Southwestern Deserts

February, 2013
Regional Report

Favorite or New Plant

Purple Heart
Incredible foliage color and lack of fussiness make Tradescantia pallida 'Purpurea' a fun houseplant to grow. Its tiny pink flowers are unremarkable, but the vivid purple foliage catches the eye. Pair Purple heart with deep green or silver foliage plants for maximum contrast. It grows about 12 inches tall and wide and looks its best where it can tumble over the sides of a pot. Native to Mexico, this perennial can also be grown outside in pots or as a groundcover in mild winters. At low desert elevations, it needs protection from hot afternoon sun, especially in summer, and performs best in dappled light. At colder elevations, grow it outdoors in summer and bring inside for the winter. Pinch it back regularly to control its spread and reduce gangliness. Purple heart is a moderate water user.

Clever Gardening Technique

Grow Houseplants Organically
Some research shows that houseplants may release their own whiff of VOCs, probably due to growing medium, chemical additives, and pot type. You can reduce the potential for these extra VOCs by growing houseplants organically. Pot them in a ceramic or clay pot rather than plastic. Use a soil mix without added chemical fertilizers or pesticides. Fertilize with organic products. Keeping plants healthy with their preferred sun exposure and moisture requirements will reduce their susceptibility to pests and diseases. Monitor regularly to catch any insect or disease problems early so you can use the least-toxic control methods.

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