Purple cane seeds

How to Grow and Care for Purple Heart

Jennifer Lesser is a New Jersey-based freelance writer covering health/fitness, family/parenting, business, and lifestyle. She has over 16 years of experience writing for various outlets including Time Out NY and Parenting

Emily Estep is a plant biologist and fact-checker focused on environmental sciences. She received a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and a Master of Science in Plant Biology from Ohio University. Emily has been a proofreader and editor at a variety of online media outlets over the past decade.

The Spruce / Heidi Kolsky

Purple heart (Tradescantia pallida) is aptly named, because its iconic purple stems grow beautiful small flower clusters that range from violet to pink. However, despite its unique blooms, many gardeners choose this fast-growing plant for its foliage, which is particularly vibrant. Both the stems and upper surfaces of the leaves appear to be deep royal purple but may also contain lighter shades of turquoise-gray that become darker as the foliage grows older. This long-jointed, sprawling plant is an ideal groundcover for anyone who loves a purple garden.

In warm climates, it is grown as an evergreen perennial that adds a pop of gorgeous purple color to your garden year after year. In cooler climates, Tradescantia pallida is grown as an annual. It is also widely commercialized as a houseplant.

Like other species of the Tradescantia genus, purple heart is toxic to humans and toxic to pets , causing contact dermatitis.

Common Name Purple heart, purple secretia
Botanical Name Tradescantia pallida ‘Purpurea’
Family Commelinaceae
Plant Type Perennial
Mature Size 12-18 in. tall and wide
Sun Exposure Full sun
Soil Type Moist, well-drained
Soil pH Acidic to alkaline (6 to 8)
Bloom Time Spring
Flower Color Pink, purple
Hardiness Zones 7-10 (USDA)
Native Area Mexico
Toxicity Toxic to people, toxic to pets

Purple Heart Care

Purple heart is often referred to as a “creeping perennial” due to the fact that it will spread out as it grows. Purple heart is considered to have a fairly fast rate of growth, especially when compared to other indoor plants. Its flowers will die off in the winter months.

Gardeners should be aware that purple heart flowers are known to form dense groundcover, which can prevent the germination and establishment of other plants. However, the plants can add a lush and tropical groundcover texture to any landscape. Downward trailing stems mean it will always stand out, even when planted as part of border fronts, wall plantings, and rock gardens.

The Spruce / Heidi Kolsky

The Spruce / Heidi Kolsky

Warning

Purple heart is considered to be invasive in certain parts of the world, including Cuba, Puerto Rico, and portions of Mexico, but it is not invasive in the United States.

Light

Planting your purple hearts in full sun can help ensure that they grow the vibrant purple stems. The plant can also grow in partial shade, but its stem is more likely to appear green than purple.

It’s best to introduce these plants to brighter conditions over time, however, as too much direct sunlight all at once can lead to foliage burn.

Purple heart plants will grow best in soil that’s lightweight, porous, and moist. Good drainage is a must. The plant tolerates a wide pH range from slightly acidic to slightly alkaline.

Water

Purple heart is considered to be drought-tolerant, and it will not require a great deal of watering. For best growth, however, it is best not to let the plant sit dry for long periods.

Aim to water the plant when the top layer of soil feels dry to the touch. You’ll also want to stick to watering it during its blooming season. Keep in mind that younger plants will require more moisture than adults, and they should generally be watered at least weekly.

Temperature and Humidity

Purple heart can survive in an array of temperatures, but it’s susceptible to frost. As a plant that grows naturally in tropical and subtropical locations, purple heart prefers high humidity. If your house has drier air, a humidifier can help, as can placing your plant in a bathroom or kitchen. Dry air will impact the leaves, rendering them limp.

Fertilizer

The purple heart plant generally doesn’t require fertilizer, although it can be used. Just be sure to dilute the solution to about half of its regular strength.

Pruning

The plant grows long stems, and due to its fast growth rate, it can become leggy and spindly very quickly. You’ll want to prune it during the warmer months after the bloom period is over. Be sure to use sharp scissors and wear gloves, as the sap in the stems can cause skin irritations and burns. Aim to take off the top half of the stems that have become overgrown.

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Propagating Purple Heart

Purple heart can be easily propagated by stem cuttings.

