Purple heart plants (aka purple queen) are easy to care for, and can grow both indoors or outside. In this post, I’ll show you all you need to know in order to keep them thriving.
The striking foliage of a purple heart plant makes it a popular choice for landscaping and growing indoors alike.
It’s also easy to care for, making it ideal for beginners wanting to learn how to grow a Tradescantia pallida plant.
In this purple heart plant care guide you’ll learn what it takes to keep the foliage thriving and beautiful.
From light and water requirements to pruning and propagation, you’ll be well prepared to enjoy the trailing, colorful growth in your garden or home.
Purple Heart Plant Care Overview
|Scientific name:||Tradescantia pallida|
|Common names:||Purple heart plant, purple queen|
|Light:||Full sun to part shade|
|Water:||Allow soil to dry slightly, do not overwater|
|Humidity:||High to average humidity|
|Fertilizer:||General purpose in spring and summer|
|Common pests:||Mealybugs, scale, caterpillars, snails|
What Is A Purple Heart Plant
The purple heart, or Tradescantia pallida, is a trailing tropical plant from the spiderwort family, and native to Mexico. It gets its common name from the delicate heart-shaped blossoms.
The other common name is purple queen due to the color that makes up the stems, leaves, and flowers.
The lance-shaped leaves can reach up to 7” long on delicate, thin stems. It’s a spreading plant that will fill up any space it’s given, but rarely grows taller than 1.5’.
Different Types Of Purple Queen Plants
The most common type of Tradescantia pallida is a deep, uniformly purple shade.
But you may also be able to find the much more rare variegated purple heart, which features pink striping along the leaves.
The purple queen plant is most commonly grown for foliage, but it also features pale lavender or pink, three-petaled flowers that bloom in the summer.
The blossoms have no scent, appear at the end of a stem, and are small, rarely exceeding more than 1.5” wide.
Tradescantia pallida is not on the ASPCA’s toxic plant list of plants that are toxic to cats and dogs.
But the University of Wisconsin notes that sap from cut or broken stems can occasionally cause skin irritation for people or pets. You can wear gloves to prevent this.
How To Grow Purple Heart Plant
Before we talk about how to care for a purple heart plant, first we should discuss the best location to grow it. Choosing a good spot is an important step for long-lasting health.
Tradescantia pallida is a perennial in zones 8-11. The foliage won’t survive very long in temperatures colder than 40°F.
But the roots can put out new growth when it warms up in the spring as long as the ground doesn’t freeze.
In colder regions they’re often grown in containers and wintered indoors, or kept exclusively as houseplants.
Where To Grow Purple Queen Plants
The best location to grow purple queen plants is somewhere that will provide lots of sun. The color is more vibrant when given plenty of light.
They can tolerate partial shade, but may begin to turn green or become leggy in dimmer settings.
In warm enough climates they’re used as ground cover, but can also trail over walls, large containers, or hanging baskets. No matter where you grow them, they’ll need good drainage to thrive.
Purple Heart Plant Care & Growing Instructions
Now that you have the ideal place in mind to grow a purple heart plant, let’s talk about their care. Use these tips to keep yours thriving year after year.
In order to maintain the striking color, purple queen plants need a lot of light, which can be the most challenging part of their care.
Ideally you should provide them with full sun for most of the day, though some shade in extremely hot climates can prevent them from burning.
Giving them enough light indoors can be a challenge, even in a sunny window. They’ll do their best with 8+ hours every day. If you notice the color fading or legginess, supplement with a grow light.
Once established, Tradescantia pallida is fairly drought tolerant, but won’t do well in extended periods of dryness.
When the top few inches of soil are dry, water deeply to encourage hardier roots, but avoid making it sodden. An inexpensive moisture gauge will help you get it just right.
In full sun or heat waves they’ll need more frequent watering. In the winter they’ll need much less.
Indoors, keep them evenly moist, and always drain off the excess to avoid overwatering.
Humidity is not often an issue outdoors, but if your indoor purple queen plant has limp or brown dried leaves, it may need more.
Set them on a pebble tray or run a small humidifier nearby to increase the humidity in your home.
The average household temperatures are ideal for a purple heart plant. Outdoors, they’ll thrive in a 60-80°F range, but can survive down to 40°F.
The foliage may die back after a light freeze, but can regrow in the spring as long as the ground doesn’t freeze.
