Helxine Soleirolii (Baby’s Tears)

Helxine Soleirolii (Baby's Tears)

Helxine soleirolii (Baby’s Tears) plants, also known as known as Soleirolia soleirolii, originated from the Mediterranean islands of Corsica and Sardinia, and belongs to the Urticaceae family. This plant is called by many names including:

  • Angel's Tears
  • Bread and Cheese
  • Corsican Curse
  • Bits and Pieces
  • Irish Moss

This herbaceous perennial plant is considered a vine, not a moss, and is part of the nettle family. It exhibits luscious, tiny green leaves that are shaped like tear drops. This plant is low-growing with a mossy, mat appearance.

Baby's Tears is great for terrariums, vivariums, hanging pots and miniature gardens. You can grow this plant in various mediums such as driftwood, and it makes a perfect house plant. Baby's Tears is often called Irish Moss. However, Irish Moss and Baby's Tears are two different plants.

Baby's Tears vs. Irish Moss

Baby's Tears is sometimes confused with Irish moss (Sagina subulata). From afar they resemble one another, but up close Irish moss has very fine foliage, whereas Baby's Tears has teardrop-shaped leaves. Similarly, both plants like moist soil and partial shade. As for being a houseplant, Baby's Tears is a better choice than Irish moss.

Helxine Soleirolii (Baby’s Tears)

Types of Baby's Tears Plants

Pilea

Pilea depressa, or Pilea, is native to the countries of Mexico and Brazil. It also belongs to the Urticaceae family and looks similar to Baby’s Tears. Even though these two plants look the same, they are not closely related. Pilea's leaves are smaller than a dime and have a rounded shape.

If you are looking to grow a Baby's Tear plant in a terrarium or container garden, then Pilea is the best option to choose. With its smaller, delicate structure, they hang beautifully from containers. However, it is important to know that this particular variety easily drys out.

Aurea

Aurea is another variety of Soleirolia soleirolii. This variety is commonly known as Golden Baby’s Tears. Aurea is used for groundcover and has the ability to grow up to 2 inches in height and 18 inches in width.

Growing conditions for Golden Baby's Tears is similar to Baby's Tears in that the soil needs to be well-drained. It can grow in shady spots with indirect light. Aurea's leaves are broad and golden in color.

About Baby's Tears

Helxine soleirolii is found in the Western Mediterranean islands, particularly Sardinia and Corsica. The plant was collected in Corsica by botanist Henri-Augustin Soleirol, who it was named after.

Although nicknamed the Corsican Curse, the plant is not cursed nor is it toxic. It grows horizontally when planted in the ground, spreading quickly. In a hanging pot, the plant's center is dense and flows over the edge of the container.

This plant blooms from the months of May to June, producing creamy white, small petalless flowers. Even though it showcases a mossy appearance, it cannot withstand being stepped on in the garden. In the outdoors it grows best between rocks and paving stones.

Growing Information

Lighting

Baby's Tears, like most leafy plants, prefer indirect, yet bright sunlight. It can also handle partially shaded growing spots, as well as artificial lighting. To note, direct sunlight or too much sunlight will burn the leaves and dry the plant out quickly.

Helxine Soleirolii (Baby’s Tears)

Temperature and Environment

Helxine soleirolii needs a temperature range somewhere between 52 and 70°F. As long as the temperature is steady, the plant will thrive. A humidity level over 60% is ideal, so a bathroom or kitchen would make great growing spots indoors. In the wild, Baby's Tears plants prefer a boggy or marshy environment.

Most gardeners use it for its low-growing, bright green, mat appearance. As noted above, it comes in several varieties which feature white, gold or yellow leaves. A variety that is quite popular is the Variegata (Silver Queen). If terrariums and bathrooms are not available indoor growing options for your Baby's Tears plant, try regularly misting it.

Watering

Depending on the plant's pot size, the frequency at which you have to water will be different. In regular growing conditions, Baby's Tears will thrive if watered two times a week. Maintaining a moist soil level, not soggy, will be done through adding rocks to the container to help with draining.

When watering, try to use lukewarm water. Watering from below is best for this plant, and is easily done by simply sitting it in a sink with standing water. This prevents over watering, and allows the plant to take what it needs from the roots up. The soil should never dry out completely, as it will wilt and possibly die.

