch your Rose of Jericho on top so that the roots touch the water. Place in indirect light (like on a countertop in a sunny kitchen) and watch the magic happen!

Tip: Use distilled water or let tap water sit out overnight for the chlorine and any other chemicals evaporate before adding to your plant.

Change the water every day or so and give it a water-free rest day each week. Every couple of weeks, let the plant dry out completely.

If you’d like, you can put false Rose of Jericho in soil after it’s been in water for a while and starts to form roots. Keep the soil fairly moist. However, these can get pretty big when planted in soil, so you may or may not want to do this.


Don’t let the plant get too hot or too cold. Most room temperatures are fine, but watch for drafts and vents. Although a Rose of Jericho is native to desert environments, it can still be sensitive to extreme fluctuations in temperature.


A Rose of Jericho will thrive in good light, but if it curls up in low light (or if you put it away in a closet for safekeeping over the winter) you can always revive it!


Rose of Jericho doesn’t really need pruning, but you can use clean scissors to remove dead tips that don’t revive when the plant is fully hydrated. This will help keep it nice and pretty!

How Long Does it Take for a Rose of Jericho to Open?

If placed in lukewarm water, your Rose of Jericho should open in about 4 hours, though it might not open to its full capacity for a few days.

Is Rose of Jericho Toxic?

It’s hard to find a definitive answer since this plant is relatively new on the houseplant scene. However, as a member of the spikemoss family, Selaginella lepidophylla (false Rose of Jericho, the more common one you’re most likely to find) may be toxic to cats, so it’s best to play it safe and keep your Rose of Jericho out of reach of your furry friends, or choose a different plant altogether.

Give it a try!

Providing spontaneous beauty with a rich history, Rose of Jericho is an eye-catching centerpiece and a great conversation-starter. If you want a magical experience with a hard-to-kill plant, give Rose of Jericho a try!

Also, don’t forget to join us for our Top Secrets from Fiddle Leaf Fig Growers Webinar!

Which houseplants are safe for kids and pets?

Finding out exact information about poisonous plants is very difficult, largely because it’s something you simply can’t test. You’re not going to give a leaf of an unknown plant to someone and say, “Here, eat this and we’ll see how it goes.” Nor would you want to try a similar experiment on a family pet.

Instead, much of the evidence is anecdotal. Someone or something ate the plant and got sick. Fine, but was it because of the plant or some fungus or bacteria on the plant? Or had the planted been treated with a pesticide? Are we really sure it really was the plant cited? (Emergency room doctors aren’t botanists after all and can easily mistake one plant for another.) Maybe the person had an allergic reaction, and that really isn’t toxicity. After all, a lot of people are allergic to shellfish and peanuts, but we don’t consider them to be poisonous.

And how much was consumed? A lot of plants are only toxic if prodigious amounts are eaten, but if so, again, should they really be considered toxic? If you eat too much spinach, for example, you could end up in the hospital, as it contains oxalic acid (toxic when consumed in large quantities), yet almost no one considers spinach poisonous. Rice and kale are other examples of common foods that are poisonous if eaten in large quantities.

Cats like to nibble on grasslike leaves!

Whether a plant is poisonous or not can also depend what part is eaten. Potato leaves, stems and flowers are poisonous, but humans can safely eat the tubers. The fleshy fruits of cherries, plums and peaches are edible, yet their leaves and pits contain deadly cyanide. Tomatoes, rhubarb, apples, asparagus, elderberries, almonds, etc. are just a few other examples of plants that have both edible parts and poisonous parts.

Also, a plant can be inedible without being poisonous. Plant parts can be very bitter or cause stomach upset or diarrhea without necessarily containing any notable levels of toxicity.

And yes, what is poisonous to humans may not be to other animals. And vice versa. Chocolate is poisonous to dogs, onions and garlic to cats. And horses have a whole range of plants they can’t eat, but that other animals can.

Better Safe Than Sorry

You may also be surprised to learn that many plants appearing on lists of toxic plants have never actually poisoned anything or anybody. They’re simply “under suspicion”. They appear there because they are related to plants that are known to be poisonous and just might have the same effect. After all, under the circumstances, better safe than sorry is the wisest attitude to take. However, once a plant has been listed as poisonous, it is very unlikely it will ever be dropped from the lists of poisonous plants. Note the 100 year struggle of the poinsettia (proven non poisonous to humans) to reestablish its good name!

