Resurrection plant, also known as spreading club moss or Selaginella lepidophylla, belongs to a group of primitive plants known as lycopods, typically found growing in moist areas near mosses and ferns. The plant's common name derives from its habit of drying up and turning brown in the summer and fall, and then “resurrecting” when exposed to rainfall in winter and spring. This seeming return from the dead has led to the plant's popularity, though it can survive in the ground only in the desert. Most American gardeners grow resurrection plant in a container to better control its growing environment.
Soil and Planting
Resurrection plant requires a high-quality, well-drained, general-purpose potting soil. A homemade formula consists of one part coarse sand, two parts peat moss and one part hummus. Alternatively, a shallow container filled with gravel also provides the plant with the necessary support, since it does not have roots. Some growers recommend placing the plant in a dish of water, but this practice robs it of a necessary dormant period. For the best results, fill a container that has a drainage hole on the bottom with potting soil or gravel, and then place the resurrection plant on top. It grows in a self-contained ball and does not take root.
Bright, indirect sunlight is best for resurrection plant, particularly the light of a south- or west-facing window. Because it grows natively in the desert, Selaginella lepidophylla requires long periods of sunlight, at least 12 hours per day for optimal growth. Use artificial lighting during the spring and winter if necessary, as the plant grows actively during this time.
Selaginella lepidophylla does not tolerate temperatures below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, so keep it warm all year to prevent cold damage. Regular household temperatures of around 75 degrees Fahrenheit are ideal, though the plant tolerates slightly colder conditions during its summer and fall dormant period.
Resurrection plant rarely needs supplemental watering, as it uses moisture efficiently and over-watering or denying a dormant period can cause serious stress. During the winter and spring, pour warm water over the plant any time it begins to turn brown or shrivel. Because it cannot store water, resurrection plant folds its stems into a tight ball as it dries. Allow the plant to dry completely and enter a state of dormancy during the summer and fall. Do not water, even if the plant appears to be dead. In early winter, begin watering again and the plant will spring back to life.
Propagation by division is recommended for resurrection plant. Divide by taking cuttings any time of year, though cuttings taken during active growth produce the best results. Place cuttings on top of gravel or loose soil and apply water to initiate growth. Resume normal care as soon as new growth appears, which usually only takes a few days. New plants grow rapidly when divided during winter or spring.