Setcreasea pallida Purple Heart, Purple Queen1

Edward F. Gilman 2


This sprawling, evergreen ground cover produces deep purple foliage and stems when grown in full sun (Fig.1). The rather brittle stems, a foot or more high, have a tendency to flop over, creating a trailing effect that lends itself nicely to informal planting beds, rock gardens, or containers. It also cascades nicely over retaining walls and does well in a hanging basket. The rather inconspicuous, three-petalled, pale pink, one-inch flowers are produced from the tips of stems and last only one morning.

Figure 1. Purple heart
Figure 1.  Purple heart

General Information

Scientific name: Setcreasea pallida
Pronunciation: SET-kree-zee-uh PAL-lid-duh
Common name(s): purple heart, purple queen
Family: Commelinaceae
Plant type: perennial; herbaceous
USDA hardiness zones: 9 through 11 (Fig. 2)
Planting month for zone 9: year round
Planting month for zone 10 and 11: year round
Origin: native to North America
Uses: container or above-ground planter; mass planting; naturalizing; hanging basket; suitable for growing indoors; cascading down a wall
Availability: generally available in many areas within its hardiness range

Figure 2. Shaded area represents potential planting range.
Figure 2.  Shaded area represents potential planting range.


Height: 1 to 1.5 feet
Spread: depends upon supporting structure
Plant habit: spreading
Plant density: open
Growth rate: moderate
Texture: medium


Leaf arrangement: alternate
Leaf type: simple
Leaf margin: ciliate
Leaf shape: lanceolate
Leaf venation: parallel
Leaf type and persistence: evergreen
Leaf blade length: 4 to 8 inches
Leaf color: purple or red
Fall color: no fall color change
Fall characteristic: not showy


Flower color: pink
Flower characteristic: year-round flowering


Fruit shape: unknown
Fruit length: less than .5 inch
Fruit cover: dry or hard
Fruit color: unknown
Fruit characteristic: inconspicuous and not showy

Trunk and Branches

Trunk/bark/branches: not applicable
Current year stem/twig color: reddish
Current year stem/twig thickness: medium


Light requirement: plant grows in part shade/part sun
Soil tolerances: alkaline; clay; sand; acidic; loam
Drought tolerance: high
Soil salt tolerances: unknown
Plant spacing: 18 to 24 inches


Roots: not applicable
Winter interest: no special winter interest
Outstanding plant: plant has outstanding ornamental features and could be planted more
Invasive potential: aggressive, spreading plant
Pest resistance: no serious pests are normally seen on the plant

Use and Management

Growing in full sun to partial shade, purple heart thrives in a wide variety of soils. In north Florida, frost may kill back the tops, but in warm weather in the spring the plants recover quickly. Set plants on 12-inch centers for quick cover. Plants should be well-watered until established and then will only require attention during periods of extended drought.
Propagation is by stem cuttings, which root easily.

Pests and Diseases

No pests or diseases of major concern. Mites and chewing insects may occasionally cause injury.


1. This document is FPS-549, one of a series of the Environmental Horticulture Department, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date October 1999. Reviewed February 2014. Visit the EDIS website at
2. Edward F. Gilman, professor, Environmental Horticulture Department; UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.

Publication #FPS-549

Date: 2015-09-30
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