Purple Heart, Etc., Etc…
Tradescantia pallida (Rose) D.R.Hunt is the correct accepted scientific name for the Purple Heart. It was named and described as such by David Richard Hunt in Kew Bulletin in 1975. It was first named Setcreasea pallida by Joseph Nelson Rose in Contributions from the United States National Herbarium (Smithsonian Institution) in 1911. Many websites still use the synonym
The genus Tradescantia Ruppius ex L. was named by Heinrich Bernhard Ruppius but later described by Carl von Linnaeus in Species Plantarum in 1753. Some of his writings were published after his death by Albrecht von Haller and Carl von Linnaeus. The genus Ruppia was named after him.
Plants of the World Online lists 77 accepted species of Tradescantia with a native range from South America through Canada. Tradescantia pallida is a native of Mexico but it is widely grown in many parts of the world.
My good friend, Kyle Hall, brought me a cutting of the Purple Heart while I was living at the mansion in Mississippi in 2010. I really liked this plant because of it’s nice purple leaves and carefree habit. I first planted the cutting in a pot where it took off rather quickly.
It is possibly the cultivar ‘Purpurea’ but who knows. Like many plants, this cultivar can be passed from one person to the next using only the common name.
As it grew, I put several cuttings in the bed next to the west sunroom. The purple leaves stood out very well among the other green foliage.
Zones: USDA Zones 8a-11 (10 to 40° F)*
Size: Ummm… 8” or so, trailing to ?
Light: Sun to part shade
Soil: Well-drained soil or potting soil.
Water: Average. Likes moist soil but is also drought tolerant.
USES: Works great in beds, containers, and as a houseplant.
*The Missouri Botanical Garden says USDA Zones 10-11 but Dave’s Garden says 8a-11. In Leland, Mississippi it would die back during the winter and return in the spring. The Tradescantia sillamontana I have here dies back (as a perennial) when I move them to the basement for the winter then they start coming back in April. I have no doubt the Tradescantia pallida would do the same. I have grown them as houseplants, but the lower light levels make them grow weird.
I put a few cuttings here and there in pots with other plants. The above photo is of the Purple Heart in the pot with a hybrid Banana called ‘Ice Cream’.
The Purple Heart grows very well in pots or in the ground. They make great plants for hanging backets. They do best in bright light and their leaves will be more green if in less.
The leaves turn a nice dark purple color in more light. They are members of the spiderwort genus and have typical pink three-petaled spiderwort-type flowers.
I forgot to bring any of the Purple Heart with me when I moved from the mansion back to the family farm in mid-Missouri in 2013. I did bring a similar plant given to me by a good friend and fellow plant collector, Walley Morse, from Greenville. It had similar leaves but they were hairy, although not as much as the Tradescantia sillamontana. I gave this plant up in 2014 but found another in 2018 at Wildwood Greenhouse. Then I found out the name was Tradescantia pallida ‘Pale Puma’.
My cousin has some “real” Tradescantia pallida so I will be getting a start from her soon.
I hope you enjoyed this page and maybe found it useful. If you have any comments, questions or suggestions, I would like to hear from you. Please click on “like” if you visited this page. It helps us bloggers stay motivated. 🙂 You can check out the links below for further reading. The links take you directly to the genus and species of this plant.