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Resurrection plants. Maybe you’ve heard the name, but what the heck even is it? In this post, you will learn everything you need to know in order to successfully care for the resurrection plant, because no, it’s not actually DEAD!
Before we get into the full care guide and how to propagate this plant, there’s some very important info that we need to review.
What is a resurrection plant?
“Resurrection plant” is not the name of a single species of plant. Rather, resurrection plants are poikilohydric plants that can tolerate severe dehydration. (In a nutshell, poikilohydric plants lack the ability to maintain water content.)
There are about 135 species of resurrection plants.
Does this all make sense so far? Good, because it’s about to get a little more complicated.
Why is it called a resurrection plant?
These plants are called “resurrection plants” because they appear to be dead when they dry out (they go dormant), and then appear to come back to life (or resurrect) when they come in contact with moisture again.
The Rose of Jericho
The Rose of Jericho is a type of resurrection plant. It’s very important to note that there are TWO resurrection plants commonly referred to as Rose of Jericho:
- False Rose of Jericho (Selaginella lepidophylla)
- This is the one that most people are referring to when they say “Rose of Jeroicho” or “resurrection plant.” Yes, that’s right, the FALSE Rose of Jericho is the popular resurrection plant that is normally kept as a houseplant.
- True Rose of Jericho (Anastatica hierochuntica)
- Still a type of resurrection plant, but I’ll explain the differences below.
The False vs. True Rose of Jericho – Critical Differences (And What I’ll Be Talking About In This Post!)
False Rose of Jericho (Selaginella lepidophylla)
- A type of spikemoss (it looks kind of like a fern)
- Native to the Chihuahuan Desert
- Does not need to be planted in soil to resurrect and continue growing. It can be totally uprooted.
- In its natural habitat, it forms a tumbleweed when dry and gets blown around desert. It resurrects once it encounters moisture.
- When it’s in its balled-up tumbleweed form, it’s actually just dormant, not dead.
True Rose of Jericho (Anastatica hierochuntica)
- An annual herb—part of the mustard family (it has more of a branch-like appearance than the False Rose of Jericho)
- Native to North Africa and the Middle East (this is easy to remember because Jericho is located in the Middle East)
- Once this plant dries out and comes in contact with moisture again, it will ONLY resurrect if it’s STILL ROOTED.
- If it get uprooted by the wind, it also forms a tumbleweed and blows around the desert. However, by that time, it’s dead. If it encounters moisture, it will not resurrect.
Okay, now that we understand the critical differences between the True and False Rose of Jericho, the rest of this care and propagation guide is geared toward the False Rose of Jericho.
Why? Because it is the most popular resurrection plant to be kept as a houseplant. It’s what most people are referring to when they talk about caring for, owning, buying, etc. a “resurrection plant.”
The reason why it’s so popular is that it doesn’t have to be rooted in order to resurrect. It’s almost like magic!
With that said, I might refer to the False Rose of Jericho simply as “the resurrection plant” for the purpose of this post.
I will mention the True Rose of Jericho in certain parts of this post where I feel it’s important, but I’ll make the distinction clear!
Where can I buy a Resurrection Plant?
You can easily find a resurrection plant for sale on Etsy! Check out this False Rose of Jericho from one of my favorite Etsy shops.
Is Resurrection Plant easy to care for?
Resurrection plants are insanely easy to care for, essentially requiring the bare minimum of effort to keep them alive. They’re great for beginners! Just remember, they CAN still die, so you can’t neglect them totally.
How do you take care of a resurrection plant?
If you skipped my whole section before this on resurrection plant background info (which you shouldn’t!) this post is about the False Rose of Jericho (different from the True Rose of Jericho).
Here is a basic False Rose of Jericho care guide:
- Bright, indirect light when it’s out of dormancy
- To water it, place it in a tray of pebbles with distilled water or rainwater
- No soil or potting necessary
Read on for more!
How much light does the resurrection plant need?
When your resurrection plant is out of dormancy, it needs bright, indirect light.
Once it totally dries out, curls up, and returns to its dormant state, it does not need any light—you can literally store it in a box. Just make sure it doesn’t get damaged where you put it!
If you don’t have any bright natural light available, a grow light will help you when your plant is out of dormancy. Personally, I keep almost all of my plants under grow lights.
Below is one grow light that my plants REALLY love! The clip and the adjustable necks are insanely convenient.
How do you water a resurrection plant?
The False Rose of Jericho blows from one water source to another as a tumbleweed, so it does not need regular water. You can water it every few years, every few months, or every few weeks. Whatever you prefer!
When you water your resurrection plant is when it will “resurrect” itself. Here’s how to do it:
- Fill a tray with a layer of pebbles.
- Then, fill that with water, but just barely enough to submerge the pebbles.
- Use distilled water or rainwater, if possible, to avoid certain chemicals in tap water that the plant is sensitive to.
- Now, sit the plant on the pebbles so the very bottom of the plant is in water. You do not need to submerge the entire plant.
- After a few hours, the plant will open up and turn green, “resurrecting” itself and coming out of dormancy!
- Remember to change the water every day to every few days to keep things clean.
