Soleirolia soleirolii aka Baby’s Tears: a guide

Species/Botanical Name: Soleirolia soleirolii

Former Names: Helxine soleirolii

Higher classification: Soleirolia

Common Name: Baby’s Tears, Angel’s Tears, Mother of Thousands

Commonly mistaken for: Irish Moss

Plant type: Herbaceous perennial

Genus‎: ‎Soleirolia; ‎Gaudich. (linked to Wikipedia for more information)

Family‎: ‎The nettles! aka Urticaceae (linked to Wikipedia for more information)

Kingdom‎: ‎Plantae

Height: 0.25 to 0.50 feet tall

Spread: 3 to 6 feet

Soil pH: 5.0 – 6.0 (meaning slightly on the acidic side as 7 would be “neutral” and anything greater than that falls on the more alkaline (or “basic”) side)

Soil Type: Loamy (some clay, sand, slit ~ helps with moisture) , rich, and moist

Blooms: Yes

Blooming description: Ivory white/creamy white

Blooming time: Early May to late June

Bloom Type: Perennial

Foliage Type: Evergreen

Zones: 9, 10, and 11

Native to: Corsica/Western Mediterranean

Sun preference: Part shade to full shade, they can handle some light sunshine though but will burn if the sunlight is too intense and too long

Light preference: Bright, filtered, and indirect or artificial

Where to plant: Soleirolia soleirolii makes for excellent ground covering in rock gardens or a location with rich soil that has consistent moisture levels and is well-drained. Soleirolia soleirolii also preforms exceptionally well in a terrarium environment where there is consistency in light, soil, moisture, humidity, and temperature. Although this plant is hardy in zones 9, 10, and 11 it should be noted that Soleirolia soleirolii can become deciduous if planted outdoors in zones 10 and 11 due to the frost. It will, however, tolerate the frost and continue to survive once the weather warms again (it will regrow from the roots up)

Watch out for the sun: Soleirolia soleirolii really doesn’t do well in direct sunlight. Pay careful attention to where you place this plant as direct sunlight will burn the tiny, delicate, and bright green foliage. This plant LOVES the shade and indirect, but bright and filtered light. It also does well in a controlled artificial light environment, such as a terrarium with some kind of light source (check out our post on how to convert a fish tank into a terrarium for some more of this).

So it likes loamy soil, what does that mean? Basically, Soleirolia soleirolii love really rich and organic soils. You can achieve this by adding compost to your soil (yay! Another great way to go zero waste and help the plants) or manure also works great. Adding some humus to the soil helps as well in terms of retaining moisture and nutrients that are vital to the plants health and success.

How thirsty to these dudes get? Thirsty! Don’t ever let your Soleirolia soleirolii dry out. That means trouble and it’ll let you know by drooping and wilting away. If you do accidentally let your plant dry out, try and not let it go for more than a day or two or it’ll have a hard time recovering. As most other plants, during the winter Soleirolia soleirolii will require less watering but make sure that the soil still remains consistently moist, but never WET. The surface can be slightly on the dry side though just make sure you keep those roots consistently moist.

What about food? Fertilizer is good, keep it on a cycle and ensure that it’s well diluted. Really any balanced fertilizer will do for this plant. We recommend a liquid fertilizer as it’s easier to control and dilute.

Temperature and Humidity: They love humidity, love, love, love it! If you’re able to set up a terrarium for them, they will thrive for sure. Terrariums are also excellent for maintaining a consistent temperature. Soleirolia soleirolii will thrive from 50-70 Fahrenheit. During the hotter months, they will need more TLC and attention, as well as humidity. So long as you are in zone 9, 10, or 11, if they get a little too cold and a frost comes – they should recover just fine from the roots up.

What about repotting: Since Soleirolia soleirolii grow aggressively and quite fast, repotting will have to happen. Once these plants become root bound, they get a little unhappy and become much more susceptible to dying from drought and uneven moisture levels. The signs to watch for are an increasingly thirsty plant and wilting, always inspect the roots though before proceeding…but do so very gently and with patience and NEVER pull on the leaves or stems of your Soleirolia soleirolii. They will break and damage your plant. Instead, work the plant out from its pot directly with gentle tapping and squeezing. If you’re repotting from a terrarium, work carefully and patiently with a small spade.

How should I prune by baby’s tears? You don’t have to prune it if you don’t want to, but it does respond well and is definitely a requirement if it’s kept in a small space or terrarium with other plants as it can take over. If you’re pruning for aesthetics and not for keeping it small, be sure to focus your attention on the wispy or leggier stems as opposed to the denser ones. Pick up all the trimmings or it will regrow!

Propagation: Well, it’s pretty easy as I’m sure you’ve gathered from the last point. If there is a stem and there is soil, and they meet, Soleirolia soleirolii will grow. Be sure to keep it watered and the soil moist, bust again, never wet.

Is this plant toxic to cats, dogs, and other pets? As far as we know, it’s not toxic to horses, dogs, and cats (ASPCA).

If I grow this outdoors, what should I watch for: Well, for starters, be sure that your Soleirolia soleirolii is not on any kind of pathway. Although it may appear to be a plant that can tolerate foot traffic, it can’t and it will suffer if people walk on it. Ensure that you plant your Soleirolia soleirolii somewhere that is shady and will have consistent moisture and watering levels to avoid drought. But be sure that your Soleirolia soleirolii has GOOD (and we stress this) DRAINAGE as this plant DISLIKES having its feet too wet!

What to be mindful of when this plant is established: It’s really hard to get rid of. If you plant Soleirolia soleirolii outdoors, or indoors (particularly in a terrarium), you gotta know that once it’s established … it doesn’t plan on going anywhere. Soleirolia soleirolii SPREADS AGGRESSIVELY and basically forever, as long as it’s thriving and alive. So if you’re keeping this plant in a terrarium, be mindful that when you trim your Soleirolia soleirolii, any droppings of the trimmings will spout new Soleirolia soleirolii!

If I want to remove this plant, what can I do: Well, luckily they have fairly shallow root systems so they can be removed manually this way. However, be sure that you have removed ALL of the root system. Anything left behind will become new growth.

So this plant flowers in May to June, what does it look like? They’re small and pretty insignificant, but still cool. The flowers are really tiny and a white creamy ivory colour. They don’t have any petals, like normal flowers, and that’s what makes them insignificant in terms of a flower.

Are there other varieties? You betcha! There are two. One has more gold-coloured foliage (aurea) and the other has white among the foliage (variegata)

Fun Fact: Irish moss is really similar to Baby’s Tears, but has much more fine foliage compared to Baby’s Tears.

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