Rose of Jericho Plant Care (#1 Things you MUST know!)

Resurrection plants like the Rose of Jericho are a very unique type of houseplant. Unlike most houseplants, resurrection plants have the ability to appear dead and dried out for years before seemingly springing back to life.

To awaken the “dead” plant, all you have to do is water it! 🙂

In this article, we’ll focus on how to care for the Rose of Jericho.

The good news is that caring for the Rose of Jericho is SUPER EASY. They are very undemanding and can stand prolonged periods of neglect and water shortages.

As a result, they are almost indestructible!

Types of Rose of Jerichos

There are 2 species of plants that are referred to as the Rose of Jericho:

  • Selaginella lepidophylla. Sometimes known as the False Rose of Jericho, from the Chihuahuan desert; and
  • Anastatica hierochuntica. Sometimes known as the True Rose of Jericho, from North America and the Middle East.

The focus of this care guide will be on the Selaginella lepidophylla, which is the species most people are referring to when they talk about the Rose of Jericho.

How does the Rose of Jericho “spring back to life”?

Such abilities are the result of adaptation to drought. The Rose of Jericho can lose over 95% of its moisture content and go for 7 years without water.

When this happens, their stems curl tightly inward, and the plant goes dormant.

In extreme cases, the Rose of Jericho may retain only 3% of its mass(!), and carry out only the bare minimum metabolic processes associated with survival. In the desert, dormant plants may be carried by the wind as tumbleweeds. They travel until they find water again.

Caring for your Rose of Jericho

Revive your RoJ using a Half-filled Pebble bowl

Unlike most houseplants, the Rose of Jericho doesn’t need soil, let alone fertilizer. To “wake up” your dormant Rose of Jericho, all you need to do is:

  1. Prepare a bowl large enough to place your plant in.
  2. Place a few handfuls of pebbles, rocks or gravel in the bowl. You can even use LECA balls if you wish.
  3. Using room-temperature distilled water or rainwater, fill the bowl such that the pebbles are almost entirely submerged. It’s crucial you use water that is not too cold nor contains harsh mineral salts. If you only have access to tap water, allow this to sit overnight to allow mineral salts to dissipate.
  4. Place your plant on top of the pebbles, such that the roots are touching the water beneath, but your plant is not swimming in water.
  5. Like magic, you’ll witness the withered plant slowly unfurl over the next 3-4 hours.
  6. As the plant rehydrates and revives, the foliage will gradually start to turn green over time.
  7. Change out the water every other day. This is important to keep the growing medium clean and fungi-free.

Maintaining your Revived RoJ

1. Ongoing Water Breaks are Essential

Once you’ve awakened your plant, on an ongoing basis, there are two essential aspects of care:

  • Weekly water breaks. You will need to take your Rose of Jericho out of the water and place it on a tabletop or dry surface once a week. The water break should last a full day before putting it back in the water bowl. So, you can take the plant out of the bowl every Sunday morning and place it back in the bowl on Monday morning.
  • Monthly dry outs. Once a month, allow your plant to dry out completely.

These water breaks are essential to prevent mould from forming. It also helps your Rose of Jericho grow healthy.

2. Provide Bright, Indirect Light for Growth

Some bright, filtered light helps the Rose of Jericho to grow healthy.

In truth, there’s nothing specific you need to know about light conditions. Of course, avoid the extremes. Don’t place your plant in the direct path of the scorching sun, but also don’t keep it in a cupboard unless you want it to go dormant.

If you avoid these two extremes, your Rose of Jericho will grow well.

three photos of the The Rose of Jericho as it starts to revive after dormancy. The photos show the changes to the plant as it revives. Its stems start to unfurl and the plant starts to open up.
The Rose of Jericho as it starts to revive after dormancy. Its stems start to unfurl.

3. Other Care Conditions

We’ll not draw out this care guide for its own sake. If you’ve got the watering and light sections down pat, there’s nothing much else this plant needs.

Here’s everything else you need to know:

  • Humidity. The Rose of Jericho doesn’t have any specific humidity requirements; average room-humidity is fine.
  • Temperature. As long as your indoor temperature is within 40 – 95 degrees F (4 – 35 degrees C), your plant will grow healthy. However they don’t like temperature fluctuations, so try to avoid placing it next to a drafty door or window.
  • Soil and Fertilizer. Both are not required if you are placing your plant perched in a water bowl.
  • Pruning. This is up to you. When your plant is fully awake, you can choose to snip off any dead or damaged parts to enhance its appearance. There will usually be some portions of stem or foliage that simply don’t regain their colour. In this case, trim these off. Obviously, don’t prune when it’s dormant, as you won’t be able to tell which bits are dead versus which parts are dormant.

