Tradescantia pallida

Tradescantia pallida Purpurea

The genus Tradescantia contains one of my most hated weeds - wandering Jew (Tradescantia fluminensis) - but it also includes some plants which I am happy to welcome into my garden. Tradescantia pallida 'Purpurea' (syn. Setcreasea purpurea, Tradescantia pallida 'Purple Heart') has succulent-looking, lance-shaped purple leaves and forms a groundcover about 15cm tall. It has tiny pink flowers in summer but is mainly grown as a foliage plant.

Tradescantia pallida Purpurea in a Pymble garden

It will grow in part shade or sun and is an attractive companion to hybrid hellebores, goldfussia (Strobilanthes anisophylla) and Persian shield (Strobilanthes dyeriana). Because of its succulent look, it also is at home growing with plants such as Agave. It shares with its weedy relative an ease of growth and propagation, but does not become invasive. It apparently colours best when the soil is on the dry side, and when grown in full sun but also does quite well in shaded areas. I enjoy pairing it in a shaded spot with the purple-flowered Plectranthus ambiguous, which blooms in autumn. The foliage is a useful addition to a cut-flower arrangement.

Flowers in January, February, December.