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You guys know how hard it is sometimes to match all the colors in your living space so it doesn’t look like a circus show?
Well, imagine your apartment in reddish and purplish shades. Now add the green house plants to it. Doesn’t seem quite appealing, right?
Well, I found a way to bring it all together by creating the perfect balance between the greenery and plum-purplish curtains, for one.
The purple queen worked as a perfect binder for all the colors and it took a special place in my apartment and my heart too.
If you are also a lover of tradescantia pallida, you’ve come to the right place; because, this is where you will get all the best tips and tricks on how to grow it in your place, how to keep it healthy, how to reproduce it and so much more.
Here we go!
Tradescantia Pallida – the Basics
For the unaware, tradescantia pallida (TD) is also known under the names purple-heart, or purple secretia, and it is also one of 3 Wandering Jew plants:
1. Tradescantia Pallida – Purple Heart
2. Tradescantia Fluminensis – Small-leaf Spiderwort
3. Tradescantia Zebrina – Wandering Jew
It originates from and is native to eastern Mexico, or more precisely Gulf coast region.
As obvious from the name, it belongs to Tradescantia genus, named after John Tradescant, the botanist. And, the pallida means pale.
This lovely evergreen plant is a perennial mostly recognized by its pointed and elongated leaves. These are mostly green but highly fringed with the shades of purple or red. Whichever the case, the purple is always predominant color, which is why it’s called the purple queen.
If you ask me does it flower? – yes, it does; and mostly during summer. It gives small but beautiful leaves with three petals. As for shades of flowers, they can be pink, white, or purple, of course.
In case that you are still thinking why you should cultivate the TP in closed spaces, this is all I’m gonna say – TP is known to filter the air in confined spaces so it improves its quality.
To be more precise, we know that these days we are all trying to protect ourselves from the pollution as much as possible which is why we opt for plants to clean the air in our homes or offices.
The actual effect that TP achieves is removing VOCs (volatile organic compounds) from the air and we know these can produce allergic and respiratory effects in children and serious irritation (eye, skin and throat) or headaches in adults, as well as many other conditions.
So, TP is your best ally here.
TP doesn’t grow large in height, some 0.75 meters top, although it can reach some 1.5 meters of width.
When it comes to growing TP in non-native regions, you need to pay attention to where you keep it. It will survive outside for quite some time, but it will not tolerate the cold.
This is why it’s best to grow it indoors then and use it as an additional ornament in your living or working space.
Now that we’ve gone through the basics, it’s time to deal with some real stuff.
Light and Temperature Requirements of Tradescantia Pallida
We know that light is a prerequisite of life. Just like human beings, plants need their portion of light too.
Speaking of tradescantia pallida, light is a very important factor not only for its general survival but to keep the purple color too.
Namely, the light brings out the purple pigment and if you keep the plant in the shade for a longer period of time, the purple will fade.
Obviously, you should avoid this at all cost since this won’t be your purple queen any longer.
What is the best place to keep the purple-heart?
Let me be straightforward – choose a place with plenty of sunlight! The brightest window or balcony you can find is the best choice.
However, what you need to be aware of at the same time is that direct exposure to sunlight is not recommended. It will scorch the leaves and the plant will lose its appeal.
You can keep it in partial shade but still take care that it takes in enough sunlight.
Once you notice the loss of purple color, move your plant from the shade to a lighter area. Tread carefully here since the abrupt change of setting might not benefit your tradescantia. Move it gradually until you expose it to full sunlight (full, not direct!).
Pro Tip: When choosing the perfect spot, you need to be aware that tradescantia pallida is highly fragile and you need to avoid places of frequent contact or banging against the walls.
Now, I mentioned already that you can grow TP in the colder regions, but it will not survive the winter outside. It can grow back from the root, but still, I recommend that you keep it inside at all times.
The perfect setting temperature-wise is anywhere within the range from 18-27°C. When grown inside, during the winter it can even tolerate a bit lower than this, but such periods should be reduced to a minimum.
Next, your tradescantia pallida should steer clear of any air-conditioners or vents or any other sources of the draft. Remember, we are talking about a fragile plant here.
