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Plant of the Month: Purple Heart

Setcreasea purpurea (Purple Heart) is a trailing, tender perennial with purple stems and violet-purple leaves that produces pink flowers in summer. This plant is mainly grown for its foliage (leaves can reach 7 inches in length) and best color is achieved in bright sunlight. Although this “succulent” will tolerate full sun in our deserts, it prefers a little afternoon shade. It is excellent as a groundcover, border or accent plant. I especially love it spewing out of pots with succulents and flowering plantings in bright pink, orange or yellow. When juxtaposed with Golden Barrel Cacti, it’s a true stunner.

Growing to about 12 inches in height (before falling over) it can grow to about 2-3 feet in width. Purple Heart grows upward first and because of its weight, it has a tendency then to fall over and lie on the ground. I prefer the plant cut back to keep it happy and upright and thus, preventing it from getting too leggy.

The plant is more active during our warmer months and can be susceptible to frost damage, which seldom happens here. If so, simply cut it to the ground and watch it take off. Regular water and a bit of fertilizer will keep it thriving.

What I love most about this plant is the beautiful, purple foliage and its versatility in the landscape. It goes well with cacti and succulents, while also looking great in lush, tropical or cottage gardens. Give it a try; I don’t think you’ll be disappointed with the impact and performance of this little guy.

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