People, Cat and Dog Friendly Plants

What follows is a list of houseplants that are safe for three different species: humans, cats and dogs. A sort of a typical household, in other words. The idea is to reassure parents and pet owners, or people who might occasionally have children over or care for someone else’s pets, to choose safe plants to grow in their home.

And do note that this list does not necessarily apply to canaries, hamsters, potbelly pigs, goldfish or any other pet: for information on how another creature might react to any plant, you’ll have to do some digging on your own.

The plants listed below are considered nonpoisonous for humans, cats and pets: touching these plants or eating moderate quantities of them is unlikely to cause illness. That said, a warning: any plant might cause a reaction in certain sensitive individuals. Also, a child or pet can choke on even nontoxic plant parts. Finally, plants with thorns and other spines might also cause physical injury. It’s therefore best to keep all plants out of reach of cats, dogs, and small children.

  1. Abutilon spp. (flowering maple)
  2. Achimenes spp. (achimenes, hotwater plant, Cupid’s bower)
  3. Adiantum spp. (maidenhair fern)
  4. Adonidia merrillii, syn. Veitchia merrilli (Christmas palm)
  5. Aechmea fasciata (silver vase plant)

    Lipstick plant

  6. Aeonium spp. (tree houseleek)
  7. Aeschynanthus spp. (lipstick plant)
  8. Alsobia spp., syn. Episcia spp. (lace flower)
  9. Alternanthera spp. (Joseph’s coat, calico plant)
  10. Aphelandra squarrosa (zebra plant)
  11. Aptenia cordifolia (heartleaf iceplant, baby sunrose)
  12. Ardisia spp. (coralberry)
  13. Aspidistra elatior (cast iron plant)
  14. Asplenium nidus (bird’s nest fern)
  15. Azolla caroliniana (mosquito fern)
  16. Beaucarnea recurvata (elephant-foot tree, ponytail palm)
  17. Begonia spp. (begonia)
  18. Billbergia spp. (billbergia, queen’s-tears)
  19. Breynia disticha (snow bush)
  20. Bromeliads
  21. Bulbophyllum spp. (bulbophyllum)
  22. Cactus (there are a few potentially toxic cacti, like the peyote cactus, Lophophora williamsii)
  23. Calathea spp. (peacock plant)
  24. Calceolaria spp. (slipper flower, lady’s purse, pocketbook plant)
  25. Callistemon spp. (bottlebrush)
  26. Camellia spp. (camellia)
  27. Camellia sinensis (tea plant)
  28. Canna spp. (canna)
  29. Cattleya spp. (cattleya)
  30. Celosia spp. (celosia, cock’s comb)
  31. Cephalocereus spp. (old man cactus)
  32. Ceropegia woodii (rosary vine, sweetheart vine, hearts-on-a-string)
  33. Chamaedorea elegans (parlor palm)
  34. Chamaedorea seifrizii (bamboo palm)

    Spider plant

  35. Chlorophytum comosum (spider plant)
  36. Cinnamomum zeylanicum (cinnamon)
  37. Cissus discolor (rex begonia vine)
  38. Cissus rhombifolia (oakleaf ivy)
  39. Clerodendrum thomsoniae (glory bower, bleeding-heart vine)
  40. Columnea spp. (goldfish plant)
  41. Crossandra spp. (firecracker flower)
  42. Cryptanthus bivittatus (earth star)
  43. Ctenanthe spp. (calathea, never-never plant)
  44. Cymbidium spp. (cymbidium)
  45. Cyrthanthus elatus, syn. Vallota speciosa (vallota, Scarborough lily)
  46. Cyrtomium spp. (holly fern)
  47. Darlingtonia californica (California pitcher plant, cobra plant)
  48. Davallia spp. (hare’s foot fern, rabbit’s foot fern)
  49. Dendrobium spp. (dendrobium)
  50. Dichorisandra spp. (blue ginger)
  51. Dionaea muscipula (Venus flytrap)
  52. Dizygotheca elegantissima, now Pierandra elegantissima (false aralia)
  53. Dypsis lutescens, syn. Chrysalidocarpus lutescens (Areca Palm)
  54. Dracaena reflexa, syn. Pleomele reflexa (pleomele, song of India)
  55. Echeveria spp. (echeveria)
  56. Echinopsis spp. (Easter lily cactus, hedgehog cactus)
  57. Ensete spp. (ornamental banana)
  58. Epidendrum spp. (epidendrum)
  59. Epiphyllum spp. (orchid cactus, leaf cactus)
  60. Episcia spp. (episcia, flame violet)
  61. Exacum affine (Persian violet)
  62. Fatsia japonica (Japanese aralia)