A few more important points:
- Do not leave them permanently in the water because they can still rot if they are left to soak forever. Remember, it’s natural for them to experience drought.
- Remove the plant from the water about once a week for a day. It won’t totally dry out in that time, but it’ll appreciate getting a break from sitting in water.
- Every couple of weeks, remove it from the water and let it totally dry out until you’re ready to open it up again.
When does the resurrection plant open?
The resurrection plant starts to open when it comes in contact with moisture and will fully open and turn green after a few hours.
You can kind of compare this to a dry sponge hitting water—the plant will expand from its dry, dormant ball when it comes in contact with moisture.
Does the resurrection plant like humidity?
The False Rose of Jericho is native to the desert and does not require additional humidity.
Normal household temperatures are fine but keep it away from very cold areas or sharp temperature changes.
Does the resurrection plant need soil?
The False Rose of Jericho does not need to be planted in soil and usually isn’t, but it CAN be if you want it to.
After it’s been revived and sitting in water for a little while you’ll see small roots forming. Once that happens, you can plant it in soil. Keep the soil lightly moist at all times.
This is one of the key differences between the False and True Rose of Jericho.
The True Rose of Jericho needs to be planted in order to survive. They only “come back to life” if they’re still rooted.
An uprooted True Rose might still unfurl a little with water contact (again, it’s like how a dry sponge expands in water), but it’ll remain brown and crispy because it won’t actually be alive.
Fertilizing the resurrection plant is not necessary and, in fact, it can do more harm than good.
Once your plant is resurrected you’ll be able to identify and snip away any dead pieces. Other than that, pruning is not needed!
The False Rose of Jericho is a type of spikemoss. When it’s fully revived, it looks like a flat, green circle of ferns that sometimes grows little white flowers.
Remember, the True Rose of Jericho is very different. It is part of the mustard family and has more of a branch-like structure.
Both plants look like tumbleweeds once they dry up.
When your resurrection plant dries out and begins to curl up and go dormant, you don’t need to care for it at all until you’re ready to revive it again.
Store it somewhere safe (and remember where you put it!), but don’t be concerned about light—you can actually store it in the dark.
Common Problems and Pests
- Resurrection plant won’t turn green
- If your plant doesn’t turn green within a few hours of giving it water, it’s possible that it’s dead. Lots of irregular periods of drought, drastic and quick temperature changes, or rot from soaking in water too long are a few things that can kill a resurrection plant.
- Remember, only the False Rose of Jericho will turn green again. If you’re trying to resurrect a True Rose of Jericho, it needs to still be rooted.
- Rot – You might notice your plant smelling bad or turning dark in color when it’s in water.
- Resurrection plants can rot if left in water too long.
- They are used to periods of drought and need breaks from water. See the watering section further up in this post for more details.
- Pests – Typically not a problem for the resurrection plant, but be sure to:
- Keep your plant fresh and clean by changing the water every day to every few days.
- Store your plant somewhere safe when it’s dormant.
How to Propagate the Resurrection Plant
The easiest way to propagate the resurrection plant is through division.
- While your plant is still dormant, use clean, sharp scissors or a knife to cut a few pieces off of healthy stems. The pieces you cut off should be a few inches long.
- Put the stems in a tray of pebbles with distilled water or rainwater (like you would with a mature plant)
- Within a week or so, you should start to see new growth!
You can also propagate the False Rose of Jericho through spores. Professionals usually use this method—it’s pretty complicated and time consuming!
Are resurrection plants alive?
Yes! The False Rose of Jericho resurrection plant is alive, it is just dormant.
The True Rose of Jericho resurrection plant is no longer alive once it’s uprooted.
Can a resurrection plant die?
Yes, the resurrection plant can still die! The thing is, you won’t know this until you try to revive it in water. If it doesn’t turn green, it’s probably dead.
Lots of irregular periods of drought, drastic and quick temperature changes, or rot from soaking in water too long are a few things that can kill a resurrection plant.
The True Rose of Jericho will die once it’s uprooted.
How long do resurrection plants live?
The False Rose of Jericho can go many years between waterings, and, with proper care, it can survive for decades!
Is the resurrection plant toxic?
I haven’t been able to find a hard “yes” or “no” answer, but through my research, I’ve seen a lot of “it may be toxic” answers. So, when in doubt, assume it’s toxic!
Resurrection Plant Care Summary
- Bright, indirect light when it’s out of dormancy
- To water it, place it in a tray of pebbles with distilled water or rainwater. Remove it from the water once a week. Every couple of weeks allow it to completely dry out.
- No soil or potting necessary
- No additional humidity needed
- Average household temperatures are fine
- Fertilizer is not necessary
- Prune off any dead peices when it’s out of dormancy
- Store it somewhere safe during dormancy, but it does not need any light during this time
More on Resurrection Plants
I found a few cool videos you might be interested in during my research.
Here is a beautiful False Rose of Jericho time-lapse from Jeremy Lindsley on YouTube.
Here is a short PBS video on plant biologist Jill Farrant who studies resurrection plants. According to Farrant, every single crop has the genetics to become a resurrection plant, they just don’t turn those genes on during a drought. WHAT?! Crazy!