Watering Tradescantia Pallida
Along with light and proper temperature, water is another essential factor for the survival of TP.
As for the watering procedure, there are no special concerns. It happened to me a couple of times that I forgot to water it for a whole week and it still survived. Anyhow, try not to do this and water it regularly.
And, what would be “regularly”?
First off, this means that you must constantly observe your plant. Let’s see it in an example.
Suppose you watered the plant this morning. If the top layer of soil looks dry, don’t be quick to water it again. This will be too much.
The best you can do is to check whether the soil is dry at 25 mm depth, or even 50 mm. In this case, it’s time to water. Otherwise, you are at the risk of drowning the plant with excessive water.
Too much water is never good and you should always take precaution to water sufficiently.
If you overdo it, feel free to remove the excess.
This is important since too much water will cause the rotting of the root thus leading to the inevitable death of the plant.
The optimum is if the soil is moist most of the time because this enables a steady growth. Should you forget to water, the plant will gradually consume the water and then it will wait for more, withering slowly.
Afterwards, when you remember to water the plant, it will have a lot of catching up to do and its growth will be imbalanced.
So, regular watering is what you need to do.
Pro Tip: Cut back the watering during the winter season. It’s colder anyway and the plant will need less water.
Obviously, there’s nothing unusual here so let us move on to the next important aspect of growing TP.
Fertilizing Tradescantia Pallida
When growing your plants indoors, sometimes the proper soil and regular watering aren’t just enough.
Although it can feed off of these, more often than not you will have to add some fertilizer to boost the proper nutrition and growth of your green pet or the purple one in this case.
As for fertilizing in general, you can never get too cautious. You can’t just fertilize any time you feel like it. I mean, you can, but you won’t achieve the desired effect. Unless the desired effect is to achieve nothing.
If we talk about the purple queen, fertilizing once a month in its active-growth period will do the trick. And, by active growth, I mean spring to autumn.
The adequate choice of fertilizer is another important issue to address. I know we all disdain the fact that there are multiple products available and you still don’t know which of them gives the optimum results.
Heed my counsel and always choose a well-balanced organic fertilizer for a wandering jew. In my experience, the 10-10-10 NPK formulation proved to be magical!
Still, choose such product that is soluble in water and thus kill two birds with one stone – fertilize & water at the same time.
Just like with watering, the same applies to the fertilizing. Don’t overdo it. Stick to the monthly fertilization. Otherwise, you are running the risk of burning your plant.
In the same streak, skip the fertilizing during the winter-time since that’s when the plant is dormant and adding fertilizer is basically throwing it into the wind.
Repotting Tradescantia Pallida
Repotting is another crucial step in growing your purple-heart indoors. With outdoor plants this is not necessary, however, when growing indoors this is a must!
You know how humans need bigger beds as they grow? Well, your TP will have to be repotted from time to time from the same reason.
When to do it?
The time to repot TP is when you notice its roots coming out of the drainage holes. This means that the root has gone all the way down and has no more place to go to or nutrients to take through the exposed parts.
The good thing is that you need to do it once a year. Ideally, repotting is done in spring since that’s when it is the most effective. The plant is just waking up from its dormant period and it hasn’t started working full speed yet so you won’t disturb it too much.
And besides providing for more space for your TP to grow, repotting it also gives you a perfect chance to refresh the soil and compensate for the nutrients already drained by the plant.
Choosing the Pot
Choosing a pot for tradescantia pallida is rather easy. You can choose any size and shape you want and you can select this based on the location where you keep it.
You can choose some decorative pots with a face, for example, keep it in a high place and let the plant fall down like lush hair.
Anyhow, from the decorative viewpoint you can choose anything you want. But, functionally, you need to go for a pot that will not impair the health of your pallid darling.
The first practical advice for you is to go for a slightly wider pot. This will enable the roots to navigate through the pot.
More importantly, the pot needs to be 25 to 50 mm deeper from the same reason. Namely, the deeper pot will take in more soil so it will properly feed the already grown roots and it will additionally promote their growth.
Still, the most practical piece of advice I am going to give you at this point is to go for a regular pot with drainage holes at the bottom.
