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Tradescantia pallida: Purple Heart Or Wandering Jew

Tradescantia pallida is species of spiderwort that is native to eastern Mexico. In warmer climates it is an evergreen perennial plant that can be grown as an ornamental ground cover, in pots or as an ornamental houseplant. This plant has escaped cultivation and in some areas it has become invasive because of the plants' ability to adapt to shade or sun, quick growth and relatively disease free existence. In colder climates, like here in Chicago, the invasive qualities aren't really an issue because it can't survive the winters in our gardens.

T. pallida has three common names by which it is know; Purple Heart, Purple Queen and Wandering Jew are monikers that are commonly used to refer to this plant. Sometimes this can be confusing because most people know T. zebrina (the popular houseplant) as Wandering Jew.

The genus of plants that this plant belongs to is named after John Tradescant the elder who was a well known English naturalist and gardener. Besides being partly responsible for introducing many popular garden plants, during his life he collected various curiosities of natural history that he put on display. The Lambeth Ark display became England's first museum open to the public.

The purple plant with the pink flowers in the picture above is actually grown by a neighbor of mine. Over the winter she roots cuttings in glass jars and will then plant the rooted cuttings in the spring in her containers and in her raised bed. Last year I gave her cuttings of my Wandering Jew (T. zerbina) to add to her collection. She must not have had much luck with the cuttings because I haven't seen the plant in her garden this year.


  1. a species of spiderwort... I didn't know that. very cool, now I have one inside and another out.

  2. Add another name to the list... around here, you only see it in garden centers as an annual known as "Setcresea"!

  3. Hi Wayne,

    Thanks for stopping by and commenting. Your avatar is pretty cool.


    Thanks for providing the name I'd never heard of it called that.

  4. Anonymous1:11 PM

    I have heard of cutting the plant down (Purple heart) and putting the potted plant in the basement for overwintering, since I wouldn't expect a good survival chance in the Michigan winter with temps going down to 10-15 degrees. My neighbor had done this last winter and the plant bloomed and did well this past summer season. O.K. to do this?

  5. @Anonymous, That works. You can also grow it as a houseplant indoors if you have enough light in your house.

  6. Quick question; I recently got a purple heart clipping and am wondering how the roots should look before planting it in dirt?
    Thank you.



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