Commelinaceae Cultivar analysis

The resurrection of Tradescantia ‘Shadow Hill’

Last week I made a breakthrough that neatly solved two tradescantia naming mysteries at once. The seemingly-new T. pallida which has been circulating the last few years with only the descriptor “grey”, has actually existed since 2003, and its name is Tradescantia pallida ‘Shadow Hill’!

Tradescantia pallida “grey”

A mysterious cultivar of T. pallida has been circulating occasionally among collectors over the last year or two. Its most unusual feature is that the upper sides of the leaves are dark greyish-purple, and the undersides are lighter green – the opposite to most other tradescantia cultivars where darker red and purple undersides are common.

I hadn’t been able to track down the origins of the plant, and couldn’t find any sign of it ever being commercially produced. It’s never been given a real name, but often just the descriptor “grey”. It seems to be less common (perhaps not present at all) in the USA, and most common in mainland Europe.

Tradescantia ‘Shadow Hill’

Meanwhile, in the course of my research I’d come across records of an EU plant breeders’ rights application (like a plant patent) for a cultivar called Tradescantia ‘Shadow Hill’ from 2003. There was hardly any information about it, and the protection was surrendered in 2004, so the plant was obviously sold for only a very short time.

I never found any photos or catalogues, or even what species it belonged to. I had resigned myself to never knowing what the plant was like, and assuming it was lost for good.

Then last week, I finally managed to get access to the original documents from the plant breeders’ rights application! They don’t contain any photos, but there is a very detailed description including RHS colour chart values. And as I was reading, I realised…

  • Growth habit similar to ‘Purpurea’ (i.e. T. pallida),
  • Upper leaves are dark greyish purple, from N186B to N187A,
  • Narrow green edge on the leaf,
  • Undersides are greyish green, 191A,
  • With dark purple veins.


The ‘Shadow Hill’ description is a perfect match for the mystery “grey” T. pallida! After all that time, somehow the plant has remained in circulation but lost its name.

So the new unnamed T. pallida cultivar is not new at all – it’s existed since 2003 and its name is Tradescantia pallida ‘Shadow Hill’!

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