    Nerve plant

  63. Fenestraria spp. (babies’ toes, window plant)
  64. Fittonia spp. (nerve plant)
  65. Frithia pulchra (fairy elephant’s feet, babies’ toes, window plant)
  66. Fuchsia spp. (fuchsia)
  67. Gasteria spp. (ox-tongue, cow-tongue)
  68. Gerbera jamesonii (gerbera)
  69. Graptopetalum spp. (ghost plant)
  70. Guzmania spp. (guzmania)
  71. Gynura aurantiaca (purple passion plant)
  72. Haworthia spp. (haworthia)
  73. Hemigraphis exotica (waffle plant)
  74. Hibiscus spp. (hibiscus)
  75. Howea spp. (Kentia palm, Belmore palm)
  76. Hoya spp. (wax plant)
  77. Hylocereus undatus (Queen of the night)
  78. Hypoestes phyllostachya (polka dot plant)
  79. Impatiens spp. (impatiens)
  80. Ipomoea batatas (sweet potato)
  81. Iresine herbstii (chicken gizzard)
  82. Ixora coccinea (flame of the woods)
  83. Jasminum spp. (jasmine)
  84. Justicia brandegeeana, syn. Beloperone guttata (shrimp plant)
  85. Justicia carnea, syn. Jacobinia carnea (jacobinia)
  86. Kohleria spp. (kohleria)
  87. Lachenalia spp. (lachenalia)
  88. Leea guineensis (West Indian holly)
  89. Lithops spp. (living stone)

    Prayer plant

  90. Livistona chinensis (Chinese fan palm)
  91. Ludisia discolor, syn. Haemaria discolor (jewel orchid)
  92. Mammillaria spp. (mammillaria, pincushion cactus)
  93. Maranta leuconeura (prayer plant)
  94. Medinilla magnifica (showy medinilla)
  95. Mikania ternata, syn. M. apiifolia (mikania, plush vine)
  96. Miltonia spp. (miltonia)
  97. Muehlenbeckia complexa (maidenhair vine, lacy wire vine)
  98. Musa spp. (banana)
  99. Nemathanthus spp., syn. Hypocyrta spp. (guppy plant)
  100. Nepenthes spp. (tropical pitcher plant)
  101. Neoregelia spp. (neoregelia, fingernail plant, blushing bromeliad)
  102. Nephrolepis exaltata (Boston fern)
  103. Ocimum basilicum (basil)
  104. Odontoglossum spp. (odontoglossum)
  105. Oncidium spp. (dancing lady orchid)
  106. Opuntia spp. (prickly pear)
  107. Orchids (most are non toxic)
  108. Osmanthus spp. (fragrant olive, false holly)
  109. Pachira aquatica (money tree, money plant, Malabar chestnut)
  110. Palms (most are non toxic with the exception of the fishtail palm, Caryota spp.)
  111. Pachystachys lutea (lollipop plant, golden shrimp plant)
  112. Paphiopedilum spp. (slipper orchid)
  113. Passiflora spp. (passion flower)
  114. Pellaea spp. (button fern)
  115. Pellionia (trailing watermelon begonia)