In this way, the extra sogginess will be eliminated and the roots will not rot.
Pro Tip: If you opt for decorative pots without drainage holes, repot the tradescantia pallida into a regular pot with drainage holes first. Then put some pebbles at the bottom of the decorative pot, level them and then place the regular pot, without the tray, on top of pebbles. This is how the excessive water will still be able to drain and you will have the perfect decoration.
Now that you have the general details, let’s move on to some logistics of it all.
Steps to Repot Tradescantia Pallida
Before I give you all the steps, I need to warn you that you should wear the gloves throughout the repotting. The TP can cause skin irritation so stay protected. Of course, this will also prevent the soil from getting stuck underneath your nails.
It would be ideal if you could perform the following procedure outside or on a balcony. If this is impossible, then use something to cover the floor so you don’t make a mess while repotting.
- Clean the new pot thoroughly.
- Make sure that the soil is at hand.
- Carefully take out the plant from the old pot. The best way to do it is to use your fingers and indent the pot towards the inside. This will separate the soil from the pot. Then it’s just enough to turn the pot over and hold the plant gently so it doesn’t fall and break.
- Pour the soil into a larger container and grind it with your hands. You will probably use commercial soils which can sometimes form clusters so you’ll have to break them before placing them in the pot.
Pro Tip: Go for the well-draining soils or commercial potting soils with sand added.
- Add a layer of soil into the new pot so it covers the bottom. Lightly shake the pot up and down to remove air pockets.
- Centre the plant in the pot and hold it steady. Use the other hand to add the soil until you have fully covered the root.
- Occasionally shake left and right (but gently) to eliminate any trapped air.
- Lightly tap on top of the soil to level it.
- Place the TP to the chosen location.
And, that’s it. Piece of cake!
Well, in the end, you just have to clean up the mess.
Pruning Tradescantia Pallida
Our next step in the proper care for the purple queen is pruning. You know that this step is all the more important for vining plants like TP.
The point of pruning is to keep the plant well-shaped and appealing, and, more importantly, healthy.
The plants can usually be pruned through the leaves, stems, or roots. When it comes to our tradescantia pallida here, pruning the leaves is almost pointless. Naturally, the root must also stay intact.
From the above, it is obvious that the best way to prune your purple heart is to pinch off the new stems growing from the pot.
Do this carefully so as not to disturb the main stem you want to keep.
The main reason for pruning is to prevent new and weak stems from consuming the nutrients that the primary stem needs. So, removing them helps your established plant grow properly.
But, this doesn’t mean you should throw these new stems away. They are an excellent means to propagate your plant, but we’ll get to that.
Moreover, if you notice that the leaves on your established plant are way too distant from each other on the stem, feel free to cut the stem so it’s only 15 cm long.
In this way, the stem will no longer consume too many nutrients causing harm to the plant in general and you will also give it a chance to recover and restore the overall healthy and appealing looks.
Now that you know how to properly prune the wandering jew, let’s see how to reproduce it and enjoy its beauty even more.
How to Propagate Tradescantia Pallida
Of course, the point of propagating plants is to have more of them in your home or garden and that they are all equally beautiful.
When we talk about the reproduction of TP, the method is rather easy. The new stems you pinched off while pruning or stem cuttings will do the trick.
Still take care that the stems you pinch off have at least one leaf.
As for the cuttings you make from the existing plant, take a cutting, or cuttings, about 10 cm long from the tip of the stem. It is understood that you need to do this with clean scissors as a form of preventing the infection of the plant.
By the way, the perfect time to take the cuttings is during spring-time or in early summer. This is when you will not disturb it too much.
Once you have separated the cutting, I suggest that you remove the leaves at the bottom of the stem. At this point, the cutting is rather fragile since it doesn’t have any root to feed through. This is why plenty of leaves will be an unnecessary burden.
Note that you can take as many cuttings as you like from the original plant. This will not kill it, but will instead help it recover.
Just like with most of the other plants, the TP can be propagated in two ways – in water and in soil. So, let’s see how each of these work.
