Rheo from the rainforest – care

The genus Reo, and this is how the name of the plant is correctly pronounced, has one type of plant – Reo vellum, of the commeline family. The homeland of the plant is the tropical rainforests of Mexico and the Antilles. As ornamental foliage plants widely cultivated in the tropics of both hemispheres, it runs wild easily. Rheo is also widely cultivated as a houseplant, especially recently. Although rheo can continue to bloom throughout the year under favorable conditions, it is grown for its beautifully colored, dense, shiny leaves.

Previously, Rhoeo was isolated into a separate monotypic genus, now the plant is included in the Tradescantia genus as Tradescantia spathacea – Rhoeo spathacea, or Rhoeo discolor.
In the literature on floriculture, the plant is still often found under its original name – Reo, or Reo.

Tradescantia spathacea, formerly Rhoeo spathacea, Rhoeo discolor. Farmer Burea-Uinsurance.com Peter Corbett

In appearance, the rheo resembles a little dracaena or cistern plants from the bromeliad family. The origin of the name of the genus Rheo is unknown, but this plant has another name, which has become widespread among flower growers – the boat of Moses.


Tropical rheo – plant description

Reo spathacea or Reo motley (Rhoeo discolor) is a herbaceous rhizome plant with a short fleshy erect stem, from which leaves densely planted to each other in a linear-lanceolate form of dark green color, red-purple below, about 30 cm long. There is a form “Rhoeo spathacea Vittata” with leaves covered with yellow stripes on top and purple-red underneath.

Tradescantia spathacea, formerly Rhoeo spathacea, Rhoeo discolor
Tradescantia spathacea, formerly Rhoeo spathacea, Rhoeo discolor. Farmer Burea-Uinsurance.com Milan C

With age, the lower leaves of the rheo die off, and the upper leaves, as it were, form a rosette, from which the rheo is often confused with bromeliads. Rheo flowers are white and small, inflorescences are collected on short pedicels. The inflorescences are hidden inside the scaphoid veil formed by several purple bracts covering each other. Flowering can occur at any time of the year.

Growing conditions for rheo

Lighting and placement in the interior

Reo prefers diffused light in the spring and summer, without direct sunlight.

Optimal placement of rheo – windows with west or east orientation. On windows with a south orientation, place the plant away from the window or create diffused light with a translucent cloth or paper (gauze, tulle, tracing paper).

In the autumn-winter period, the plant can tolerate the sun’s rays, so it is placed in the brightest place. Rheo withstands partial shade, however, with a lack of light, the color of the leaves fades.

Temperature control and ventilation

In the spring-summer period, the optimum temperature for rheo is 20-24 ° C. In the autumn-winter period, the temperature should be in the range of 17-20 ° С, not lower than 12 ° С. The plant is difficult to tolerate drafts, especially in winter.

Tradescantia spathacea, formerly Rhoeo spathacea, Rhoeo discolor
Tradescantia spathacea, formerly Rhoeo spathacea, Rhoeo discolor. Farmer Burea-Uinsurance.com Forest and Kim Starr

Caring for reo at home

Watering and air humidity

The plant is unpretentious, but needs regular watering. Watered with soft and well-settled water. Half an hour after watering, the water is poured from the pan.

In the spring-summer period, rheo is watered abundantly, as the upper layer of the substrate dries up. Long (day or two) overdrying is very harmful for reo. In the autumn-winter period, watered moderately, one to two days after the top layer of the substrate dries. When the plant is kept (in winter) at temperatures below 14 ° C, the soil is kept moderately moist. When watering, drying out and excessive waterlogging of the substrate should not be allowed.

When watering, do not allow drying out and excessive waterlogging of the substrate.
Rheo tolerates low air humidity in rooms, while high air humidity is preferable for it. It is advisable to spray rheo every day with boiled or soft filtered water at room temperature, this is especially important in winter.

If the air is too dry and warm, to increase the humidity of the air, the pot with the plant can be placed in a tray with wet expanded clay or peat, while the bottom of the pot should not touch the water.

Transplant and pruning

It is advisable to transplant rheo into plastic pots that better retain soil moisture than clay pots. In late spring or early summer. Young annually, mature plants every 3-5 years. In this case, the pots should be wide and low, since the root system of the plant grows in breadth.

In plants grown as a single bush, side shoots are removed.

Plants are not pruned. In order to get a bushy plant, pinch the tops of the shoots, this stimulates the growth of lateral shoots.

Soil composition and feeding

The soil should be rich in humus, light and loose (pH 5,5-6,5). For example, such a substrate is suitable: 1 part of clay-sod, 1 part of leaf, 1 part of humus, 1 part of peat land and 1 part of sand. Good drainage is required – rheo loves moist soil, but it is extremely painful to tolerate stagnant water and soil acidification.

From March to August, rheo is fed with fertilizer for indoor decorative deciduous plants every two weeks.

The rest period

October-February is a dormant period. 17-20 ° С, moderate watering, good lighting, regular spraying, do not feed.

Precautionary measures: rheo can cause contact dermatitis.

Possible difficulties

Rheo leaves can turn yellow as a result of sunburn.

The brown dry tips of the leaves of rheo occur when the indoor air is too dry, especially in winter, if the plant is located near central heating radiators.

The tips of the leaves turn brown, the leaves of the rheo wrinkle and dry out with insufficient watering, or when watering with cold water.

With a lack of light, the plant loses its excellent leaf color and stretches.

If the temperature is too low, the rheo leaves become soft and droop.

Rheo stems are stretched, the leaves are not densely arranged, the plant loses its decorative attractiveness with an acute lack of light, or a lack of nutrients in the soil.


Propagated by Rheo apical cuttings or side shoots. Rheo is vegetatively propagated most often by apical cuttings or lateral shoots (offshoots). To obtain side shoots, pinch the top of the main shoot. When transplanting old, overgrown rheo specimens, you can carefully divide the rhizome.

Rheo cuttings root well in the sand for 2 weeks at a temperature of 22-24 ° C. After rooting, they are planted in pots.


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Anna Evans

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