How to Grow and Care for Baby's Tears

baby tears hanging plant

The Spruce / Letícia Almeida

Baby's tears (Soleirolia soleirolii) is a mat-forming tropical perennial with myriad tiny leaves. Often confused as a type of moss, it comes from the nettle family. What makes baby's tears special is its dense, delicate mat of fine round or bean-shaped leaves on short, fleshy stems. Baby's tears plants are easy to grow for beginners, but they require regular attention to look their best. It thrives in lower-light conditions and is commonly used in terrariums and mixed containers. In warmer climates, it's grown outdoors as an evergreen ground cover or filler plant for rock gardens. In colder zones, if planted outdoors, it's an annual that dies out as the winter season starts. This fast-growing plant is easy to grow from potted nursery plants in the spring. Although, it is an invasive plant in warmer, tropical climates.

Common Name Baby tears, baby's tears, angel's tears
Botanical Name Soleirolia soleirolii
Family Urticaceae
Plant Type Herbaceous perennial, often grown as an annual
Mature Size 4 in. tall; 36 in. wide
Sun Exposure Partial
Soil Type Rich, moist loam
Soil pH 5.0 to 6.0 ( slightly acidic)
Bloom Time Late spring to early summer; May to June
Flower Color Creamy ivory
Hardiness Zones  9 to 11 (USDA)
Native Area Mediterranean
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Watch Now: How to Grow and Care for a Baby Tears Plant

Baby's Tears Plant Care

Baby's tears have a vigorous growth habit. It grows best outdoors in moist, well-drained soil in a partial to full shade spot. Despite its reputation for aggressive growth, baby's tears do not respond well to harsh sunlight or dry conditions. But in rich, well-drained, moist soil, the plant sends out runners and spreads throughout the area. This plant remains evergreen in warm climates but will die back with the first hint of frost. As a potted plant, baby's tears grow easily in a standard potting mix.

Outdoors, baby's tears have almost no serious pest or disease problems. Indoors, it may be affected by some of the same pests that affect many houseplants—aphids, mites, and mealybugs.

Warning

In mild climates with regular rainfall, the plant is weedy and can become invasive. It tends to spread vigorously in Hawaii in the southwestern U.S., but is usually easy to uproot.

closeup of baby tears
The Spruce / Letícia Almeida 
closeup of hanging baby tears
The Spruce / Letícia Almeida 

Light

Baby's tears plants can endure brief periods of intense sunlight, but they look their best in bright, filtered light. Plants growing in full sun may develop brown, scorched leaves. Baby tears plants can thrive under artificial lights indoors. Outdoors, place it in a shadier location.

Soil

A rich soil amended with humus, compost, or manure is sufficient for baby's tears plants. It will also help to regulate the moisture level for plants. Commercial potting soil is suitable for growing baby tears as a houseplant or in a container garden.

Water

Baby's tears plants are thirsty plants that never like to dry out. If you allow your plants to dry out, you'll notice a dramatic wilting. Water as soon as you notice wilting, and within a day, they should recover. Baby's tears houseplants will require slightly less water in the winter months. It's fine for the soil's surface to be dry, but the soil around the roots should be moist.

Temperature and Humidity

As an outdoor specimen, baby's tears plant grows best in a climate that remains between 50 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit. The higher the ambient temperature, the more attention the gardener must pay to light and humidity. Baby's tears plants can tolerate a light frost, but freezing temperatures that sometimes occur in U.S. Department of Agriculture hardiness zone 9, may kill the plant's top growth. The plant can regenerate after the transitional climate warms up again.

Baby's tears appreciate high humidity with at least 75 percent humidty. These plants are ideal for a steamy bathroom or kitchen. If you live in a drier environment, these plants will appreciate life in a humid terrarium.

Plant arrangement with baby's tears ( Soleirolia soleirolii) in a decorative glass vase
brytta / Getty Images

Fertilizer

A balanced plant fertilizer will keep the foliage of baby's tears plants bright green and dense. Give the plant liquid fertilizer through spring and summer every two weeks. The liquid form is easier to apply than spike inserts or granular fertilizer when no bare soil is visible.

Types of Baby's Tears

  • Soleirolia soleirolii 'Aurea': This variety has golden foliage; it grows a little lower than other types of this species and does not spread as widely. It does better in dappled shade.
  • Soleirolia soleirolii 'Golden Queen': This variety has yellowish leaf margins.
  • Soleirolia soleirolii 'Silver Queen': This variety has silver-gray foliage.
  • Soleirolia soleirolii 'Variegata': This variety has variegated, silverish leaves with white stippling. It was formerly called 'Argentea.'
Baby Tears Cultivars
dmf87/Getty Images
Sagina blooming plants in pots for sale. Irish moss in flowerpots top view
Irish Moss (Sagina subulata) dmf87 / Getty Images

Pruning Baby's Tears

The green color is dominant across all varieties. If you have a variety that comes in a different color, such as a golden or variegated type, prune the green stems to prevent the cultivar from reverting to solid green.

