How to grow and care for Purple Heart Plant Indoors

Houseplant, Purple Heart Plant, Tradescantia pallida

Botanical name: Tradescantia pallida
Synonym: Setcreasea purpurea, Setcreasea pallida
Family: Commelinaceae

Purple Heart Plant also called Purple Queen bears leaves which are elongated, pointed, slightly hairy, glaucous green, fringed with red or purple. The flowers are small, sterile, three-petaled and are white, pink or purple. The stems are clearly segmented and roots easily grow from the joints. Purple Heart Plant is also known for its air cleaning properties. Purple Heart Plant si native to the Gulf Coast of eastern Mexico.

Other related species are Tradescantia fluminensis (Inch Plant) which is the more common of the hanging basket plants. Tradescantia zebrina formely Zebrina pendula (Silvery Inch Plant) which is more colorful with leaves glistenened and multicolored above and purple below. Zebrina purpusii (Bronze Inch Plant) whose leaves are green and purple. Zebrina pendula quadricolor is more showy with green, silver, pink and red leaves but is more difficult to grow. Tradescantia spathacea (Moses-in-the-Cradle or Boat Lily) whose leaves are fleshy, sword-shaped, glossy green with purplish-red undersides.

How to Grow Purple Heart Plant (Tradescantia pallida)


Purple Heart Plant prefers bright indirect light. Keep it away from direct sunshine as it can lead to scorching of the leaves. Learn how to ensure your plant receives the correct light in this guide on understanding light for houseplants.


Water Purple Heart Plant thoroughly during the growing season and maintain the soil moist at all times. Reduce watering in cold weather to keep the soil slightly moist as growth is minimal. Avoid waterlogging as it can lead in root-rot. Learn more on how to water houseplants.


Average warmth with a minimum 130C is ideal for Purple Heart Plant. Protect the plant from cold draughts.


Purple Heart Plant has no need for high humidity. Where the temperatures are too high, employ these techniques to raise humidity for Purple Heart Plant.


Feed Purple Heart Plant with a balanced water-soluble fertilizer every 2 weeks during the growing period. Withhold feeding during the cold season as growth is minimal and feeding at this time may lead to fertilizer burn. Learn more on feeding houseplants.


Repot Purple Heart Plant during the growing season only when the plant has become pot-bound. Use a rich, free-draining soil and a pot one size larger. Ensure the pot has a drainage hole(s) to prevent waterlogging which can lead to root-rot.


Pruning Purple Heart Plant involves regular removal of dead foliage to maintain the plant neat and tidy. To control the height of the plant and encourage bushyness, pinch the growing tips. Cut back leggy stems at the beginning of the growing season to rejuvenate growth. Learn more on how to prune houseplants.

How to Propagate Purple Heart Plant (Tradescantia pallida)

Purple Heart Plant is propagated during the growing period by divison or from stem-cuttings.

Propagation of Purple Heart Plant by Division
Remove Purple Heart Plant from its pot and carefully divide it into sections. Ensure each sections has adequate roots and at least one set of leaves. Pot up the sections in individual pots in free-draining soil. Place the set up in a cool shaded place and maintain the soil moist until new growth emerges. Allow the plant to be well established before transplanting.

Propagation of Purple Heart Plant from Stem Cuttings
Stem cuttings root easily so there is no need for rooting hormone. Take a stem cutting from a healthy Purple Heart Plant of about 3-5 in. and ensure it bears at least two sets of leaves. Insert it in moist free-draining soil and place in a cool shaded place. Maintain the soil moist through out until new growth emerges. Allow the plant to be well established before transplanting.

Common Problems in Growing Purple Heart Plant (Tradescantia pallida)

  • Dull Leaves
  • Inadequate light is the cause of dull leaves in Purple Heart Plant. Move the plant to a brighter spot, they prefer bright indirect light. Learn how to ensure your plant receives the correct light in this guide on understanding light for houseplants.

  • Bare spindly growth
  • There are three cause of bare spindly growth in Purple Heart Plant. One cause is too little light; move the plant to bright indirect light. Second cause is too little water; maintain the soil moist at all times and never allow the soil to dry out completely. The third cause is inadequate feeding; feed Purple Heart every 2 weeks with a balanced water-soluble fertilizer. However, all the stems become leggy with age; cut back to rejuvenate new growth or replace the plant.

  • Brown and shrivelled leaf tips
  • The cause of brown and shrivelled leaf tips in Purple Heart Plant is too dry air especially where the temperatures are too high. Employ these techniques to raise humidity for Purple Heart Plant.

  • Limp stems, yellow and spotted leaves
  • Underwatering is the cause of limp stems and yellow and spotted leaves in Purple Heart Plant. Learn more on how to water houseplants.

  • Diseases
  • Common diseases in Purple Heart Plant are Root-rot and Leaf Spot.

  • Pests
  • Common pests in Purple Heart Plant are Mealy Bugs, Aphids and Scale Insects. Isolate the affected plant and treat appropriately. Mist the leaves regularly to reduce infestation by these pests.

  • Invasion as a weed
  • Purple Heart Plants are invasive and noxious weeds in many places. They successfully grow anywhere and will smoother ground level plants and prevent the natural regeneration of taller species. Avoid planting these plants in the ground and dispose only after complete destruction (even an inch of these plants will sprout if not completely destroyed).


Purple Heart Plant (Tradescantia pallida) is mildly toxic to humans and pets. If ingested the plant sap causes burning in the mouth, tongue and throat. The sap may also cause skin irritation in sensitive skin; always wear gloves when handling.

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