Looking for a pretty indoor plant to brighten up a window sill or table? Try this purple passion plant – gynura aurantiaca. This distinctive plant has velvety leaves with slightly raised hairs on greenish purple stems. It is native to Java and is fairly easy to grow if you have a brightly lit room.
Common names of this plant are purple velvet plant, purple velvet vine, and purple passion plant. The color of this house plant is the main reason for its popularity, although the odd combination of yellow flowers that sometimes appear also gives it a quirky appeal.
Tips for Growing Purple Passion Plant
This lovely tropical indoor plant is relatively easy to grow. It only needs moderate light conditions and not too much water so this makes it ideal for beginning gardeners.
Give the plant medium filtered light. A sunny north facing window sill works well. It also will grow under grow lights in a darker room. If you give the plant too much light the foliage will scorch and too little little will give you a weak plant that becomes leggy as it stretches to the light.
If your window faces south, where the light is stronger, a sheer curtain will keep the light from scorching the leaves.
Water when the plant feels dry about an inch into the soil. The plant likes fairly even moisture but not soggy soil. The plant is susceptible to root rot, so be careful not to over-water.
Growth and Size
Gynura Aurantiaca is a fast growing plant with an upright growth habit when young. As the plant matures, it takes on a more sprawling habit. It can grow to 1-2 feet. Trim the growing tips (you can use them for cuttings) to make the plant keep a bushy shape. Small plants will grow better when kept slightly root bound. This also controls its size a bit.
Use an all purpose indoor plant food, every few weeks in the growing season, but cut this down to ever few months in the winter months. (See how to make your own plant fertilizer here.)
Humidity and Temperature Needs
Purple Velvet plants likes a naturally humid environment, but doesn’t like to get water on the leaves themselves. Normally, I suggest misting the leaves to increase humidity but this would be a problem for this plant. A room humidifier, or placing the plant on a saucer of pebbles with water below the stone layer would help.
Gynura Aurantiaca likes a relatively cool room. It does best if the temperature is between 60 and 70 degrees F.
The plant roots easily from stem cuttings. Just take a cutting about 2 inches long and remove the bottom leaves. Dip the tip into rooting powder and place in a seed starting mix such as perlite or vermiculite. The plant will soon develop roots and then you can re-pot it in normal potting soil. The cuttings will also root easily in water.
I have a whole tutorial on propagating purple passion plant from stem cuttings. You can check it out here.
This houseplant stands out from other indoor plants because of the green leaves that are covered in soft purple hairs. The leaves also have a purple sheen that is attractive and looks a lot like velvet. The purpose of the hairs is to protect the foliage from high light levels. It’s not hard to see where the common name velvet plant comes from is it?
Be sure to keep water off the leaves in the same way that you would with African Violets, since this can cause the leaves to get soggy and they will rot. The underneath side of the leaf has a more even purple color than the top which is both green and purple.
There is also a variety of gynura which has variegated purple and cream leaves which is called Gynura aurantiaca ‘Variegata’
The flowers of gynura aurantiaca are a bright yellow color that look a bit like a dandelion flower. The aroma of the flower is not pleasant, so snipping them off will reduce the smell from the plant. If the plant starts to flower indoors, it normally means that it has reached maturity and it’s time to take cuttings for new plants.
Uses for purple velvet plant
Since the plant is tropical and only hardy in zones 10-11, it is normally grown as a houseplant in the USA. Young plants make a nice table decoration and older plants with a more sprawling look do well in hanging baskets.
It is not suitable for a closed terrarium since the humidity will be too high and the leaves can be affected. Open terrariums such as fish bowl styles can be use to showcase small plants as a focal plant. Mature plants with vining nature can also be trained to grow up trellises.
Older plants will lose much of their purple color as the plant branches out into vines. Pruning the tips often encourages more branches and more color of the leaves for longer. If your plant starts to lose its color, start over again with rooted cuttings.
The plant can be grown as an annual outdoors, but be sure to contain it or the sprawling habit can take over a garden spot. You are more likely to see the flowers if you grow it outdoors.
Gynura aurantiaca problems
The plant is susceptible to attracting white flies, mealy bugs, spider mites, scale and aphids. The fleshy leaves are the source of the attraction. Isolate the plant if you find these pests and treat accordingly. Be sure to check the undersides of the leaves often. The plant is generally disease resistant, other than root root which is caused by over watering.
If you want a splash of color to add to your indoor decor and don’t have a lot of light. Try growing Purple Passion plant. It adds a distinctive touch to any room.
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