How To Care for the Purple Heart Plant

Adding some color to your yard is easy if you're thinking about flowers, but if you want something other than green for ground cover, look to the purple heart plant. This evergreen perennial has dark purple foliage that can grow about a foot tall but spreads easily and can grow up to 24 inches wide, so it's the perfect plant to add a beautiful pop of color to your yard. It's also an excellent container plant, growing well in hanging baskets on your patio or inside as a houseplant.

The purple heart plant, or Tradescantia pallida 'Purpurea', is native to northeast Mexico. You may see this purple plant under the name Setcreasea pallida or Setcreasea purpurea; it was first called that in 1911 by Joseph Nelson Rose, but was reclassified in the genus Tradescantia by the Royal Botanic Garden Kew in 1975.

The most striking thing about the purple heart plant is its foliage color. The long, violet-purple leaves grow to about seven inches and on the ground or in a container, it looks like a wave of purple. Summer is bloom time, and the light pink flowers make for a delightful showy picture in your garden.

It grows best in USDA Zones 7-11; as a perennial, it will die to the ground with the first hard freeze in the fall and then reappear in the spring when it gets warm again. You can also grow the plant all year round as an indoor plant.

It's one of the easiest plants to root, which means you can start your own with a cutting. Take a two or three inch cutting from the stem tip and place it in water or a good potting soil and let it grow.

The purple heart plant really is an easy one to grow. It's perfect for Southern gardens because it loves the heat of summer and is drought resistant once it is established, though it also handles frequent watering well, too. Make sure the soil is well-drained. For the brightest color, grow in full sun. While the plant will grow in partial shade, the leaves won't be as vibrant a purple.

The purple stems themselves are fragile and break easily, so although purple heart plants are great ground cover or garden edging, you might not want to plant them in a windy location.

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