1. Propagating in Water
This method is rather easy and is preferred by the impatient souls always wanting to know what’s happening down below.
And it’s awesome decoration too provided that you place it in a transparent container (glass or jar).
All you need to do here is to place the young stem or cutting in water and see the magic happens. You don’t have to add any nutrients – just pure water.
But, what you need to pay attention to is that you either water regularly or completely replace the water since stale water will not be able to promote root growth.
Next, be careful here that no leaves get under the water since they will easily rot and spread the rotting to the yet developing root.
And in just a few weeks, you will have a new plant with a fully developed root to repot.
2. Propagating in Soil
This is another way to multiply your purple queen. Here, instead of placing cuttings or new stems into the water, you place them in soil.
Take care that the soil is moist enough so it can feed the stem or cutting in the right way.
Don’t make a beginner’s mistake to place the stem/cutting into a big pot. In this way, your plant will only grow root until it reaches the bottom.
Instead, choose a smaller transitional container/pot that still provides enough space for the root to grow. In this way, both the root and the stem will grow at the same time.
And, how will you know that the root has started to grow? In water it’s easy, but how to check it here?
Well, first of all, the stem/cutting isn’t dying. That’s a good sign.
Second of all, you will notice new leaves forming on the stem.
Finally, try to pull out the stem (but very, very gently!). If you encounter some resistance, that means you’re on the good path. If the plant is sliding upwards without any restraints, then you will have to repeat the propagation with new stem, though this is highly unlikely.
In the end, know that once your stems/cuttings produce roots you can plant them all together in the same pot. Or, you can distribute them each in a separate pot and keep them in your rooms.
Tradescantia Pallida – Pests, Problems and Solutions
Now that we’ve gone through the good part, I will share with you some of the problems you need to pay attention to when growing wandering jew indoors.
Some of them are easily solved while others require a bit of effort.
Anyhow, let’s see what you can typically encounter.
1. Loss of Purple Colour
This is one of the frequent problems you will face when growing indoors. I already commented on the causes of this condition.
Namely, the lack of sunlight will lead to a change of color. As a consequence the leaves will turn green, losing its purple magnificence.
The solution is rather simple. Gradually relocate your plant towards the full sunlight and see the life (i.e. color) return to its leaves.
2. Root rot
This is the second typical issue you will have to deal with.
In most of the cases, the reason is either excessive watering or too much organic material in the soil formulation.
In both of the cases, you can cut the rotting part of the rot thus preventing it to spread further.
Now, when you consider the causes separately, if overwatering is the reason, you have two roads from there. Either let the soil dry out a little bit or repot the plant entirely. I suggest the latter since it’s more reliable.
If the reason for rotting is too much organic matter, you can fix this by mixing some sand with the soil. Ideally, this should be done before the original planting, but in this worst-case scenario, repotting will fix your problem.
Another significant pain in the – well, somewhere – is the pests that attack your plant. The most typical little devils you’ll need to be worried about are spider mites and aphids.
They can diminish the overall health of the plant so they need to be rid of.
Luckily, this is achieved very easily. Just wash them off with water and you’re good to go.
There might be some other problems, but these are the most frequently encountered when growing purple heart indoors.
I think that with all of the previous you have a clear picture on how to properly grow tradescantia pallida.
Nevertheless, let’s check together some of the most typical questions related to nurturing and caring for your purple heart in closed spaces.
Of course, the most frequent question is why is the plant losing its purple color, but I covered that already. So let’s check these out.
1. Why is my plant dying?
This is a totally legit question.
The most typical answer is that your plant is cold. I explained that the plant requires warm temperature conditions and is cold-intolerant.
To fix this, you need to move it to a warmer location in your apartment/house or increase the overall temperature.
2. Do I propagate tradescantia pallida by splitting the root?
No. A big NO!
I already explained everything about the proper ways of propagation so just follow the steps and instructions you can find in this guide and you’ll do just fine.
3. Can I grow it outside?
Of course, you can.
However, if you live in colder climates (i.e. below 10°C in wintertime), growing wandering jew outside is not a good idea.
Remember, we are talking about a cold-intolerant plant so it’s better if you keep it indoors.