Prolonged exposure to freezing weather will eventually kill the plant however, roots and all.
Though fertilizing a purple queen plant is not a necessary part of their care, the occasional feeding can reinvigorate growth, enhance flowering, and make the colors more vibrant.
Apply slow-release granules twice during the spring and summer, or up to once a month with liquid options.
Stop fertilizing in the fall and winter, and avoid chemical brands that can damage or burn the plant.
Though purple heart plants will only grow to a certain height, they do tend to fill a container fairly quickly when given the proper care.
When roots begin to show out of the drainage holes, it’s time to size up. It’s best to do it in the spring before flowering.
Choose a container with drainage holes that’s 1-2” larger than the current one, and replant it at the same depth.
The spreading nature of purple queen plants makes pruning a necessary part of their care, both indoors and outdoors.
Pinch off new stems as they form to encourage branching in the spring, or use sharp pruners to give it a hard trim after flowering has finished.
You can trim up to half the total size, which will result in more compact growth through the summer.
Pest Control Tips
Healthy purple hearts are generally pest free, but occasionally you may encounter an issue.
Outdoors, snails and caterpillars can be an issue. Control them by hand picking, or spreading a diatomaceous earth barrier around the base.
You can make your own insecticidal spray with 1 teaspoon of gentle liquid soap and 1 liter of water.
Purple Heart Plant Propagation Tips
Purple hearts are very easy to propagate with a stem cutting taken from any part of the plant.
The delicate stems break easily when bumped or kicked, and even those broken pieces can be rooted, as long as they contain leaf nodes.
Dip the cut end in rooting hormone before placing it in damp soil, or put it in a vase of water.
Keep it somewhere warm and bright for 1-2 weeks. Once you see roots or new growth, pot them up in your container or choice.
Troubleshooting Purple Queen Care Problems
Tradescantia pallida require little care once they’re established. But if you run into one of these more common issues, my tips can help you restore them to good health.
Leaves Are Turning Green
The most common cause for green leaves on your purple queen plant is lack of sunlight.
They need full sun, or 8+ hours of bright light indoors every day in order to maintain the deep purple color.
Yellowing of purple heart leaves is most often a sign of overwatering. Only give them a drink when the top few inches of soil are dry.
However yellow leaves can also be caused by severe lack of light, too little water, or inadequate nutrients.
Leggy Purple Queen Plant
Leggy or sparse growth with long stems can be a sign of lack of sunlight, or simply age. Make sure it’s receiving full sun, or intense indoor light for 8+ hours a day.
Otherwise, begin pinching back new tips and prune leggy stems for more compact growth in the spring.
Brown leaves are also a common symptom of age, but could also be lack of moisture or low humidity.
Check the soil regularly to ensure it’s not too dry, and use a humidifier or pebble tray indoors if needed.
If the brown is appearing in the middle of the plant, it’s likely from aging. Give it a hard prune to rejuvenate it.
Purple Heart Plant FAQs
Here I’ve answered some of the most commonly asked questions about purple heart plant care. If yours isn’t listed, please add it to the comments section below.
Is purple heart easy to grow?
Yes, purple hearts are easy to grow once you know how to provide the best light, water, and other care needs.
Why is my purple heart plant dying?
There are many reasons that your purple heart plant is dying. Inconsistent watering (usually too much), lack of sunlight, or cold temperatures are all common causes.
Is Tradescantia pallida invasive?
While the Tradescantia pallida will spread to fill its given space, it’s not considered an invasive plant.
Can purple queen plants survive winter?
Purple queen plants can survive winter in zones 8-10. The foliage may die back after a hard frost, but should return in the spring.
Is the purple heart plant indoor or outdoor?
You can grow the purple heart plant indoors or outdoors with equal success, given the proper environment. It’s best kept inside if it gets below 40°F, but can be outdoors in warmer climates all year long.
Now that you know how easy it is to grow the striking purple heart plant, it can be a beautiful addition to your home or garden. Use these Tradescantia pallida care tips to enjoy it for many years to come.
If you want to be successful maintaining any indoor plant that you want, then you need a copy of my Winter Houseplant Care eBook. It will teach you all you need to know in order to be successful growing houseplants year round. Download your copy today!
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Share your purple heart plant care tips in the comments section below.