You have most likely seen this plant in Tucson and surrounding areas of Southern Arizona—either as a ground cover or in raised planters or pots. Tradescantia or Setcreasea pallida is known as a Purple Heart or Purple Queen. Native of Mexico, the Queen is easy to grow even in our desert climate especially in mostly shaded areas.
This ground cover grows 12 inches to 18 inches tall. Once established, it is drought tolerant needing water every few days. If you have some planted and it is leggy or struggling, it's most likely not receiving enough water. The plant is great in a shade garden or morning sun near a pool or fountain and will become more dense with an occasional pruning.
With it dramatic burgundy foliage and cute pink flowers late spring through fall, the Purple Queen is a terrific companion plant when paired with other deep-green plants, gray-leafed plants or contrasting pinks or yellows. With lower frost risk gardens, it can also be used to fill beds on sheltered locations or be mixed into tropical plantings to add purple foliage color. It is a great choice for hanging baskets or pots as the rapid growth habit will trail off the sides of the container nicely. For minimalist modern gardens, Purple Queen will add a nice pop of color and interest without interrupting the simplicity of the garden design.
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Marylee is the founder and former owner of Tucson’s The Contained Gardener. With more than 15 years of successfully designing and growing potted gardens in the desert’s challenging and oftentimes harsh climate, Marylee has become known as the Desert’s Potted Garden Expert. Marylee is available for in-home or digital consultations and you can always email her with your questions and comments. Follow The Potted Desert on Facebook!