Plant Care for Purple Hearts


Purple heart, also known as purple queen, is a perennial evergreen valued for its attractive, dark-purple leaves. It has a sprawling growth habit, and gardeners often use it as a groundcover. It was first named Setcreasea pallida but was reclassified and placed in the genus Tradescantia in 1975. The plant's former name is still often used, although scientifically incorrect. Winter hardy in USDA zones 9 through 11, the plant thrives outdoors in the southernmost area of the country. Gardeners in cooler zones can still enjoy purple heart as a houseplant, as it cannot tolerate freezing temperatures.

Step 1

Plant purple heart during mid-spring after all danger of frost has passed. Choose a planting site that receives six to eight hours of direct sunlight for best color development. Ensure the soil is fertile, moist and well-drained. Space purple heart 18 to 24 inches apart.

Step 2

Water purple hearts once or twice each week to prevent the soil from drying out completely. The plant is drought-tolerant but performs best when provided with regular watering. Decrease frequency of watering to once every seven to 10 days during winter.

Step 3

Fertilize once per month during spring, summer and fall using a balanced 10-10-10 NPK fertilizer. Do not feed during winter, when active growth has ceased. Apply according to the instructions provided on the product's label for the best results.

Step 4

Cut back purple heart plants by about 4 inches immediately after blooming to prevent the plant from becoming spindly. Do not remove more than half of the plant, as this can cause significant damage or even death.

Tips and Warnings

  • Wear gloves when handling purple heart, as the juice from the stems and leaves can cause minor skin irritation.

Things You'll Need

  • Fertilizer
  • Hose or watering can


  • University of Wisconsin Master Gardener: Purple Heart, Tradescantia pallida
  • University of Florida IFAS Extension: Setcreasea pallida Purple Heart, Purple Queen
  • Plant of the Week: Setcreasea pallida, Purple Heart
Keywords: purple hearts, Setcreasea pallida, purple heart plants

About this Author

Willow Sidhe is a freelance writer living in the beautiful Hot Springs, AR. She is a certified aromatherapist with a background in herbalism. She has extensive experience gardening, with a specialty in indoor plants and herbs. Sidhe's work has been published on numerous Web sites, including