Tradescantia pallida, commonly known as Purple Heart or Purple Queen, is a species of flowering plant native to the Gulf Coast region of eastern Mexico. In this post, we share information about this plant and provide guidance on how to grow it in your garden or indoors as a houseplant.
This tender perennial from the Commelinaceae family is often used as a houseplant or an annual in colder climates. It has vivid purple, elongated, and slightly pointed leaves that turn more vividly purple in full sunlight and times of drought. The leaves are covered with pale hairs and form a sheath around the stem. The fleshy stems, also purple in color, are fragile and can easily break off if brushed or kicked too hard.
This is a plant can b e grown both indoors and outdoors, which can withstand both direct sun and shade, but is perfect in an in-between space, a space with sun and shade. It also requires little watering and offers us the fantastic color of its elongated leaves and its great ability to grow on long purple stems.
Size and Growth Habit
Tradescantia pallida can grow up to about 8 inches tall and can trail to 18 inches or more, spreading to form a dense mat. The size at maturity and rate of growth however, can be influenced by various environmental factors, including sunlight, water, and temperature.
This variety is a low-growing trailing plant with a scrambling, climbing growth habit and vine-like stature and is commonly used as a ground cover, cascading in baskets, or as a trailer in mixed containers. Small aerial roots will form along the stem, which root the vine further in-place and give greater stamina to the overall plant body.
Easily found in ornamental projects, this species, with extremely decorative purple foliage, is frequently used to cover large spaces and restricted areas. The coloring and texture of this plant are very original, creating beautiful volumes. It is a plant used by those who enjoy playing with colors. Excellent for forming masses and borders, it can also be used as a lining or in flower boxes.
Flowers and Bloom Time
Tradescantia pallida produces relatively inconspicuous pink or pale purple flowers with bright yellow stamens. These flowers are about ½ inch wide and have three petals typical of the Tradescantia genus. The flowers are borne on the ends of the stems and bloom from midsummer through fall, with sporadic blooming at other times.
While the flowers may be relatively inconspicuous, they add a delicate and charming touch to the plant’s overall appearance by providing a lovely contrast against the dark purple foliage. They are also responsible for the plant’s reproductive process.
Tradescantia Pallida Care
To care for Tradescantia pallida, also known as Purple Heart, you need to consider its watering needs, sunlight requirements, ideal temperature, and potting and soil requirements. Here are some care tips specifically for its leaves and stems:
Grow your Purple Heart Tradescantia in full sun for the best color development. If your Tradescantia Pallida will be indoors, look for a well-lit place near an east, west, or south-facing windowsill to ensure it receives at least 8 hours of bright indirect sunlight or filtered light per day
If grown outdoors, the purple color of its leaves intensifies, while plants grown in shade tend to be more green than purple. While the plant can tolerate some direct sunlight, excessive exposure to direct sunlight may cause leaf burn. So, if you want to maintain the purple color, it is best to provide the plant with full indirect or filtered light can help avoid leaf burn or scorch.
Tradescantia pallida is drought-tolerant and can survive long periods without water. However, it is best not to let the plant sit in dry conditions for too long, especially if you want it to develop strong, thick stems and leaves.
Thoroughly water the plant at least once every 7 to 10 days, especially during its blooming season in the summer months, but allow the soil to dry out slightly between watering . It is important not to let the plant become saturated with water to prevent the roots from rotting.
In winter, reduce watering to once every 3 weeks as the plant enters a period of slower growth. Use your finger to check if the top 1 to 2 inches of the soil is dry to the touch before watering. If it is dry, it’s time to give the plant a thorough watering.
Temperature and Humidity
Tradescantia pallida is a plant that prefers warm climates with constant temperatures . It can be grown outdoors year-round in USDA hardiness zones 7 to 11 or in areas where the temperature is between 65 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
In colder climates, it is best to grow this plant in a pot or container that can be easily moved indoors when temperatures drop below 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Although it can withstand cold temperatures, it is not recommended to grow it outdoors if you live in an area where it is quite cold in winter.
In terms of humidity, this plant adapts well to different levels but generally prefers average to high humidity. If you are growing it indoors as a houseplant, you can use a humidifier to create a more humid environment and mimic tropical conditions.
Low humidity can cause foliage damage to Tradescantia pallida, so it is important to provide adequate humidity to prevent this.
Tradescantia pallida prefers a well-draining soil mix, such as a cactus or succulent soil mix, or a regular garden soil mixed with organic substances like peat moss, perlite, or compost. The substrate should be loose and airy to allow for proper root development and also prevent waterlogging and root rot.
This plant can grow in both acidic and alkaline soils, and it typically doesn’t have issues with nutrient deficienciey. If you decide to plant it in your garden, it would be beneficial to have soil with organic matter as this helps the roots grow better and multiply.
Use a pot or container with drainage holes at the bottom to ensure proper drainage and also use a dt.
You can fertilize it once a month during the growing season (spring-summer) with a balanced liquid fertilizer as directed on the product. Make sure to follow the instructions on the fertilizer packaging for dilution rates and application methods.
Generally, dilute the fertilizer to half or quarter strength to avoid over-fertilization, as Purple Heart plants are not heavy feeders. If you prefer a slow-release granular fertilizer, sprinkle it evenly on the soil surface and gently work it into the top layer of soil
Reduce or stop fertilizing during the winter months when the plant is in a dormant phase
Tradescantia pallida: Propagation
Tradescantia pallida can be easily propagated from stem cuttings. Simply cut a few healthy stems just below a segment node and plant them in a container filled with moistened potting mix. Within a short period, the stem can grow new roots and become a fully separate plant. Make sre to keep the cuttings in a bright spot away from direct sunlight until they root.
You can take cuttings almost any time of the year, but the best time is during spring and summer. One thing to be cautious about is that its stems are nearly hollow and, as a result, quite fragile. When handling them, even a slight twist or bend can cause them to break easily.
Common Pests and Diseases
Tradescantia pallida is known to be a tough plant and is not commonly affected by pests or diseases. However, its fleshy leaves may attract caterpillars and snails which wreak real havoc on the plant and, especially, on the new shoots.
To prevent this, you can place a protective barrier around the plant using gravel, wood chips, or diatomaceous earth. For plants grown in pots, these caterpillars are usually removed manually.
Another common problem in the spring and summer months is usually aphids, which can be treated with foliar applications on the plant with potassium soap.
Is Tradescantia pallida toxic?
Tradescantia pallida is considered mildly toxic to pets and people. All parts of the plant, including the seeds, contain toxic compounds such as ricin and low-molecular weight glycoproteins with allergenic activity. If consumed, there is a chance of dermatitis, a skin issue, and mild discomfort in some form.