How to Care for Purple Heart Tradescantia Pallida

  • 7 min read

How to Care for Purple Heart Tradescantia Pallida

If you're searching for a way to add a burst of  vibrant and lively colors into your living space, make sure to consider adding the Purple Heart Tradescantia pallida to your collection. This plant has consistently ranked among the top 10 popular colorful houseplants. 

Scientifically known as Tradescantia pallida, Purple Heart originates from Mexico. While it has its native habitat in this region, its captivating appearance and ease of cultivation have led to its popularity as an ornamental plant in various parts of the world. This succulent is often referred to by its common names, including Purple Heart Wandering Jew and Purple Queen. The name "Wandering Jew" is shared with other plants in the Tradescantia genus due to their ability to quickly spread and root wherever their stems touch the ground. The name "Purple Queen" aptly highlights the regal appearance of the plant's vivid purple foliage.

Purple Heart is a compact, slowly spreading evergreen perennial. It grows up to 10 inches tall and about 2 feet wide. Its succulent purple stems hold elliptic leaves that are olive green with purple on top and bright purple below. These leaves narrow at the base and tip and have long silver hairs along their margins and stems. Notably, new leaves emerge in opposite pairs, folding upwards to create fuzzy cup-like wings. What truly sets the Purple Heart apart is its remarkable ability to display its captivating purple tones not only on the upper surfaces of its leaves but also on the undersides. This dual-toned effect contributes depth and dimension, making the plant an exquisite centerpiece that enhances any décor.

In addition to its extraordinary color, Purple Heart is prized for its easy care requirements. Whether you're a seasoned plant enthusiast or a novice, this plant's resilience and low-maintenance nature make it a versatile choice for indoor decoration.

Is Tradescantia Pallida safe for pets?

Tradescantia pallida is considered to be toxic to humans, pets, and animals if ingested. It contains compounds that may cause mild gastrointestinal discomfort, such as nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea, if consumed in significant quantities.

If you have children, pets, or animals that might be inclined to nibble on plants, it's recommended to place your Purple Heart out of their reach to prevent accidental ingestion. As a safety precaution, always wash your hands after handling the plant, and keep it away from curious mouths to ensure the well-being of your loved ones and pets.

General Care

Do Tradescantia Pallidas prefer bright light?

Tradescantia is very versatile when it comes to light requirements. However, it flourishes when provided with bright indirect light and it can tolerate direct sunlight. When positioned in an area with direct sunlight, the Purple Heart's striking purple coloration becomes even more pronounced. The intensity of the sunlight triggers the plant's pigments, resulting in a vibrant and captivating display of deep purple hues. On the other hand, placing the Purple Heart in areas with indirect light has its own effect. While the intense purple may not be as prominent as under direct sunlight, the leaves tend to develop a greener shade.

Ideally, it benefits most from around 6-8 hours of light daily. Aim to give your plant a lot of bright, indirect lighting and some gentle morning or late afternoon direct sunlight. Intense, scorching sunlight can lead to leaf burn and potentially diminish variegation, while low light conditions may cause the vibrant colors to fade and make the plant become leggy.

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Tradescantia Pallida (or Purple Heart) prefers bright indirect light.
Photo by usmee

When should I water Tradescantia Pallida?

Purple Heart plants prefer consistent but moderate watering. Allow the top inch of the soil to dry out between waterings. Stick your finger into the soil to gauge its moisture level. Water the plant thoroughly when the soil feels dry to the touch. Be cautious not to overwater, as excessive moisture can lead to root rot and other issues. The plant's succulent nature allows it to store water in its stems, making it more tolerant of occasional drought than constant dampness. Factors like humidity, temperature, and the type of pot and soil can influence the plant's water needs. During the growing season (spring and summer), Purple Heart might require more frequent watering compared to the dormant season (fall and winter).

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Purple Heart plants prefer consistent but moderate watering.

Photo by Omkoi

What is the best soil type for Tradescantia Pallida?

The ideal soil for Purple Heart should promote good aeration and drainage, allowing excess water to escape while enabling air to reach the roots. This prevents waterlogged conditions that can be detrimental to the plant's health. Opt for a well-draining soil mix specifically designed for succulents or cacti. Such mixes typically contain a combination of components like peat, perlite, and sand, which help prevent water from accumulating around the roots and causing rot. Avoid using heavy, compact soils that retain moisture for extended periods. These types of soils can lead to root rot and other issues due to inadequate drainage.