  116. Pentas lanceolata (pentas, Egyptian star cluster)
  117. Peperomia spp. (peperomia)
  118. Phalaenopsis spp. (moth orchid)
  119. Phlebodium aureum, syn. Polypodium aureum (golden polypody)
  120. Phoenix spp. (date palm)
  121. Pilea (aluminum plant, friendship plant, artillery plant)
  122. Pisonia umbellifera (pisonia, birdlime tree)
  123. Pittosporum tobira (Japanese pittosporum, mock orange)
  124. Platycerium spp. (staghorn fern)
  125. Plectranthus scutellarioides, syn. Coleus blumei (coleus)
  126. Plectranthus spp., other than P. amboinicus (plectranthus, spurflower)
  127. Pleiospilos spp. (split rock, mimicry plant)
  128. Polypodium spp. (polypody fern)
  129. Portulacaria afra (elephant bush, dwarf jade plant)
  130. Primulina spp., syn. Chirita spp. (primulina, chirita)
  131. Pseuderanthemum spp. (pseuderanthemum, eranthemum)
  132. Pterandra elegantissima, syn. Dizygotheca elegantissima (false aralia)
  133. Pteris spp. (brake fern)
  134. Punica granatum ‘Nana’ (dwarf pomegranate)
  135. Radermachera sinica (baby doll)
  136. Ravenea rivularis (majesty palm)
  137. Rhapis excelsa (lady palm)
  138. Rhipsalis spp. (mistletoe cactus)
  139. Rosa cvs (miniature rose)
  140. Rosmarinus officinalis (rosemary)
  141. Saintpaulia spp. (African violet)
  142. Salvinia spp. (salvinia, water moss, floating fern)
  143. Saxifraga stolonifera, syn. S. sarmentosa (creeping saxifrage strawberry saxifrage, strawberry begonia)
  144. Schlumbergera spp. (Christmas cactus, Thanksgiving cactus)
  145. Sedum morganianum (donkey’s tail)
  146. Selaginella kraussiana (club moss)
  147. Sempervivum spp. (houseleek, hen and chicks)
  148. Serissa foetida (serissa, snowrose)
  149. Sinningia speciosa (gloxinia)
  150. Soleirolia soleirolii (baby’s tears)
  151. Sophronitis spp. (sophronitis)
  152. Stapelia spp. (carrion plant, starfish flower)
  153. Stephanotis floribunda (Madagascar jasmine)
  154. Stevia rebaudiana (stevia, sweet plant)
  155. Streptocarpus spp. (Cape primrose)
  156. Stroblianthes dyerianus (Persian shield)
  157. Tibouchina spp. (princess flower, glorybush)
  158. Tillandsia spp. (air plant, tillandsia)
  159. Tolmiea mensziesii (piggyback plant)
  160. Trachelospermum jasminoides (Confederate jasmine, star jasmine, Confederate jessamine)
  161. Tripogandra multiflora, syn. Gibasis geniculata (Tahtian bridal veil)
  162. Vanda spp. (vanda)
  163. Vriesea spp. (vrisea)

Poisonous Houseplants

For a list of list of potentially poisonous houseplants, go to 200 Poisonous Houseplants.

My cat, Minou, eats poisonous houseplants and she’s still alive. I don’t let her eat them, but she eats them. In the turf battles I fight with my cats, I prioritize no scratching the sofa over no eating the houseplants, and since she seems fine after every green snack, I’ve come to wonder if houseplants are “toxic” to her like bourbon is “toxic” to me; poisonous, but delightful, and harmless enough in small doses.

My skepticism started with poinsettias. First, Minou tasted them, then she ate them, then…nothing happened. These were poinsettias we’re talking about–the blood red angels of death that incredulous observers of my cat-rearing methods can’t believe my cat has survived.

Is it any wonder I’ve come to view some of the more hysterical houseplant toxicity lists as alarmist Internet click bait?

Of course, some plants are poisonous to pets. But which ones? To set the record straight, I interviewed Dr. Tina Wismer, medical director of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Animal Poison Control Center and did a little research of my own. Read on for the details:

N.B.: What about you? Has your cat (or dog) eaten a so-called poisonous plant and lived to tell (or bark) the story? Tell us about it in the comments below.

Photography by Meredith Swinehart except where noted.

Above: Minou licks her lips at the sight of a false aralia.

As anyone with animals or children or spouses or roommates knows, you have to pick your battles when it comes to perfection at home. But scratching the sofa doesn’t kill cats–and eating the houseplants could. I don’t know everything my cat has eaten, but I know she’s sampled the leaves or petals of poinsettias, asparagus fern, English ivy, selaginella, tulips, begonia, winterberry, hypoestes, roses, hydrangea, and cyclamen, to name just a few.

Here’s what Dr. Tina Wismer, medical director of the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center, has to say on the subject:

My cat has eaten potentially poisonous plants; why has she survived?

Dr. Wismer: Every plant is going to have a different amount of toxins in it. For example, when selectively breeding for flower color we may increase or decrease the toxicity of a plant. Plants that are under more stress (insect damage, drought, etc.) may have increased amounts of toxins in them. Also the amount of toxins can change during the growing cycle.

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