Purple Heart Plant

A Few Facts About The Purple Heart Plant

The Purple Heart plant, Tradescantia  pallida, is an attractive plant whose bright purple foliage lend it its name. Useful as a landscaping plant, the Purple Heart can also be grown indoors or in hanging baskets. For landscaping purposes it is hardy only in warmer regions.




Popular With Those Who Grow It - Most Purple Heart plant owners are extremely delighted and speak enthusiastically about the plant. About the only negative heard about it is it can be quite an invasive plant, that will fairly quickly take over an area, smothering out other plants in the  process. In addition, the foliage appears to cause some people skin irritation, though not to a terribly serious degree and not everyone seems to be affected. Most owners speak highly of it as an extremely attractive landscaping plant, and a plant that is easy to divide, propagate, and share with others. To hear some people talk, sharing the Purple Heart plant is akin to sharing an annual crop of zucchini, with all who will accept some.

The Purple Heart plant is native to tropical climates and is hardy only in USDA zone 8 to 11. It will tolerate a light frost but does not like a deep freeze, though it will usually bounce back after a freeze that is not too deep or prolonged. It should be treated as a tender perennial in most areas of the country. While grown mostly for its purple foliage, the leaves are about 6 inches in length, and the height of the plant, at around 8 inches, is not much more than that, the Purple Heart plant does have blossoms. It will display a profusion of one inch, white, three-petaled flowers. The blossoms only last a single day during the plant's blooming period, but after a blossom dies it is quickly replaced by another.

One Tough Plant - Like almost any flowering plant, the Purple Heart plant prefers a rich moist soil, but it will grow in many types of soil, and is fairly drought tolerant. It also rebounds quite well if over watered. As one happy owner said, "you can't kill it". While that may be a bit of an exaggeration, the plant does thrive when growing in a warm climate. It spreads and self-propagates by sending out runners, which take root in several places, growing new plants (much the same as strawberry plants will do). It is even claimed that if you cut off a stem and lay it on the ground, it will soon set root. The seeds are generally sterile, or when not, do not always grow true, so sowing seeds is not a recommended method of propagation.

If you don't live in zones 8 through 11, you can still grow the plant in a hanging basket and take it in during the colder months, or simply grow it in a pot or container inside. The Purple Heart plant will take a certain amount of neglect, which is to say if you stick a pot of it in a back room and neglect it, it will usually hang in there and perk right up when given a little water and/or exposed to brighter light. Whether you plant it indoors or outdoors, the plant will tend to become a little scraggly looking at times, and needs to be pruned back periodically. If used in landscaping, this periodic pruning is usually needed to keep the plant in check and growing only where you want it to grow.

The Purple Heart plant also is a nice plant for the rock garden. Not a great deal of information is available regarding companion plants, probably because this plant is usually planted in masses and not with other plants,  but one owner indicates that when grown in a container, it goes extremely well with the asparagus fern. If you like purple, this may be the plant for you. It is not, nearly purple or somewhat purplish. It is very definitely purple!