Having such a unique plant, we’d thought you’d enjoy hearing a bit more about this plant’s origins. Here’s what we know:

  • The Selaginella lepidophylla comes from a group of ancient plants called Lycopodiophyta, which is greek for Wolf’s Foot. This is because of the appearance of its leaves.
  • Sadly, the closest relatives of this plant are extinct! Their native habitat, the Chihuahuan Desert, used to be part of a region that was actually much more humid and wet. Some regions were part of an inland sea. Unfortunately, as the sea dried up, many in this Wolf’s Foot group could not adapt and became extinct. The conditions were getting much drier, and the land was much less fertile. Only the toughest, most adaptable survived. Your plant was one of the few.
  • Because of this history, the Rose of Jericho likes wet environments. Yes, it has adapted to literal desert conditions, but it still prefers living in the water at heart! (with some water breaks in-between :))

Growth

The False Rose of Jericho is a desert plant that comes from the spikemoss family (Selaginellaceae). When fully grown, they can reach a height of 2 inches (5cm) and appear as a flat circle of ferns-like fronds. As a sporophyte, the Rose of Jericho does not produce flowers or seeds. Instead, it reproduces through spores.

While they are incredibly hardy plants, the Rose of Jericho grows very slowly. Given that it only reaches a few inches tall, you can expect your plant to stay very small and flat.

During periods without water, its stems curl inwards into circular rings. The plant then appears as a compact, tight ball. When exposed to moisture again, the stems unfurl, and fronds open up.

Parched leaves slowly turn green, and the plant redevelops its ability to photosynthesize and grow again.

Close up of the false Rose of Jericho and its fern-like fronds
The Rose of Jericho has fern-like fronds that resemble Wolves’ Feet

Dormancy

If you want to induce dormancy, first remove the plant from the water bowl. Allow it to completely dry out when placed on a dry surface. Then, store your plant in a cool, dark and dry location where it won’t get squashed. Putting it in a shoebox is an easy option.

Then, leave it be! There’s nothing you need to do when it’s dormant. Once you’re ready to revive your plant, set it back in the water bowl and wait for a few hours.

Propagating a Rose of Jericho

Luckily for us, propagating a Rose of Jericho is as easy as caring for it. Propagation through division when your plant is dormant is the most straightforward method of propagation. Here’s how:

  1. Identify some pieces of stem that are a few inches long.
  2. Using clean garden shears, snip off these pieces of stem.
  3. Prepare a bowl of water with half-submerged pebbles or gravel.
  4. Place the stems perched on top of the pebbles, as you would any other Rose of Jericho.
  5. Ensure you place the water bowl in a warm spot that has some bright indirect light.
  6. In a week, you should spot some growth!

Being sporophytes, another way to propagate the Rose of Jericho is through spores. However, it’s best to leave this to professional growers, as this method is far more complicated and time-intensive.

Common Problems: Dealing with Rot

By far, the most common issue with Rose of Jerichos is rotting. This problem is due to leaving your plant in water for too long. In other words, rot is caused by not giving your plant enough water breaks!

You will be able to tell that your plant is rotting by its green foliage turning brown or black even when the plant is awake. In some cases, your plant will also start to smell bad.

To remedy this:

  1. Place your plant out of water in a dry and warm location.
  2. Allow it to dry out completely.
  3. Using clean garden shears, snip off any damaged parts of the plant so that your Rose of Jericho can focus its energy on new healthy growth.
  4. Only after it has completely dried out should you attempted to revive it again.

All in all, this is a good reminder to give your plant that once a week water break and allow it to dry out completely every month. Trust us; these simple practices will help you avoid 90% of the problems!

Pests are generally not a concern

Your plant is generally pest-resistant. Being placed away from soil also reduces the risk of pest infestation as it is removed from an organic growing medium.

Here are some other tips to keep your plant pest-free:

  • Ensure you change out the water every two days;
  • When dormant, store your plant in a dry, dark location;
  • Keep to those weekly water breaks and monthly dry outs! If you’re not able to keep up with that maintenance, allow the plant to dry out altogether and revive it at a later stage.

Troubleshooting

Why is my Rose of Jericho not turning green?

