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Purple Heart Plant Care: How to Grow Purple Hearts at Home

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Photo: istockphoto.com

With their striking purple leaves and beautiful flowers, purple heart plants are a beautiful addition to any ornamental garden. They are also easy to grow, making them perfect for beginning gardeners. The Purple Heart (Tradescantia pallida ‘Purpurea’) plant tolerates a wide range of soil conditions and can also grow indoors.

Here’s what you need to know about purple heart plant care, including purple heart watering requirements, sunlight and soil needs, and propagation instructions.

RELATED: 10 Flowers That Attract Bees to Your Garden

Growing Purple Heart Plants at a Glance

Common name: Purple heart, purple queen plant, purple secretia
Scientific name: Tradescantia pallida ‘Purpurea’
Hardiness zone: Zones 7 to 10
Land: Moist, well-draining; pH 6 to 8
Light: Full sun
Water: Drought tolerant
Food: No fertilizer is required
Propagation: Stem cuttings
Security: Causes skin irritation in humans and pets

Purple Heart Plant Characteristics

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purple heart plant care - purple flower close up

Photo: istockphoto.com

Purple heart plants are native to the Gulf Coast of Mexico and grow from Tamaulipas to the Yucatan. However, since they are hardy in USDA hardiness zones 7 through 10, they have become a popular choice as evergreen perennials in the United States. Known scientifically as Tradescantia pallida ‘Purpurea’, the plant gets its common name from its lance-shaped deep purple leaves. It begins to bloom in midsummer, producing small pink or purple flowers. Each purple heart flower has three petals.

It is also perfectly possible to grow a purple heart plant indoors. In fact, they are listed among plants that can improve indoor air quality by filtering volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

Purple heart plants are part of the genus Tradescantia, commonly known as spiderwort. Here are some related species and varieties to consider planting.

  • Tradescantia pallida ‘Variegata’ (variegated purple heart) has striped red and pink leaves.
  • Tradescantia spathacea (oyster plant)commonly known as Moses-in-the-cradle, has leaves streaked with purple and green.
  • Tradescantia virginiana (Virginia Spiderwort) blooms briefly, and some of its flowers last only a single day.
  • Tradescantia fluminensis (Small-leaved spiderwort) has bright green-white striped leaves and is often used as a creeping ground cover.
  • Tradescantia ohiensis (Ohio Spiderwort) produces tiny purple or blue flowers, earning it the common nickname bluejacket.

Planting purple heart plants

purple heart plant care - potted purple heart

Photo: istockphoto.com

Although this plant is easy to grow indoors and outdoors, it helps to know more before planting purple heart plants. Keep reading to learn the best time of year to plant purple heart plants, ideal locations for them in the garden, and the basics of purple heart care.

When is the best time to plant purple heart plants?

The best time to plant purple hearts varies depending on where you live. In areas with mild winters, you can plant them outside as soon as the soil is dry enough to dig, which can be as soon as February or March if the temperature stays above freezing. In colder climates, wait until after all danger of frost has passed in late spring before planting purple hearts outdoors so they won’t be damaged by cold weather.

Where Can Purple Heart Plants Grow?

Caring for purple heart plants should include exposure to full sun, which encourages flowers to thrive and show off the best color. For this reason, purple hearts need direct sunlight for at least 6 hours each day. They can also grow in partial shade, but they don’t bloom as well if they don’t get full sunlight. Avoid planting purple hearts in the shade of taller plants.

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How do you plant purple heart plants?

These step-by-step instructions for planting purple hearts will ensure the best results.

  1. Choose a location that receives at least 6 hours of sunlight each day.
  2. Dig a hole about twice as wide as the root ball and deep enough that the top of the root ball is level with the soil when planted.
  3. After placing the plant in the hole, fill in the area around the root ball with soil and gently tamp it down.
  4. Water the plant thoroughly.

Can you grow purple heart plants in containers?

Although they grow well when planted in a garden bed, purple hearts can also be grown in containers. Plant them in raised beds or singly in pots as desired, or in a hanging basket so they fall over the edge of the container. Gardeners in cooler climates can let purple heart plants grow outdoors in containers during the warmer months before bringing them indoors for winter, when temperatures below 50 degrees Fahrenheit arrive.

RELATED: 27 Beautiful Plants That Attract Hummingbirds to Your Garden

Watering purple heart plants

Although purple heart plants are drought tolerant and will survive with minimal access to water, they will do best if watered consistently throughout the growing season. Water purple heart plants when the top inch of their soil feels dry. This plant prefers to be watered deeply and allowed to dry out between waterings rather than being kept constantly moist.

Younger purple heart plants require more water than established ones, so they typically need to be watered once a week. If you bring the plant indoors for the winter, cut back on watering until it shows new growth.

Fertilization of purple heart plants

When grown outdoors, purple heart plants do not require fertilizer, but monthly applications of a balanced fertilizer while grown outdoors can aid growth. When grown as houseplants, they should be fertilized twice a month during their growing season.

Propagation of purple heart plants

purple heart plant care - cuttings

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Purple hearts can be easily propagated via stem cuttings. When propagating purple heart plants, use sharp, clean scissors to cut a stem that is between 3 and 6 inches long and contains at least one growth node. Remove the lower leaves from the stem, leaving at least 2 inches of the stem exposed. Dip the cut end of the stem in a rooting hormone mixture and place the stem in water until roots form before transplanting it into soil or a pot filled with sterile potting mix.

Security considerations

The purple heart plant can cause contact dermatitis in humans and animals when its sap comes into contact with the skin. To prevent this, be sure to wear gardening gloves while caring for a purple heart plant, including when planting, pruning, and propagating purple hearts. Although not definitively listed as toxic to humans or pets, it is best to keep the plant (and its sap) out of the reach of children, cats, dogs and other pets. its relative, T. fluminensis is listed as toxic to cats, dogs and horses by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA).

Potential pests and diseases

purple heart plant care - snail on leaf

Photo: istockphoto.com

Fortunately, purple heart plants do not face many serious problems when it comes to pests or diseases. However, they can become victims of common garden pests such as aphids, wine weevils, scale and mealybugs. They can also attract slugs, snails and caterpillars. Keep pests at bay by planting a layer of wood chips around the base of each purple heart plant in the garden.

Preparing purple heart plants for winter

Purple heart plants are hardy year-round in zones 7 to 10, so winter preparation is not necessary. Even if these areas experience overnight frosts, an established plant in the ground will eventually bounce back in the spring, even if it dies briefly in the colder months. If you overwinter your purple heart plants indoors in colder climates, be sure to bring the plant inside well before the first frost of the season.

Looking for more low-maintenance perennials for your home landscape? Check out our coleus, hibiscus and azalea care guides.