Purple Queen: How To Care For Tradescantia Pallida


Tradescantia pallida [trad-es-KAN-tee-uh, PAL-lid-duh] have striking purple evergreen leaves, providing a splash of color throughout the year. 

It’s part of the Tradescantia genus (spiderwort) of plants found throughout South and Central America. 

Tradescantia Pallida (Purple Heart Plant)Tradescantia Pallida (Purple Heart Plant)

These plants belong to the Commelinaceae family, also sometimes called the spiderwort family or the dayflower family.

Tradescantia pallida has several common names, including wandering Jew or walking Jew. 

These common names are shared with two other species from the Tradescantia genus:

  • Tradescantia fluminensis
  • Tradescantia zebrina

Additional common names include:

  • Purple Queen
  • Purple heart
  • Purple secretia

Tradescantia Pallida Care

Size and Growth

Tradescantia pallida is a relatively delicate plant with thin stems. It grows in short mounds, reaching a height of just 8″ inches.

The trailing stems spread up to 18″ inches or more and produce shockingly purple evergreen leaves.

The v-shaped leaves are narrow and measure 4″ to 6″ inches long. When grown outdoors, the spreading plant provides weedy ground cover.

The stems are fragile, especially with younger plants. If kicked or stepped on, the stems may break.

Flowering and Fragrance

The plant blooms throughout the warmer months producing small, three-petaled flowers.

The small pink flowers rarely measure more than 1.5″ inches in diameter. 

They appear in clusters and don’t produce a scent.

Light and Temperature

Tradescantia pallida grow best in partial shade and tolerate sunny areas. 

It shouldn’t receive direct afternoon sunlight for more than an hour or two.

While it thrives in the shade, sunlight helps bring out the color in the purple leaves.

NOTE: If the plant receives a lot of sunlight, the soil should be kept moist.

The tender purple queen can’t survive freezing conditions. 

It’s often grown in gardens as an annual in regions with mild climates and indoors as a houseplant in cooler areas.

It’s winter hardy to USDA hardiness zones 10 and 11.

When grown indoors, it should receive filtered light for at least eight hours per day. 

If possible, try to move the plant outdoors during the warmer months of spring and summer to encourage brighter foliage.

Watering and Feeding

Water moderately during the warmer months and sparingly during the winter. 

The plant is drought tolerant and thrives on neglect.

Add a liquid fertilizer every four weeks throughout the spring and summer.

Soil and Transplanting

Grow tradescantia pallida in a loamy soil. It should offer decent water retention and good drainage.

To improve the quality of regular garden soil, add organic matter, such as peat moss or compost. 

If the soil is too rich, add small amounts of sand. Transplant as needed or every few years to refresh the soil. 

Grooming

Trim the plant back after flowering in the fall to manage its growth. Yearly grooming also encourages bushier growth.

Trimming plants before bringing them indoors for the winter also helps produce bushier growth the following year.

How To Propagate Purple Heart Plant

Purple heart is easily propagated using cuttings. 

Take cuttings when the plant is actively growing.

Indoor plants may grow year-round, while outdoor plants mostly grow in the spring and summer.

To Propagate With Cuttings

  • Cut a section measuring at least 4″ inches long and containing several leaves. 
  • Place the cutting in a glass of water and set it in a windowsill with bright sunlight. 
  • Within a week or two, the cutting should grow roots.
  • After the roots appear, prepare a small pot for the cutting. 
  • Use loamy soil with good drainage.
  • Water the soil thoroughly. 
  • Use a finger to press a hole big enough for the bottom portion of the cutting. 
  • Place the cutting in the hole and lightly pack the surrounding soil, so the plant sticks up.
  • Set the plant in a bright spot and keep the soil moist. 
  • When temperatures warm in the spring, move the plant outdoors.
  • Keep the plant indoors throughout the winter. 
  • When grown outdoors, young shoots are susceptible to damage from strong winds. 
  • Allowing it to overwinter gives the plant time to grow stronger roots and stems.
  • Wait until new growth develops before transplanting in-ground or moving to a larger container or hanging basket.

Purple Heart Plant Pests or Diseases

Tradescantia pallida don’t suffer from any serious insect or disease issues. 

It’s a tough plant and grows easily in most conditions.

A few potential issues include damage from caterpillars or snails when growing young plants outdoors. 

Remove these critters by hand or add a layer of gravel, wood chips or diatomaceous earth around the plant. 

The barrier may keep caterpillars and snails away. 

While the plant has an aggressive root system and trailing growth, it’s not invasive.

Tradescantia pallida aren’t toxic, but the foliage may cause mild skin irritation. 

Wear gloves when handling the plant, such as during grooming or transplanting.

Have you ever asked – Is Wandering Jew Poisonous?

Suggested Tradescantia Pallida Uses

The short, trailing growth of the purple heart plant makes it a good choice for ground cover. 

The downward growth of the stems also works well in hanging baskets.

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