  1. Cut a 3- to 6-inch-long piece from a healthy plant, using a sharp knife or pruners. The piece needs to have at least one growth node.
  2. Remove the leaves from the lower end of the cutting so that only a couple of leaves remain on the upper parts. You can dip the cut end of the stem in rooting hormone but because purple heart roots easily, that’s not absolutely necessary (alternatively, you can also root the cutting in water and plant it in potting medium when you see roots).
  3. Fill a 4-inch pot with soilless potting medium and water it slowly until evenly moist.
  4. Using a pencil or a stick, poke a hole in the soil and insert the cutting in it so that the node is buried in the soil. Gently press down the soil around it.
  5. Place it in a bright location but out of direct sunlight. Water it regularly to keep the soil evenly moist at all times. After a few weeks, the cutting will root and you can transplant it into a larger pot or outdoors in garden soil.

Potting and Repotting Purple Heart

Though most commercial potting mixes will work just fine, the soil should ideally include peat moss (or coco coir, for a sustainable alternative), perlite, and compost. Make sure that there are drainage holes on the bottom of the container or pot, as too much water retained by the soil can lead to root rot.

Since this plant generally does not grow to be that large, it’s commonly kept as a houseplant. It won’t require frequent repotting, but it will need to be transferred to a new container if the roots begin to push through the drainage holes located on the underside of the pot. This will typically occur during spring due to its tendency to spread out during the growing season.

Common Pests & Diseases

This is a tough plant that attracts caterpillars and snails when grown outdoors.

However, it may also attract aphids, vine weevils, mealybugs, and scales. Place a layer of gravel, wood chips, or diatomaceous earth as a protective barrier around the plants to keep the little critters away.

Most likely, it is not getting enough sunlight. The foliage needs sun to develop its striking purple color.

With its thick, fleshy leaves that retain water, purple heart is considered a succulent.

For a more compact growth, pinch the tips of new stems. Make sure to wear gloves when you do this as the sap can cause allergic reactions.

The Spruce uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

Purple Sugar Cane

Sugar Cane is medium to large in size, growing up six meters in height, and averages 3-5 centimeters in diameter with elongated stems and long, pointed leaves. The cylindrical stems have an outer layer that is smooth, hard, inedible, dark red-purple, and has white growth rings or joints that divide the stem into segments of different sizes ranging from 10-25 centimeters apart. The interior of the stem is pale gold, firm, juicy, woody, and fibrous. Sugar Cane offers a sweet and starchy taste with a raw vanilla flavor.

Seasons/Availability

Sugar Cane is available year-round in tropical climates and in the late summer through fall in climates with colder winters.

Current Facts

Sugar Cane, botanically classified as Saccharum officinarum, is a perennial grass that belongs to the Poaceae family along with rice, sorghum, and wheat. Sugar Cane is one of the world’s oldest cultivated crops and is a source of commercial sucrose, which is extracted by crushing the stem. The plant thrives in warm, tropical climates across the world and is favored by chefs and home cooks for its fibrous flesh and sweet, sugary liquid. There are many different varieties of Sugar Cane that range in appearance from white, green, to purple. Also known as the Purple Ribbon Sugar Cane, the Purple Sugar Cane depicted in the photo above is considered a “noble” variety and was created through back-crossing with a natural hybrid of black cheribon.

Nutritional Value

Sugar Cane is an excellent source of calcium, chromium, cobalt, copper, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, and zinc. It is also a good source of fiber, vitamins A, C and B, and antioxidants.

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Applications

Sugar Cane is best suited for both raw and cooked applications such as boiling. The flesh is chewed as a sweet treat to extract the juice, and then the fibrous cane is discarded. The stem can also be pressed to make cane juice or boiled to make pure cane syrup and raw sugar crystals. In addition to boiling and syrup production, Sugar Cane can be cut, sliced, and used as skewers for beverages, fruit kabobs, shrimp, meats, or on tray passed hors d’oeurves. It can also be used to make ice cream and cocktails. Sugar Cane pairs well with raspberries, pineapple, lime, cinnamon, plantains, peanuts, shrimp, fish, poultry, and steak. The stems will keep up to two weeks when wrapped whole, placed in a plastic bag, and stored on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator. They can also be frozen up to three months.

Ethnic/Cultural Info

The Purple Sugar Cane of today is not the original plant that was once found growing along the lush coast of Georgia in the United States. Around the turn of the 20th century, most of the sugar cane varieties growing in the American south were killed off by disease. Due to the loss of the plant, the culinary culture in the South also suffered because many of the traditional dishes were centered around the use of Sugar Cane and its distinct flavoring. In 2014, Purple Sugar Cane got a resurgence thanks to a partnership between Clemson University and a small, coastal Georgia family farm. Researchers and botanists worked to find a more disease resistant hybrid, using both cultivated and wild varieties. With the selection of a “noble” variety, which is a variety back-bred with an ancient variety, the sugar cane industry in the United States was saved, and traditional recipes for molasses and syrup were reintroduced using the plant.

