Discover the Charm of the Basket Plant

Are you searching for a unique and visually stunning houseplant? Look no further than the basket plant, also known as Callisia fragrans. This subtropical beauty combines the elegance of a bromeliad with its draping stems, making it a perfect choice for both beginner and experienced gardeners.

Unveiling the Beauty of the Basket Plant

The basket plant, with its vibrant green or variegated green and cream leaves, holds a special secret. When exposed to plenty of light, these leaves can develop stunning purple hues, transforming the plant into a captivating display of colors. In fact, some basket plants have even been known to be more purple than green!

Originating from Mexico and parts of South America, this herbaceous plant has found its way to various regions, including the southern United States and the West Indies. While it thrives in controlled or warm climates, it has also found popularity in the cooler coastal areas of southern California.

The basket plant is often referred to as the “false bromeliad” due to its ability to mimic the appearance of a bromeliad cluster in bright light. However, in partial sun to shade, it resembles a dracaena with its upright leaf pattern. Its creeping stems easily take root when they come into contact with the ground, earning it the nickname of “inch plant.” Some even call it the “octopus plant” because of its runner-like stems that can reach up to 35 inches in length.

Clusters of leaves form along these stems, resembling miniature versions of the parent plant. Air roots may develop where the leaves join the stem, and a simple snip with pruning shears can create a new plant ready to grow. The basket plant derives its name from the beautiful flowers it produces. These flowers emerge on slender stems, forming a basket-like base from which clusters of white flowers with long white tendrils bloom. Their fragrance and unique appearance make them a worthwhile addition to any plant collection.

There are two types of Callisia fragrans: the all-green variety and the variegated variety called Callisia fragrans Melnikoff. While both can develop purplish hues in bright light, the variegated variety features leaves edged with lighter green and may even exhibit striping.

Caring for Your Basket Plant

The basket plant is incredibly low-maintenance and highly adaptable. It can handle various conditions as long as it receives adequate water and remains within the appropriate temperature range. However, if you desire a prize specimen, follow our tips below for optimal growth.

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Sun & Temperature

The basket plant thrives in warm climates, making it an ideal choice for indoor cultivation. It flourishes in warm rooms, ideally maintained at temperatures of 70 degrees Fahrenheit and above. During the winter, expose the plant to temperatures ranging from 50-60 degrees for a short period. This will provide it with a natural winter rest period.

To enhance the purple coloration of the leaves, it is crucial to provide the basket plant with ample bright light. Ensure it receives at least 3-4 hours of direct sunlight daily, along with plenty of bright but indirect light. Ideally, the plant should bask in 8-10 hours of light daily, increasing its exposure during the summer months.

Water & Humidity

Consistent moisture is key when caring for your basket plant. While mature plants can tolerate slight drought, younger plants require more water. When watering, thoroughly moisten all the soil in the pot, making sure not to leave it in standing water. Once excess moisture has drained, allow the soil to dry out before watering again.

Unlike many other subtropical plants, the basket plant does not require high humidity levels. It can tolerate low to moderate humidity, making it suitable for areas without additional air moisture.


The ideal soil for the basket plant is gritty loam. The soil should be soft and easy to mold into a ball when wet, yet break apart easily. It should contain some sand and feel gritty to the touch while still retaining enough texture. Adding compost can enhance the soil’s richness.

The basket plant can tolerate a wide range of pH levels, from slightly acidic around 6 to alkaline at 7.8. Aim for a neutral pH of 6.8-7 for optimal growth.


For indoor cultivation, liquid fertilizer is the simplest option. Choose a balanced fertilizer with low potency, such as a 3-3-3 formula, or use one specifically formulated for flowering plants. Avoid high-nitrogen fertilizers, as they promote excessive growth without much flowering.

Alternatively, you can opt for slow-release fertilizers designed for flowering plants. Once again, avoid those with excessive nitrogen content, as the plant primarily utilizes nitrogen for growth rather than flowering.

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Stem cuttings are the preferred method of propagation for the basket plant. Interestingly, stems that come into contact with bare soil may take root on their own. Air roots may also form along the stems, which can be planted to develop new plants.

No rooting hormone is necessary for callisia fragrans. Simply place a healthy trimmed stem into moistened soil. Stems with visible air roots are ideal, but any part of the stem can develop roots if given the chance. Plant the stem deeper than the root system, approximately 1/4 inch from the base of the leaves.

In the wild, basket plants spread through tentacle-like stems up to 35 inches away from the parent plant. Roots form at various points along the stem, giving rise to new plants. Feel free to clip the stem to remove these “babies” or leave them dangling for added visual interest.

If you plan to grow the basket plant outdoors in a warm climate, ensure sufficient spacing of 4-6 feet between individual plants to allow for spreading and rooting from the creeping stems.


Annual repotting is advisable for your basket plants. While the main plant typically does not outgrow a 5-6 inch pot, it spreads rapidly and may require freshening up of the potting soil. If you choose to increase the pot size, choose one that is no more than one inch wider.

Basket plants also thrive in hanging baskets or when cascading over the sides of decorative pillars. If utilizing these methods, remember to refresh the soil each year.

If you notice a basket plant losing its lower leaves, it may be time to replace the plant. While these plants have a long lifespan, they eventually age and need replacement. You can always take a cutting from the plant to start anew.


Pruning mainly serves to maintain the size of your basket plant. If the stems become too long for their location, trim the tips just before a leaf node. You can use these cuttings to start new plants if desired. Thinning out excess growth can also encourage remaining growth to become more robust.

If planted in the ground, basket plants can rapidly spread and fill an area. Prune back the stems to keep them in check. If the stems have rooted, prune back everything up to the rooting point.


The basket plant is highly resilient and relatively free from diseases and pests. However, a few issues may occasionally arise.

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Growing Problems & Diseases

Most diseases are unlikely to affect your basket plant. However, overwatering can create conditions that lead to root rot. Ensure that the plant’s soil is well-draining and slightly gritty to prevent excessive moisture retention. Avoid leaving the plant in standing water, such as a plant saucer.

Overwatering can also cause the tips of the leaves to turn brown. While you can trim off the damaged tips, it is better to prevent such damage from occurring in the first place.


Mealybugs are the most common pests that may appear on your basket plant. On rare occasions, other forms of scale insects may also be present, but they are less common. These pests can be easily dealt with using rubbing alcohol and an insecticidal soap or neem oil to prevent further infestation.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Is the basket plant invasive?

A: In regions with growing zones 9-11, such as the southernmost parts of the United States and Mexico, the basket plant can become invasive. While it may sustain some damage during winter cold snaps in zone 9, it tends to recover in spring. Due to its rapid growth habits, it can become invasive in those regions.

Q: Is Callisia fragrans safe for pets?

A: The ASPCA does not list Callisia fragrans as one of the most poisonous plants. However, both humans and pets may experience contact dermatitis when in contact with the plant’s sap. It is recommended to keep the plant away from pets and children and avoid direct skin contact.

Q: Is the basket plant used medicinally?

A: In folk remedies, particularly in Eastern Europe, the basket plant has been used as a medicinal plant. It is believed to possess antiviral and antimicrobial properties. It has been utilized for treating skin diseases, joint disorders, and burns. However, due to the potential for skin irritation, it is advisable to seek guidance from a medical professional or skilled practitioner when considering its medicinal uses.

If you’re seeking an extraordinary addition to your plant collection, look no further than the basket plant. With its bromeliad-like charm, delightful fragrance, and trailing stems, it is sure to captivate the eyes and please the senses. Best of all, it is an easy-to-care-for houseplant. What more could you ask for?