Show Off Your Purple Heart

June 2, 2016 | By | Comments (6)
purple heart

The best deep purple since “Smoke on the Water.” Photo: Steve Bender

The recent Memorial Day holiday got Grumpy thinking about a plant to fit the occasion. What better candidate could there be than one called “purple heart?” It’s tough as nails and handles the worst abuse summer dishes out. Plus, if you’re one of those people who craves purple in the garden, nothing does purple like the foliage of purple heart.

Formerly known as Setcresea pallida, purple heart (Tradescantia pallida ‘Purple Heart’) is a creeping perennial that grows about 12 inches tall and 24 inches wide. Spear-shaped leaves range from reddish-purple to nearly black. Light pink, three-petaled flowers appear in summer. It’s winter-hardy in USDA Zones 7-11, dying to the ground with the first hard autumn freeze (except in the mildest zones) and reappearing the next spring. Don’t worry about losing it if you live farther north. It’s one of the easiest plants to root — just stick a cutting in moist potting soil, no rooting powder needed — so you can take a rooted cutting inside to a bright window and grow it on as a houseplant.

In the garden, purple heart makes a fine, seasonal ground cover or edging plant. Just trim it every once in a while to keep it in check and remove any discolored flower stalks. Its rambling habit also lends itself to being the “spiller” plant in window boxes, hanging baskets, and big containers. Try combining it with yellow, orange, and light pink foliage and flowers.

purple heart

Purple heart and coleus.

How To Grow
A cousin to the less cold-hardy wandering jew, purple heart is virtually indestructible. Give it full sun for the best foliage color and well-drained soil. Summer heat and drought don’t faze it. Deer don’t usually either. You’ll find it for sale now at most garden centers.


  1. Reba Adams

    the color purple with chartreuse green in the garden is so beautiful.. and what a treat that it comes back every year

    June 7, 2016 at 9:24 am
  2. Dea

    Sorry, but deer love them here in Mississippi. I am only able to have it in a pot right by the back door. I tried to put some out in the yard, but the deer promptly ate it right down to the ground.

    June 6, 2016 at 6:02 pm
  3. Kamela Hebert-Statum

    I didn’t know if by the name purple heart . ..we’ve always called it a purple jew. ….thank you for the info

    June 6, 2016 at 3:25 pm
  4. Pam Gaia

    I have this in my front flower bed with red roses and it is definitely perennial. I have snapped off a section, laid it down, and stuck it in the ground a day latter and it still rooted.I even tried to dig it out and I still have it every year. It’s a good thing I love it! lol

    June 6, 2016 at 1:38 pm
  5. Lisa Brosset

    Wish you could see mine that I have in a huge pot. Started it from a sprig my brother-in-law gave to me. I added a tomato cage to help it with height, when it started growing really well. It is so pretty, especially when in full bloom.

    June 2, 2016 at 7:13 pm
  6. Linda Jackson

    Love this plant will get the garden center and get a few. We have a tree with impatiens and the deer ate them.
    This should discourage them and love that it is a perennial. Thanks for the information.

    June 2, 2016 at 6:09 pm

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