Botanical Name — Tradescantia pallida
Common Name — Purple Heart Plant
Plant Family — Commelinaceae
Tradescantia pallida is a low growing trailing perennial that native to northeast Mexico grown as an ornamental for its beautiful purple foliage. This tender plant is in the spiderwort family and is grown as an annual or houseplant in colder climates in zones below 7. Its botanical name was originally Setcreasea pallida but was reclassified in the genus Tradescantia in 1975.
- Tradescantia pallida prefers plenty of bright, indirect light to maintain the dark purple color. Some direct sun is fine but make sure to protect from strong afternoon sun. Leaves will turn more green in low light conditions. Long spaces between the leaves is another indication that your purple heart needs more sun.
- An ideal spot is right in front of an east-facing window or a few feet back from a south or west-facing window.
- Does well in temperatures between 65°F and 80°F but can tolerate a minimum of 50°F in the winter. Keep away from drafts from doorways /windows and away from cooling or heating vents.
- It likes high humidity, but this is not essential. Purple hearts will do fine in a normal household environment. Dry air can cause brown leaf tips.
- Allow the top 1” of soil to dry out in between waterings and then water thoroughly. Cut back on watering in the winter. If you notice limp and or wilted stems prune to the soil level. This can indicate root rot.
- Moist, but well draining, well aerated soil.
- Likes a peat moss based potting mix, such as African violet potting mix.
- Blooms small pink 3-petaled flowers with yellow stamens in the leaf axil (between the leaf and stem) from midsummer through fall.
- Fertilize with a balanced houseplant fertilizer once a month during the spring and summer. Fertilize during the growing season only; suspend fertilization during the fall and winter.
- Purple Heart plants propagate reliably from stem cuttings. Use a clean sharp knife to remove a healthy branch. Also remove leaves at the base of the cutting; leaves that are buried in soil or submerged in water can encourage rot.
- Let the sap on the cutting dry for about an hour, then brush with rooting hormone. Place in moist soil and keep in a warm environment while the plant reroots. During this period, keep the soil consistently moist.
- No serious insect problems or susceptibilities.
- Watch out for common pests: scale and mealy bugs.
- Overwatering can cause rot.
Maintenance (pruning, legginess, repotting)
- To keep your Tradescantia pallida compact, prune off new stem tips which will promote new growth.
- Should be repotted every one to two years or when you see the roots starting to grow through the drainage holes. Choose a planter 1 to 2” larger than the current one.
- Handle this plant with care since the stems are delicate and will break off easily.
- The sap from the leaves or stems may cause skin redness and irritation in some people. There usually isn’t a toxic reaction to consuming the leaves but will digestive trouble for cats and dogs. Keep away from pets to be on the safe side.