The purple heart plant is a perennial plant with deep true purple foliage and pale purplish pink flowers. It is used both in gardens and as a houseplant. Some other nicknames for this plant are Wandering Jew and purple queen. There are two scientific names that refer to this plant, Tradescantia pallida and Setcreasea pallida. The plant is native to Mexico and prefers a warm climate. It is a fairly easy plant to care for and is enjoyed by many gardeners for its unusual color.
A fairly low growing plant, the purple heart plant typically grows to a height of about 12 to 18 inches (30 to 45 cm) and spreads out to a width of about 12 to 36 inches (30 to 91 cm). The stems either grow upright or in a trailing manner along the ground; they are purple, fleshy and they break easily. The leaves have a deep purple color with a shape like a spear, and they are usually about one inch (2.5 cm) wide and six to seven inches (15 to 18 cm) long and with a smooth texture. The small flowers are a pale pink color tinged with purple, with three petals, and they bloom for most of the summer.
The native area of the purple heart plant is Mexico, from the Yucatan to Tamaulipas. It prefers a warm climate and can be grown as an outdoor perennial in areas with mild winters and little to no frost. In areas with colder climates it can be grown as an annual or as an indoor house plant. In gardens, it is often used for groundcover, rock gardens, containers, and hanging baskets. The purple color can provide a striking and enjoyable contrast with surrounding plants.
The maintenance requirements of the purple heart plant are fairly low. It needs to be planted in good quality soil that drains well. The plant should be watered on a regular basis, but not saturated, and the soil can be allowed to dry out slightly between waterings. It can tolerate short periods without water. During the growing season, the purple heart plant should be fertilized approximately once a month with water soluble fertilizer.
The purple heart plant grows best and produces a more vivid purple color when it is planted in full sun, although it will still grow in partial shade. The leaves and stems can cause minor irritation in people with sensitive skin, so caution should be used in handling the plant, particularly any broken stems. The purple heart plant can be propagated using cuttings, and it usually takes root easily as long as the stem nodes are planted in the soil.