Tradescantia pallida 'Purpurea'
Common Name: spider lily 
Type: Herbaceous perennial
Family: Commelinaceae
Zone: 10 to 11
Height: 0.50 to 0.75 feet
Spread: 1.00 to 1.50 feet
Bloom Time: Seasonal bloomer
Bloom Description: Pink
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Low
Flower: Showy
Leaf: Colorful


Tradescantia pallida is a tender perennial that is winter hardy to USDA Zones 10-11. In St. Louis it is grown in the garden as an annual, in containers and as a year round houseplant. In the garden, it is easily grown in rich, moist, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. Best purple leaf color occurs in full sun. Plants have good drought tolerance. Shelter plants from strong winds that may break the somewhat fragile stems. Remove flower stems immediately after bloom. Pinch back stems as needed to maintain plant shape and to stimulate new growth. This plant is easily propagated by cuttings (seed is not available). Cuttings may be overwintered for use the following year. Container plants may be cut back and brought indoors for overwintering. Nurseries often sell inexpensive starter plants in spring. Plants do not like temperatures below 50F, and if they are to be brought indoors in fall, it should be well in advance of frost.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Tradescantia pallida (synonymous with Setcreasea purpurea) is native to Mexico. In tropical and semi-tropical areas, it is commonly grown outdoors as a popular, albeit weedy, ground cover. It is commonly called purple heart. It has served for a number of years as a vigorous and attractive houseplant, but is now being increasingly used in outdoor garden applications as a ground cover and/or container plant. It typically grows to 8” tall with a trailing habit, and features thick but fragile stems clad with pointed, narrow-oblong, v-shaped leaves (4-6” long) that are sheathed to the stems. Stems will trail to 18” or more. Three-petaled, pink flowers (to 1.5” diameter) bloom in small clusters.

Genus name honors John Tradescant (1570-1638) and his son John Tradescant (1608-1662), botanists and successive gardeners to Charles I of England.

Specific epithet means pale.

‘Purpurea’ (sometimes sold as ‘Purple Heart’) is a cultivar that features purple foliage which is superior to that of the species. Stems and leaves are violet purple.


Generally free of major pest or disease issues. On outdoor garden plants, young shoots are susceptible to damage from snails and caterpillars. Watch for aphids and scale on indoor plants.


Groundcover or edging that provides color and contrast to other plants. Excellent in containers. Downward-trailing stems are ideal for hanging baskets. Rock gardens, borders fronts, wall plantings.