From Tradescantia pallida to purple queen, wandering jew, or Moses in a basket, the purple heart plant goes by many names. Regardless of what they call it, purple heart enthusiasts are often drawn to the unique plant for its deep purple, spear-like foliage and delicate trinity of lavender petals, along with its drought resistance and ability to spread. Hardy, simple, and elegant, this flower of many names makes a lovely addition to any garden ensemble.
Known for its resilience in many soil types, the purple heart can thrive in a range of conditions. To give it an optimal start, surround your purple heart with commercial potting soil and perlite or compost, with an acidic pH of 5 or 6 being ideal. Ensure the soil has proper drainage to prevent root rot.
The purple heart is a sprawling plant, so it is often used as a groundcover or hung in pots. If using for coverage, plant each seedling 12 to 15 inches from the next to accommodate their spread. Even if they start out sparse, the 7-inch leaves will quickly fill out any space.
In keeping with its resilience, the purple heart can survive in growth USDA zones 7 through 11, where temperatures range from mild to warm. If you're planting in pots, bring the purple heart inside when temperatures drop below 50° F. Position it in full sun with light shade whether indoors or out.
The purple heart is drought-resistant, so it can maintain its beauty even in drier climates. Like all plants, it does prefer a routine drink, and consistent watering will make its foliage and flowers pop all the more. Water them once a week from spring until fall, providing about one inch each time. Supply enough water for it to drain through the soil, and wait until the dirt is fully dry before watering again.
Although the purple heart plant is a survivor, it is vulnerable to multiple pests. Spider mites, mealybugs, aphids, and scale are just a few pests that enjoy nibbling on this plant's foliage, but most can be removed either by hand or with conventional pesticides. Organic solutions of alcohol and water will also suffice to kill many unwelcome guests.
There are also a number of diseases that can beset the purple heart. Botrytis may form black or orange lesions on the leaves of the plant, and powdery mildew leaves a white residue, eventually choking the plant. Remove any leaves or flowers displaying symptoms of these diseases, and supply additional nitrogen fertilizer to restore healthy growth.
The purple heart is a very fast-growing plant, and while this makes it an asset for gardens in need of ground cover, it can also be a liability. The hardy sprawler can overtake a garden if left untended, so frequent pruning may be necessary. Pinching back the tops will help the purple heart grow even deeper foliage and more abundant flowers — a just reward for your efforts.
Consistent with its simple care and rugged hardiness, propagating the purple heart is an easy endeavor. All it takes to divide the purple queen is a shoot of new growth. Place the cutting in the ground or pot, ensuring that it stays moist to get its start. Using fresh growth that has sprouted in the spring or summer months will work best.
Although nowhere near as toxic as many other plants, contact with the purple heart can prompt some adverse reactions in some people. Touching the plant may cause itching or irritation of the skin, though more severe reactions may occur from ingesting the sap. To be safe, place potted purple hearts where they can be enjoyed with the eyes, but not touched or eaten by curious children or pets.
A native to central Mexico, the purple heart was originally found flourishing along the Gulf Coast. The warm climate and ample moisture of its Yucatan roots are still this sprawling shrub's favorite, but its toughness and rapid growth enable it to thrive in varied environments and ensure that it's here to stay.