How to Grow Resurrection Plant (Selaginella lepidophylla)

This plant can survive for up to 7 years without water

Selaginella lepidophylla (resurrection plant, false rose of Jericho) close up shot, rehydrated green fronds.

Getty Images /  weisschr 

If you're looking for an easy-to-grow plant that requires little water, resurrection plants can survive several years without water by drying up and going dormant. They will revive within a couple of hours of being watered.  This remarkable feat, leading to its common name, is a survival mechanism Selaginella lepidophylla developed in the harsh conditions of their native habitat in the Chihuahuan Desert. When water is scarce, resurrection plants dry out and curl their fronds inwards into a ball shape.

The dormant plants travel the desert as tumbleweeds until they find water. Once exposed to moisture, the plants rehydrate and unfurl their gorgeous, fern-like fronds. Although resurrection plants are native to desert conditions, they can adapt well to growing indoors. They grow very slowly.

Botanical Name Selaginella lepidophylla
Common Name Resurrection plant, resurrection moss, dinosaur plant, stone flower
Plant Type Cold-tender, perennial
Mature Size 2 in. tall
Sun Exposure Full, partial
Soil Type None needed; grows best in pebbles and water
Soil pH Alkaline (7.6-9.0)
Bloom Time Doesn't flower (sporophyte)
Flower Color Doesn't flower (sporophyte)
Hardiness Zones 10
Native Area Mexico, southwestern United States

Resurrection Plant Care

Resurrection plants are easy, fail-proof plants to grow and can be very long-lived if cared for properly. Some have been passed down through generations. They are a desert plant in the spikemoss family native to Mexico and the southwestern United States. If you have purchased a resurrection plant in its dormant state, you can rehydrate it, and it will live in water or soil. Drought tolerance is one of the unique features of resurrection plants. They can survive for up to seven years without water in dormancy and lose up to 95% of their moisture content without cell or tissue damage.

Selaginella lepidophylla (resurrection plant, rose of Jericho, false rose of Jericho) dried in a bowl of water getting ready to rehydrate.
Getty Images /  MadKruben

Light

Resurrection plants thrive in plenty of light. Therefore, choose a location that receives bright, indirect light. Avoid locations with the scorching sun; it may be too much for a resurrection plant that has adapted to living indoors. 

Soil

Soil is not a necessity for resurrection plants, but you can use it. Resurrection plants will grow happily in water as long as they are given some rest periods. Alternatively, after resurrection plants are rehydrated in water, they can be transferred to soil and grown as a healthy potted plant. Use a well-draining potting mix such as a mixture of one part sand, one part potting soil, and two parts humus. 

Water

To rehydrate resurrection plants, place them in a container filled with pebbles and water. The water should reach just above the pebbles so that the plants can rest securely on top without submerging in the water too much. Resurrection plants are sensitive to water quality, so water using distilled water, rainwater, or tap water left out overnight. Once placed in the water, it takes about three to four hours for a dried-out resurrection plant to fully revive. 

If keeping the plant in water, note that resurrection plants cannot survive in constant water and will rot if left in water for too long. Therefore, dedicate at least one day a week as a water-free rest day. Then, every couple of weeks, resurrection plants should be allowed to dry out completely.

Temperature and Humidity

Although resurrection plants are desert plants, they are sensitive to extreme temperature variations and should not be exposed to too hot or too cold temperatures. If you plant them outside, they do not survive extreme fluctuations in temperature. Do not keep them outside if the temperatures go lower than 65 F or higher than 85 F.

Generally, resurrection plants are happy in average room temperatures. However, avoid placing resurrection plants in locations next to drafty vents or windows. 

Fertilizer

Resurrection plants require very little fertilizing. Feed twice a year with a water-soluble fertilizer, once in early spring and once mid-summer.

Pruning

Resurrection plants do not need pruning, but you can trim any dead ends that do not rehydrate.

Propagating Resurrection Plants

It is best to propagate this plant by division. Divide by taking cuttings any time of year, though best done during a period of active growth. Place cuttings on top of gravel or loose soil and apply water to initiate growth. Resurrection plants are sporophytes, which means that they do not produce seeds or flowers but multiply through spores.

Overwintering

This plant cannot tolerate extreme cold or heat. To store a plant in its dormant state, bring it in from the cold and put it in a paper bag or a box in a cool, dry place where it won't get crushed. It will dry out and wait for you to revive it again.

Selaginella Lepidophylla vs. Anastatica Hierochuntica

Selaginella lepidophylla is commonly confused with Anastatica hierochuntica. Both species are tumbleweeds and resurrection plants. They are distinct species that are native to two different continents. Anastatica is a member of the Brassicaceae family and comes from the arid regions in the Middle East and the Sahara Desert. At the same time, Selaginella is native to Mexico and parts of the United States and is a part of the spikemoss (Selaginellaceae) family.