What is Selaginella?

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  • Written By: Casey Kennedy
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 14 October 2019
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The selaginella, or Selaginel'la, is a creeping perennial that is a member of the Selaginellaceae family. Although most of these plants are native to tropical America and Asia, they also grow in China, North America, Japan, Australia and South Africa. Spreading club moss, resurrection plant and trailing spike moss are other common names for varieties of this plant.

The Victorians once favored selaginella for its soft, moss-like appearance. Today, it remains appreciated for the same qualities and is still a popular plant for terrariums, hanging baskets and use in decorative landscaping. Three of the more common species of selaginella are the S. kraussiana, S. martensii, and S. lepidophylla.

S. Kraussiana is a creeping or trailing species of the plant that grows to 0.5 inch (1.27 cm) in height and has a limitless spread with small, overlapping green leaves. In comparison, the S. martensii has small, shiny green leaves that grow on thick multi-branches in the form of a spray. Martensii plants may grow to 9 inches (22.86 cm) in height and have a 9-inch (22.86-cm) spread. The S. lepidophylla, however, is perhaps the most unusual of the three. Often called the resurrection plant, leaves will curl and turn to a brownish color when the plant is dry, but will open again and return to green when they receive water.


When grown indoors, the selaginella does best in indirect sunlight. It will appreciate a location next to a north or east-facing window. Plants require average warmth and do not do well below temperatures of 40 degrees F (4.45 C). Individuals who wish to grow the selaginella indoors should keep in mind that their plants will require a consistently moist soil that is never completely dry. Plants also need daily misting.

Since the selaginella is somewhat invasive, individuals should choose an area for planting where the plant’s growth will not crowd out other plants. Individuals should space plants between 12 and 24 inches (30 to 60cm) apart to allow for spreading. Plants prefer an area that has partial to full shade. They will do best in a soil that has a pH of 5.6 to 7.5. Selaginella is suited for United States Department of Agricultural (USDA) zones 6 through 10.

If there is a desire to divide plants for propagation and plant them elsewhere, any time of year is suitable. Individuals can simply cut shoots from existing plants and insert them in soil. As long as the soil is moist, the shoots will produce new roots rather quickly.


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