The Purple Heart Plant (Tradescantia Pallida or Setcreasea purpurea) is so easy to grow and carefree as a trailing plant in containers and hanging baskets in the summer sun. A couple years ago I had a large one in a galvanized tub with the lime green of a Sweet Potato Vine and purple Wave Petunies. It did not survive the winter that year for whatever reason. I had it on my mind to add to my pots in 2015 but never got around to it. However, back in September as I walked back from the garden center to my vehicle, I found a small Purple Heart stem just lying there on the asphalt so I scooped it up and put it in the cup holder of my Expedition. A couple hours later after running more errands, I got home and walked out to my potting area placing the wilted stem in a jar with rain water (after I snipped of the end so the stem would absorb water). I did nothing else until November when I took the rooted stem and put in a small 4″ clay pot with some soil and brought in the house to overwinter.
I did not even use good soil. I was only bringing it in because it was alive and it was purple and I thought to myself ‘if it survives in the house I will use it next year in my garden’. Little did I know that fertilizing it and setting it in my south window where it receives bright light would cause it to grow and bloom. Normally I do not fertilize any plants in the winter (except Orchids) but I decided to experiment with other plants that bloom as annuals to see what would happen. I was excited to find the pretty purple bloom emerging from the purple leaves. The next day another bloomed happened. Upon further inspection of the bloom, I noticed that there were multiple small buds nestled together.
This Purple Heart started as small 5 or 6″ stem 3 months ago and now it has 2 main stems are over 16″ long with more stems coming out of the base. In the axil of the leaves (where the leaves come out from the stem) is where the multiple buds form for the blooms. There are multiple blooms with each bloom lasting a day. However, as I write this I have a double bloom which appeared this morning and started opening when the sun came out and by 9 am both of the blooms were open.
A native to Mexico and a perennial in some areas of the south (zones 8 and up). In zone 7 this plant may die out during winter if it freezes and will come back if the roots are protected and the temps do not dip below the teens. I have seen the Purple Heart (which is also known as Purple Spiderwort or Purple Queen) in large clumps in beds here in zone 7b. It grows best in full sun to get the bright purple coloring; however, it will thrive in morning sun and shaded in the hot noon day sun. The more sun it gets the more purple the leaves are. The Purple Heart plant will spread quickly with stems growing more than 18″ and rooting as they touch the soil. I want to warn you that the Purple Heart can become invasive and is known as a noxious weed in some southern states.
The Purple Heart is a delicate plant with stems that easily snap off. To grow and maintain a fuller and bushier plant, snip off the ends of the stems. If you are like me and cannot just throw out a plant, then root the stem cuttings in water in a pretty little vase or jar on the windowsill. I use rain water but tap water that has been sitting for a day will work. This is one of those plants you share and give to everyone. Plus you can add Purple Heart to your summer pots and large containers in your garden to add a punch of color with other annuals and perennials.
The Purple Heart is also an excellent houseplant for clearing toxins out of the air. You only need to start with a small plant and place it in a sunny window. I let my houseplants become rootbound and then in the spring I repot in an inch or two bigger pot. I also fertilize my Purple Heart plant now with a diluted solution of your fertilizer every time I water which is every other day (since it dries out quickly). I have blooms in the winter and the plant is thriving -so it must work.
Thank you for stopping by and let me know if you grow this as a houseplant or an annual in the garden.
Creating. Inspiring. Gardening without the rules!
2016-17 copyrighted material C Renee Cumberworth
Be inspired and there is no such thing as a brown thumb when it comes to picking the Purple Heart.