If your Rose of Jericho doesn’t revive after 3-4 hours of giving it water, there’s a possibility that your plant is dead. There are several possible reasons for this. It could be that the change in temperature fluctuations was too dramatic for your plant to tolerate, or it was exposed to irregular periods of water and drought.

While your plant is extremely hardy, it still can die when given too harsh conditions!

The second reason your Rose of Jericho is not turning green is that you’ve bought the wrong plant. The True Rose of Jericho, Anastatica hierochuntica, can only “resurrect” when rooted. Make sure you have the Selaginella lepidophylla, the False Rose of Jericho.

Rose of Jericho (Selaginella lepidophylla) that is dormant, curled up in a tight ball
Rose of Jericho (Selaginella lepidophylla) when dormant curls up into a tight ball

Why is my Rose of Jericho taking so long to open up?

There are four main reasons why this is the case, the first two we’ve covered in the question above.

  • The plant is dead.
  • You’ve bought the true Rose of Jericho, not the false one.
  • The water is too cold. Change out the water for room-temperature distilled water.
  • You’ve placed your plant in too dark a spot. While Rose of Jericho can survive in darkness for years while dormant, to revive your plant, it needs to sense that growing conditions are better. This change in environment is something your plant senses and triggers it to awaken from its dormant state. Having adequate bright light is one such condition.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you plant the Rose of Jericho in soil?

It can grow perfectly well in water, but if you wish to grow your Rose of Jericho in soil as a potted plant, you can. Use a sharp draining potting mix and ensure the soil is evenly moist at all times.

What does the Rose of Jericho symbolise?

Given its unique abilities, the Rose of Jericho has been viewed as a mystical plant. Some even claim it has spiritual powers. Others view this plant as symbolising transformation and renewal.

No doubt, the claims of the Rose of Jericho helping to boost fertility and attract prosperity are connected with its apparent “magical” properties.

Regardless of whether you believe these things or not, it’s still a really cool plant!

Is the Rose of Jericho poisonous?

The Rose of Jericho is sometimes used for medicinal purposes (although there is very little evidence of this working, so we definitely do not recommend this), sometimes being used in teas. It is not toxic when ingested by humans.

However, there are some reports of the Rose of Jericho being irritating to cats. It’s hard to verify the validity of these statements, but do be careful of this.

Are Resurrection plants dead?

No, they are not dead. When curled in a tight ball, they are dormant, not dead. In this state, they use minimal energy to run bare minimum metabolic processes for survival.

If the plant is dead, it will not be able to revive when placed in water and sunlight.

Can a Resurrection Plant die?

Of course! While the plant is extremely hardy and can grow for decades, it cannot live forever. Exposure to irregular periods of drought, too-drastic changes in temperature and being overcome by rot are potential causes of death.

How long does a Rose of Jericho live?

They can survive up to 7 years in a dormant state and carry on cycling through dormancy and revival several times. They can live up for decades if well taken care of.

What’s the difference between the true and false Rose of Jericho?

This care guide talks about the False Rose of Jericho. Here’s a summary of key differences between the False Rose of Jericho Selaginella lepidophylla and the True Rose of Jericho Anastatica hierochuntica.

  • Origins: False RoJ comes from the spikemoss family, while the True RoJ comes from the mustard family;
  • Native habitat: False RoJ is native to the Chihuahuan Desert, while the True RoJ is native to North America and the Middle East.
  • Appearance: The False RoJ looks more like a fern, while the True RoJ has a more branch-like appearance.
  • Growing conditions: The False RoJ can be totally uprooted and still survive, become dormant and revive again later. On the other hand, the True RoJ needs to be planted in soil. If a dormant true RoJ comes into contact with water, it can only revive if it is rooted.
  • Reproduction: The False RoJ is a sporophyte reproducing through spores. It does not have seeds or flowers. The True RoJ is a flowering annual herb.

Where can I buy a Rose of Jericho?

Etsy is our favourite place to look for Rose of Jerichos. You can usually find one for around US$15. Being inexpensive and super easy to grow, why not give it a go? If you get tired of it you can chuck it in a drawer and revive it in 7 years!

Other Low Maintenance Plants

If the Rose of Jericho is not for you, here are some other low maintenance plants that may tickle your fancy. Of course, they are nowhere near as low maintenance as the Rose of Jericho but are still pretty easy-going as houseplants go.

Deborah

Deborah is a plant enthusiast and founder of Gardening Collective.

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