Geography/History

Sugar Cane is believed to be native to tropical regions of Southeast Asia and was first domesticated in New Guinea around 8,000 BCE. It then spread to India and Oceania through immigration of emerging civilizations, and in 715 CE, Sugar Cane was established in the Middle East, Egypt, and later the Mediterranean via the crusades. Spanish and Portuguese explorers introduced Sugar Cane to the new world between 1400-1500 CE, and the plant became widely popular due to the warm climate and available land for cultivation. Today Sugar Cane is cultivated in tropical climates around the world, especially in Mexico, Thailand, Pakistan, China, India, Brazil, Puerto Rico, Hawaii, Louisiana, and Florida, and can be found at local markets and specialty grocers in North America, South America, Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australia.

Recipe Ideas

Recipes that include Purple Sugar Cane. One is easiest, three is harder.

A Spicy Perspective Pineapple Sugarcane Water
Epicure Asia Purple Sugarcane Lamb Shank with Purple Butter Potatoes and Roasted Asparagus

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Purple Heart, Tradescantia pallida

Purple Heart (Tradescantia pallida) used as a bedding plant at the Missouri Botanical Garden.
Tradescantia pallida is a tender evergreen perennial native to northeast Mexico (from Tamaulipas to Yucatan) grown as an ornamental for its striking purple foliage. Originally named Setcreasea pallida by Joseph Nelson Rose in 1911, it was reclassified in the genus Tradescantia by D.R. Hunt of the Royal Botanic Garden Kew in 1975. The former name S. pallida or S. purpurea is still often used.
Commonly called purple heart or purple heart wandering jew (and occasionally “Moses in the Basket,” although this usually refers to a different species) this herbaceous plant in the Commelinaceae (spiderwort family) is a low-growing trailer that is hardy in zones 7-10, but is easily grown as an annual or houseplant in colder climates.
The small, pale purple flowers are borne on the ends of the stems.
Dark purple, lance-shaped leaves up to 7” long are produced alternately on fleshy stems. The fleshy leaves are covered with pale hairs and form a sheath around the stem. The stems are quite fragile, and break off easily if brushed or kicked too hard. In colder areas it will die back to the ground in winter, but comes back from the roots in spring. The rambling plants get about a foot high but can spread much wider.
From midsummer through fall, and sporadically at other times, relatively inconspicuous pink or pale purple flowers with bright yellow stamens are produced at the ends of the stems. These ½” wide blooms have three petals typical of this genus.
Purple heart makes a good container plant.
Purple heart can be used as a ground cover, cascading in baskets, as a trailer in mixed containers or as a houseplant. They are best used in masses for in-ground plantings and will spread relatively quickly. The purple leaves are a nice contrast to gold, chartreuse, or variegated foliage, and a great complement to pink, light purple, or burgundy blossoms on other plants. Pair it with complementary colors for bold combinations – chartreuse coleus, orange marigolds or red begonias.
Purple heart combined with asparagus fern, pink verbena and other flowers.
Try using it in a container with ‘Marguerite’ ornamental sweet potato, golden creeping Jenny (Lysimachia nummularia ‘Aurea’ or other varieties) or light green asparagus fern. Or combine it with pink or lavender verbena, coral-colored scarlet sage (Salvia coccinea ‘Coral Nymph’) or pink petunias. Other suggestions for harmonious combinations with pink or purple-flowered plants include four o’clocks (Mirabilis jalapa), lantana, scaveola, vinca (Catharantheus roseus) and Mexican petunia (Ruellia brittonia).
Purple heart is easy to grow.
Grow purple heart in full sun for best color development; plants growing in shade tend more to green than purple. Pinch the plants to promote more compact growth. Plants are drought tolerant and thrive on neglect, but also tolerate frequent watering. Fertilize monthly when actively growing. Cut plants back after flowering to prevent them from getting spindly. If grown in containers to hold indoors over the winter or as houseplants, reduce watering during the winter and don’t fertilize until new growth starts in spring. Purple heart has few pests, but scales and mealybugs can be a problem. The juice from the leaves or stems may cause skin redness and irritation in some people and dogs, but this is not a common problem.
Plants are easily propagated by taking cuttings from any part of the plant – just shove a node into the soil or potting mix and it will usually root (or place in water until roots develop). This plant can also be propagated from seed but that is rarely available.
– Susan Mahr, University of Wisconsin – Madison

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