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Purple heart

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Attractive and durable, Tradescantia pallida ‘Purpurea’ (Purple Heart) is a popular trailing evergreen perennial noted for its remarkable foliage of narrow, pointed, purple leaves, 2-5 in. long (5-12 cm). Arranged alternately along thick, but fragile, purple stems, the leaves are deep royal purple above, bright violet underneath. Blooming constantly during warm weather, small clusters of bright pink, 3-petalled, pale orchid-pink flowers, 1 in. (2.5 cm), emerge at the stem tips. Tradescantia pallida is a tender perennial which makes a beautiful groundcover. Its sprawling stems root in the moist soil, to create a carpet of ground-hugging foliage. Evergreen in frost-free areas, it dies back with mild freezes but sprouts back in spring. In colder areas, it may be grown as bedding annual, in a container or hanging basket, or as a houseplant.


Purple Heart can be used as a ground cover, cascading in baskets, as a trailer in mixed containers or as a houseplant. They are best used in masses for in-ground plantings and will spread relatively quickly. The purple leaves are a nice contrast to gold, chartreuse, or variegated foliage, and a great complement to pink, light purple, or burgundy blossoms on other plants. Pair it with complementary colors for bold combinations – chartreuse coleus, orange marigolds or red begonias.
Try using it in a container with ‘Marguerite’ ornamental sweet potato, golden creeping Jenny (Lysimachia nummularia ‘Aurea’ or other varieties) or light green asparagus fern. Or combine it with pink or lavender verbena, coral-colored scarlet sage (Salvia coccinea ‘Coral Nymph’) or pink petunias. Other suggestions for harmonious combinations with pink or purple-flowered plants include four o’clock (Mirabilis jalapa), lantana, scaveola, vinca (Catharantheus roseus) and Mexican petunia (Ruellia brittonia).


Grow purple heart in full sun for best color development; plants growing in shade tend more to green than purple. Pinch the plants to promote more compact growth. Plants are drought tolerant and thrive on neglect, but also tolerate frequent watering. Fertilize monthly when actively growing. Cut plants back after flowering to prevent them from getting spindly. If grown in containers to hold indoors over the winter or as houseplants, reduce watering during the winter and don’t fertilize until new growth starts in spring. Purple heart has few pests, but scales and mealybugs can be a problem. The juice from the leaves or stems may cause skin redness and irritation in some people and dogs, but this is not a common problem.

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