During the active growing season, which typically spans from spring through summer, you can fertilize your Purple Heart every 4-6 weeks. Apply a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer once a month, following the manufacturer's guidelines to avoid over-fertilization. Excessive nutrients can result in salt accumulation in the soil, which may harm the roots. In fall and winter, when Tradescantia experiences dormancy and reduced growth, suspend fertilization to provide the plant with a resting phase.

What temperature can Tradescantia Pallida tolerate?

Purple Heart plant thrives in normal indoor temperatures between 65°F to 75°F. However, it's important to note that this plant is not equipped to endure frost, making it vulnerable to damage if exposed to temperatures below 40°F. To protect your plant, shield it from abrupt temperature shifts and refrain from placing it near cold sources like air conditioning vents or open windows during chilly weather.

Tradescantia Purple Heart tolerates varying humidity levels, spanning from 30% to 50%. It can tolerate moderate fluctuations in humidity, but if the air becomes excessively dry, you may observe browning or crispiness along the leaf edges. On the other hand, excessive humidity can potentially lead to fungal issues or trigger yellowing and dropping of leaves. Balancing the humidity within this range will support the health and appearance of your plant.

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Tradescantia Pallida will brighten up your home by its attractive appearance.
Photo by Oat_Natchawal

Extra Care

Potting and Repotting

Potting and repotting are crucial practices to ensure the health and growth of your Purple Heart.

When potting a Purple Heart:

  • Choose a pot with good drainage to prevent water buildup. Pots should be made from concrete, ceramic or terracotta. 
  • Opt for a slightly snug pot, allowing some room for growth.
  • Fill the pot with a well-draining succulent or cactus potting mix.

For repotting:

  • Repot every 2-3 years when the plant outgrows its pot.
  • Spring or summer, when the plant is growing, is ideal.
  • Carefully remove the plant, untangle, and trim any unhealthy roots.
  • Select a slightly larger pot and fresh potting mix.
  • Water lightly after repotting to settle the soil.
  • Purple Heart prefers a slightly cramped space, but repotting ensures their continued health. 

What are pruning tips for Tradescantia Pallida?

Some tips for pruning your Purple Heart:

  • Removing Dead Leaves: Routinely examine your plant for withered or wilted stems and leaves. Use clean, sharp pruning shears to trim them away
  • Managing Legginess: If your Purple Heart exhibit elongation or "legginess," consider trimming back the stems to your preferred length. This fosters a more compact, lush growth pattern.
  • Encouraging Bushy, Compact Growth: Nudging or snipping the stem tips encourages branching, yielding a denser appearance. This approach also prevents the plant from growing excessively tall and floppy.
  • Appropriate Timing: Undertake pruning during the active growth phase, typically spring and summer, when the plant is more resilient and responsive to shaping.

How can I propagate Tradescantia Pallida?

Propagating Tradescantia can be done easily with stem cuttings in both soil and water environments. Take some stem cuttings of around 4-6 inches in length from a healthy, mature parent plant and remove lower leaves to expose nodes. Let the cutting callous over in a few days.  To propagate using water, position the cuttings in a water-filled glass, refreshing the water every few days until roots emerge. Alternatively, for soil propagation, plant the cuttings in damp, well-draining soil and keep them in a spot with bright, indirect light. After a few weeks, expect root development and the emergence of new growth. When roots are established, transfer the cuttings to separate pots or a larger container.

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Tradescantia Pallida can produce purple flowers in summer.


This plant can also be propagated with division. Begin by selecting a robust, mature plant boasting multiple stems. Gently extract the plant from its container, detaching clusters of stems and accompanying roots. Inspect the roots for sign of rotting or disease, and remove damaged roots before planting in well-draining soil. Position these divisions in a bright area with indirect sunlight and good air circulation. Acclimate your new plants before moving them to direct sunlight. 

What are common problems of caring Tradescantia Pallida?

Caring for your Purple Heart involves addressing a few common issues to ensure its well-being:

Overwatering: Excessive watering can lead to root rot. Ensure the soil is well-draining and allow the top inch to dry out before watering again.

Pests: Keep an eye out for pests like spider mites and aphids, which can infest the plant. Regularly inspect the foliage and take action if pests are spotted.

Leggy Growth: Insufficient light can cause your Purple Heart to grow leggy and elongated. Ensure it receives enough bright, indirect light to promote compact growth.

Faded Color: Insufficient light or nutrients can lead to loss of vibrant coloration in the leaves. Adjust lighting and feeding accordingly.

Yellow Leaves: Yellowing leaves might indicate overwatering, underwatering, or nutrient deficiencies. Diagnose the issue and adjust care accordingly

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