Helxine Soleirolii (Baby’s Tears)

Propagation

Baby's Tears, like most mat-forming vines, propagates very easily. Once the roots are established it will spread quickly and aggressively. The easiest way to propagate the plant is by way of division. The stem tip cuttings method also works very well.

If propagating through stem tip cuttings, you will need to prepare the containers first. The soil will need to be damp with the holes ready to receive the cuttings. The cuttings need to be a length of about 5 to 6 cm. All base leaves will need to be removed, and the cuttings need to be dipped in water with a rooting hormone added.

For the best results place a plastic bag over the pot to create a humid environment. Be sure to cut small holes in the bag for venting and air flow. After about 14 days you can remove the bag. Within 3-4 weeks the stems should have taken root and be well established in the container.

To propagate through division, which is an easier method, cut the root ball in two. Although easier, this method can cause damage to the main plant if it is not done carefully. Read the steps below to propagate through division.

  • Prepare pots with dampened soil so they are ready for the new plants.
  • Remove the main plant from its container.
  • Gently shake soil from the roots and the root ball.
  • Cut the root ball in two. If the ball is bigger, you can try to divide into three.
  • Place cuttings into prepared dampened soil and plant.

Propagation through division doesn’t require creating a humid environment. However, if you notice the plant is beginning to wilt, a plastic bag may help.

Helpful Tips

  • Fertilizing: Fertilization can be done in autumn and spring to help keep the plant strong and hearty. An all-purpose fertilizer will work fine, preferably a liquid fertilizer. As with all fertilizers, do not let it touch the leaves because it will burn them. Like with watering, sit the plant's container in standing water with fertilizer diluted in it.
  • Repotting: Only repot Baby's Tears once a year, or when you notice that it is outgrowing the pot. To note, repotting could happen more often if the growing environment is ideal. This plant's growth rate is quite aggressive.
  • Pruning: Pruning will depend on how you want the plant to look. Always be sure to rid the plant of dry or yellowed leaves. With hanging pots, pruning is optional.
Helxine Soleirolii (Baby’s Tears)

Growing Problems

If your plants are not growing at a regular rate or they don't maintain a bright color, then revisit the growing information above. Often, the plant either need less or more of water and sun. Continue reading below to learn more about pests and diseases.

Pests

A possibility of pests with Baby's Tears plants is slight, but can still occur. Generally, the only pests that tend to flock to this plant, especially outdoors, are:

  • Whiteflies: Whiteflies are small insects that are covered with a white powdery wax. They resemble fungus gnats, and feed on the sap of Baby’s Tears plants. This will weaken the plant, causing the leaves to drop. Their eggs will be found on the top of the leaves.
  • Scale Insects: These pests can be found on indoor plants. They will start to form small brown spots on the leaves. They feed on the sap of the plant as well. You will have to manually wipe them off with cotton balls dipped in alcohol, or spray with the solution listed below.
  • Aphids: Known as plant lice, aphids have a pear-shaped body and form large colonies on plants. They will damage the plant by draining the sap from the plant, killing the flowers and leaves. You can spray with the solution below or try mixing equal parts of warm water, mineral oil and liquid dish soap.

To control pests, you can add a teaspoon of hydrogen peroxide to 1 pint of water and spray the foliage of the plant. The solution will need to set for about 10 minutes and then water the plant thoroughly.

Diseases

Helxine soleirolii will need damp soil, humidity, and indirect light to grow. With each of those, you have to find a balance that makes the plant happy. Disease can happen through over watering the plant, causing the roots to rot. Also, bacterial and fungal disease can occur when pruning because it leaves the plant exposed.

Recap

If you do not reside in a Mediterranean climate or a marshy coastal area like Florida or Louisiana, Baby's Tears can be hard to grow outside. This plant is much more suited for indoors where an ideal environment can be achieved. To recap, the plant will need the following:

  • Damp but not soggy soil
  • Indirect bright sunlight, artificial light or partial shade
  • Constant humidity levels at 60% or above

Its tiny leaves and flowing appearance make this vine plant suitable for any interior design. To add color, you can mix different varieties like the ones mentioned above. This vibrant green, mat-forming herbaceous plant is versatile, but requires some gardening skills adjusting its environment and needs.