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Garden design with colour contrast

May 2013 Tradescantia pallida ‘Purpurea’

– Posted in: Plant of the Month

Tradescantia pallida ‘Purpurea’
Purple Spiderwort

The purple spiderwort is a very useful and striking landscape plant. It is a low growing ground cover to 20cm high and 30cm wide. It is very useful in a garden design because the strong purple colour of its foliage continues to provide great contrast all year. It works well in rockeries or in the foreground of garden beds.

The foliage is complemented nicely by the small pink flowers that come out in autumn. The leaves themselves are somewhat succulent, making them drought resistant and good inclusions in gardens that do not get extra watering. They form small clumps that can be placed between and amongst other plants where their colour contrast can be used to best advantage.

Tradescantia pallida ‘Purpurea’ originates from Mexico and Central America, so it is a warm climate plant that won’t cope well with frosts. It likes full sun but is also happy with a bit of shade.

The purple spiderwort is a low maintenance plant, which makes it a good selection in a garden design. It stays neat and in its place and maintains its healthy look all year. While drought tolerant, it does enjoy some humidity when available.

It can sometimes go by the name Setcreasa purpurea but should not be mistaken with the extremely weedy Tradescantia fluminensis (‘Wandering Jew’ or ‘Creeping Christian’) with which it is related. One possible drawback is that it may give skin reactions to dogs if they are in constant contact.  It does make a nice hanging basket though if you don’t want Rover to get near it.

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