Although it isn't necessary to trim baby's tears, pruning will improve its appearance, encouraging new growth. If you grow baby's tears as a companion plant to another houseplant, give it a trim to keep it in bounds. Pruning is prudent in small terrariums. Baby's tears can quickly overrun other miniature plants in a confined space.

Propagating Baby's Tears

Baby's tears plant propagates easily, especially in its growing season, usually during the spring and summer. Wherever stems are touching the soil, they will form roots. Plants can spread without limit. If you want to keep the plant within its bounds but don't want to kill the overgrowth, move it to a container. These plants are seldom propagated by seed. Baby's tears plants are best propagated via division and cuttings. Here's how to do it:

To propagate via division:

  1. To divide your plant, you will need a trowel, new growing container, or growing area for your divided plant.
  2. Separate a section of stems with soil and roots using a small trowel. Don't worry about damaging the plant; it will regenerate quickly.
  3. Replant the division in moist, well-draining potting soil.

To propagate via stem cutting:

  1. You'll need scissors or pruning snips, a potting container, fresh moistened potting mix, and, optionally, some rooting hormone.
  2. Cut healthy stems that are at least 2 inches long. Remove the base leaves and keep only the leaves at the top of the stem.
  3. Make holes in the potting medium with your finger and plant the cuttings in the holes. For better results, dip the cut ends in water with the rooting hormone before burying the cut tip in the hole.
  4. Cover the cuttings with plastic wrap or a clear plastic or glass dome. After 3 to 4 weeks, the stems should be well-rooted.

Potting and Repotting Baby's Tears

Containers are another good option for people who live in subtropical zones, where this plant can get invasive if planted in-ground.

Baby's tears plants adapt well to life in containers. In a small hanging basket, the spreading plants can spill attractively over the sides. In a terrarium, the plants can creep to the edges of the glass, hiding the bare soil. In a mixed outdoor planting, baby tears plants work great as an edging plant.

Baby's tears plants grow quickly and need to be repotted regularly. Get a larger pot—in this case, the larger, the better—and get a commercial potting soil lightened with additional peat moss or perlite.

The plant's stems are fragile, do not pull plants out of their containers by the stems or leaves. Turn the pots upside and tap, squeeze, or push on the drainage hole with a pencil to coax the plants loose. Place the roots in the new potting mix. Water thoroughly.

Overwintering

If you live in a place that gets frost or cold weather conditions, it's a good idea to grow baby's tears in containers. Bring these plants indoors when the weather approaches freezing temperatures. Frost will begin killing off the outer layer of leaves first. The plant will not survive outdoors if you live in a location with sustained wintery weather or in any hardiness zones less than 9. The plant should be able to bounce back if exposed to frost briefly.

How to Get Baby's Tears to Bloom

Baby’s tear plants produce tiny, creamy white, otherwise insignificant flowers. They bloom easily outdoors in late spring. They do not have petals and are not much to look at, so they are not used decoratively. Baby's tears rarely flower when kept indoors or cultivated.

Common Problems With Baby's Tears

Baby's tears are an easy plant to grow and care for—once you understand their needs. Your biggest considerations with this plant are making sure the plant gets sufficient water and humidity.

Wilting

Wilting occurs because the plant's leaves are not getting enough water. Pot-bound plants are more susceptible to drying out. You'll notice continued wilting in plants that need to be repotted. Divide the plant and transplant the division in a new pot.

Browning Leaves

Plants growing in full sun may develop brown, scorched leaves. Move the plant to a shadier location or give it some cover if it's in-ground.

Blackening Leaves and Foul-Smelling Soil

Root rot can kill a plant if not caught in time. Overwatering causes this deadly disease. If you notice a few blackening leaves and a foul smell, the soil is likely soggy too. However, all may not be lost; you still might be able to rescue the plant. Unearth the root ball and repot it in a better draining soil, amended with perlite. Prune off the blackened leaves. Cut off any rotten or blackened root sections. Look for fungus gnats or aphids on your plant, too. They often infest plants that are weakened by root rot. If you notice pests, apply an insecticide soap or neem oil to remove the insects and keep them away.

FAQ
  • Are baby's tears easy to care for?

    Baby's tears are easy to care for once you get their water, humidity, and light exposure correct. They need regular, consistent watering and fertilizer—so they are not entirely low maintenance.

  • How fast do baby's tears grow?

    Baby's tears are a fast-growing creeper in perfect growing conditions.

  • What's the difference between baby's tears and Irish moss?

    Baby tears plants are sometimes confused with Irish moss (Sagina subulata). From a distance, it's hard to tell the two apart. Both plants have the same bright green foliage, low-growing characteristics and produce tiny white flowers. Irish moss has very fine, thread-like foliage, while baby's tears have teardrop-shaped leaves. Irish moss is hardy down to USDA zone 4, working better as a landscape perennial than a houseplant.

Article Sources
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  1. Soleirolia Soleirolii - Plant Finder.” Missouribotanicalgarden.org. N.p., n.d. Web.