How to Grow Purple Heart Plants

Close up of the flowers and foliage of Purple Heart Flowers (Tradescantia pallida)

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Purple-heart plants (Tradescantia pallida) are aptly named because their iconic purple stems grow beautiful blooms that range from violet to pink. However, despite their unique blooms, many gardeners choose these plants for their foliage, which is also particularly vibrant. Both the stems and upper surfaces of the leaves appear to be deep royal purple, but may also contain lighter shades of turquoise-gray that becomes darker as the foliage grows older. They will bloom with three-petaled pink flowers in small clusters throughout the warm season.

Considered an easy-to-grow evergreen perennial, the purple-heart plant can add a pop of gorgeous purple color to your garden year after year. However, they tend to spread and can be invasive. They are members of the spiderwort family, which grow in both tropical and temperate regions and include 40 genera and 652 species.

Widely commercialized as a house plant as well as for outdoor gardens, the tradescantia pallida (sometimes also called "purpurea") is long-jointed, sprawling, and an ideal groundcover plant for anyone who loves the color purple.

Botanical Name Tradescantia pallida
Common Name Purple-heart plant, wandering Jew, purple secretia
Plant Type Perennial
Mature Size 14 in. tall
Sun Exposure Full sun
Soil Type Lightweight, moist, well-drained
Soil pH 6-8
Bloom Time Spring
Flower Color Purple
Hardiness Zones 7-10, USA
Native Area Mexico
Toxicity Toxic to people and pets when consumed

Purple Heart Plants Care

Purple-heart plants are often referred to as “creeping perennials”, due to the fact that they will spread out as they grow. These plants will typically reach anywhere from eight to up to 14 inches tall and 16 inches wide (although they can spread out about five feet). They are considered to have a fairly fast rate of growth, especially when compared to other indoor plants. Their flowers will die off in the winter months.

Potential gardeners should be aware that purple-heart flowers are known to form dense groundcovers, which can prevent the germination and establishment of other plants.

Despite being considered invasive in certain parts of the world, including Cuba and Puerto Rico, they are still a popular choice for hanging pots as well as gardens, since they can add a lush and tropical ground cover texture to any landscape. Its downward trailing stem means it will always stand out, even when planted as part of border fronts, wall plantings, and rock gardens.

Light

Planting your purple-hearts in full sun can help ensure that they grow the most bold and vibrant purple stems. The plant can also grow in partial shade, but their stems are more likely to appear green than purple.

It's best to introduce these plants to brighter conditions over time, however, as too much direct sunlight all at once can lead to foliage burn.

Soil

Purple-heart plants will grow best in soil that's lightweight, porous and moist. Though most commercial potting mixes will work just fine, the soil should ideally include peat moss, perlite, and compost. However, you'll just want to be sure that there's drainage holes on the bottom of the container or pot when planting indoors, as too much water retained by the soil can lead to root rot.

Water

Purple-heart plants are considered to be drought-tolerant, and will not require a great deal of watering. For best growth, however, it is best not to let them sit dry for long periods.

Aim to water these plants when the top layer of soil feels dry to the touch. You'll also want to stick to watering them during their blooming season. Keep in mind that younger plants will require more moisture than adults, and they should generally be watered at least weekly.

Temperature and Humidity

Purple-heart plants can survive in an array of temperatures, but they are susceptible to frost. The average household humidity of 40 to 50 percent creates an ideal growing condition for these plants. If your house has drier air, a humidifier can help, as can placing your plant in a bathroom or kitchen. Dry air will impact the leaves, rendering them limp.

Fertilizer

The purple-heart plant generally doesn't require fertilizer, although it can be used. Just be sure to dilute the solution to about half of its regular strength.

Pruning

These plants grow long stems, and due to their fast growth rate, they can become leggy and spindly very quickly. You'll want to prune them during the warmer months when all of the flowers have bloomed. Be sure to use sharp scissors and gloves. Aim to take off the top half of the stems that have become overgrown.

Propagating Purple Heart Plants

Purple-heart plants can be propagated via division, stem cuttings, and transplanting. They are typically propagated via stem cuttings, which is the easiest method.

Potting and Repotting

Since these plants generally don't grow to be that large, they are commonly kept as houseplants. They won't require frequent repotting but will need to be transferred to a new container if the roots begin to push through the drainage holes located on the underside of the pot. This will typically occur during spring due to their tendency to spread out during the growing season.