All plant collectors and keen gardeners like a plant with a special story, and few plants have a story as special as the Rose of Jericho. Its natural growth-cycle alone is intriguing, and this is what led to the many beliefs and superstitions which surround this intriguing plant.
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How it grows in nature
The Resurrection Plant grows in dry deserts where it is perfectly adapted to survive, even when there is no water available for years at a stretch. It curls in on itself, forming a little tumbleweed-like ball of vegetation in which it protects itself until the rains come. It blows around the desert freely, opening its fronds when the conditions are moist enough.
As soon as there is free moisture, the seemingly dead bundle of vegetation unfurls, becoming a soft, fern-like plant with soft, green fronds. Just to make matters even stranger, it isn’t a fern at all, but a moss. It’s actually a primitive plant – much like a living fossil, so some call Rose of Jericho the “Dinosaur Plant”.
Many people enjoy witnessing this seemingly miraculous recovery, and will allow their plants to shrivel up completely between waterings.
What’s the legend?
The Rose of Jericho goes from seeming death to life so magically, that it’s not surprising to discover that it is believed to have magical qualities. Believers in Hoodoo say that this plant will bring you prosperity if you add five coins to the water you use to make it unfurl. They leave the plant in the water for a few days before brushing the water onto windows and doors to let prosperity in.
In Santeria, the plant is associated with the spirit of thunder and lightning and is often presented as an offering to the spirit. It is also said to bring happiness to those who bless themselves with it.
Christians, on the other hand, see the plant as being symbolic of the opening of the womb of Mary, so it is often displayed at Christmas. Not surprisingly, they also see the death and resurrection of Christ in its ability to “die” and then recover.
How do you grow it?
The Rose of Jericho is a plant that is incredibly hard to kill! It can be kept in a dark cupboard for years and still revive in water. When placed in a bowl of water, it perks up within about four hours. Don’t leave it standing in water for more than a few days, as this will make it rot. Change the water daily, and give it “rests” without water.
You can also grow it as you would an “air plant” or epiphyte. Its roots don’t need to attach to anything, so you can attach it to another plant’s stems or place it on the surface of a pot with pebbles. Mist it down from time to time to keep it looking fresh and lovely, but if you do allow it to wilt by accident, there’s nothing to worry about!
It will need good light and shouldn’t be exposed to very harsh frosts, but frost protection has never been easier. Pop Rose of Jericho in a cupboard, and plant it again when the weather has warmed up a little.
Is there more than one Rose of Jericho / Resurrection Plant?
There is indeed. The plant we are looking at here is Selaginella lepidophylla, and it’s by far the prettier of the two plants that go by this name. The other is a true desert tumbleweed with greyish foliage. It’s also harder to grow because it depends on being rooted into soil. It makes many seeds and germinates easily, so you’re much better off with Selaginella lepidophylla! It’s prettier, and it can’t become a weed!
What are you waiting for?