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purple queen flower

A truly purple “evergreen”

By Ralph E. Mitchell

Some plants are everywhere you look and simply blend into the background.  One very popular and widely available plant that fits this bill is purple queen.  Purple queen is in the spiderwort family and provides stunning purple foliage and delicate attractive flowers.

Originally native to Mexico, this trailing perennial spiderwort provides a deep purple-colored mass of foliage with best color experienced in full-sun locations.  Each morning, the tip of each stem is graced with a small, short-lived three-petalled pink flower.  Best for informal settings, use purple queen in rock gardens, for mass planting or for cascading over walls.  Installed on twelve-inch centers, this plant will quickly fill in an area.   If you really want to keep it in check, purple queen makes a great container plant – by itself or mixed with other foliage and flowers for a stunning ensemble.   Purple queen also shows at its best in a hanging basket where trailing stems can dangle freely.

Purple queen can tolerate some frost, and will quickly regrow if any damage is experienced.  It is also highly drought-tolerant and adapts well to a wide range of soil conditions.

While some members of the spiderwort family are considered invasive including the oyster plant (a Category II Invasive)  and the small-leaf spiderwort (a Category I Invasive) , the purple queen or Tradescantia pallida, is an aggressive and spreading plant, but not considered invasive.  It is also not considered a problem species by the UF/IFAS Assessment of Non-Native Plants.  However, I think that care should still be exercised to make sure that it does not escape cultivation.  By its very nature, propagation is extremely easy as the somewhat brittle stems root at every node if given that chance.

The only note of caution that I would give with purple queen is that the sap from this plant can irritate the skin of some people.  As such, perhaps consider wearing garden gloves when handling this plant.

Purple queen is as available at most garden centers and, most likely, in your neighbor’s yard – it is abundant!  If you like purple in the landscape, this is your plant.  Consider planting this purple ‘evergreen” today!  For more information on all types of groundcovers and container plants suitable for planting in our area, please call our Master Gardener volunteers on the Plant Lifeline on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 1 to 4 pm at 764-4340 for gardening help and insight into their role as an Extension volunteer.  Don’t forget to visit our other County Plant Clinics in the area.  Please check this link for a complete list of site locations, dates and times – http://blogs.ifas.ufl.edu/charlotteco/files/2018/03/Plant-Clinics-Schedule.pdf.     Ralph E. Mitchell is the Director/Horticulture Agent for the Charlotte County Extension Service. He can be reached at 941-764-4344 or ralph.mitchell@charlottecountyfl.gov.

Resources:

Gilman, E. F. Setcreasea pallida Purple Heart, Purple Queen. The University of Florida Extension Service, IFAS.

FLEPPC. 2017. List of Invasive Plant Species. Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council. Internet: www.fleppc.org.

The UF/IFAS Assessment of Non-native Plants in Florida’s Natural Areas – https://assessment.ifas.ufl.edu/assessments/tradescantia-pallida/.

Duever, L. C. 2006 Tradescantia pallida. Floridata.com, Tallahassee, FL.

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