The Enchanting Purple Passion Plant

Are you searching for a houseplant that will add a touch of magic to your home? Look no further than the purple passion plant (Gynura aurantiaca). With its soft purple hairs delicately covering the upper leaf surfaces, this plant is truly a sight to behold. Its vibrant green leaves underneath create a stunning contrast, making it a standout addition to any indoor collection or slightly shady porch.

Taking care of the purple passion plant is a breeze. As a tropical plant, it thrives under similar light, water, and nutrient conditions as other houseplants. Its striking appearance guarantees that it will draw attention and admiration wherever it is placed. In fact, it can even be grown outdoors for part of the year in many areas.

Quick Care Guide

Gynura aurantiaca
Gynura aurantiaca. Source: kaiyanwong223

  • Common Name(s): Purple passion plant
  • Scientific Name: Gynura aurantiaca
  • Family: Asteraceae
  • Height & Spread: 2 to 6 feet tall, 1 to 2 feet wide
  • Light: Bright, indirect light
  • Soil: Well-draining potting soil with a slightly acidic pH
  • Water: Water when the top inch of soil feels dry, avoiding wetting the leaves
  • Pests and Diseases: Relatively resistant due to the hairs on its leaves

Purple hairs on Gynura aurantiaca
Leaf hairs on Gynura aurantiaca. Source: Fer Ducloux

All About Purple Passion Plants

Purple passion plants, also known as velvet plants, have captured the hearts of many with their unique appearance. These tropical plants from Southeast Asia go by the scientific name Gynura aurantiaca and are native to the forest floors of Java. Their fuzzy leaves come in shades of green, purple, or a combination of both, giving them a distinct velvet-like texture.

Depending on their growing conditions, purple passion plants can have a low-lying or vining habit. They typically reach heights of 2 to 6 feet and spread 1 to 2 feet wide. The ovate leaves have serrated edges and are covered in fine purple to reddish hairs, which are most prominent on young leaves. The undersides of the leaves remain a vibrant green.

Propagation of purple passion plants is relatively simple. The shallow roots readily grow from cuttings, especially during the spring and summer seasons. When the plant reaches full maturity, it produces spindly orange aster flowers that emit an unpleasant scent. To ensure the longevity of your plant, it is advisable to remove these flowers and take stem cuttings for propagation.

One of the remarkable features of the purple passion plant is its natural resistance to pests. The hairs that cover its leaves act as a deterrent, making it less susceptible to infestations. In addition, it is completely non-toxic to both pets and humans, providing peace of mind to plant enthusiasts.

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Purple Passion Plant Care

Purple passion plant leaves
Purple passion plant leaves have fine hairs. Source: Botanischer Garten TU Darmstadt

Caring for the purple passion plant is a delight. Here are some essential guidelines to ensure its optimal health and growth:

Sun and Temperature

Purple passion plants thrive in bright, indirect light. While they can be grown outdoors year-round in USDA hardiness zones 10 to 12, it is advisable to bring them indoors when temperatures dip below 60°F. An indoor space near a window with a sheer curtain provides the perfect environment, as it offers a balance of light and shade.

Water and Humidity

Young purple passion plants require regular watering every 2 to 4 days, while more mature plants can be watered once a week or as needed. During the spring and summer growing seasons, it is important to keep the soil evenly moist. However, in the fall and winter, the soil should be slightly drier. Take care not to wet the soft purple leaves when watering.

Maintaining a suitable level of humidity is crucial for the purple passion plant’s well-being. If you live in a dry area, consider using a pebble tray or a humidifier to provide the desired humidity of 40% to 60% that mimics its natural tropical habitat.

Soil

Basic potting soil is sufficient for the purple passion plant. If you prefer to create your own mix, try combining 2 parts peat moss with 1 part sand. The peat moss retains moisture, while the sand ensures proper drainage. Aim for a slightly acidic pH of 6.5 to 7.5 to promote healthy growth.

Fertilizing Your Velvet Plant

Purple velvet plant in bloom
Purple velvet plant in bloom. Source: Maia C

During the growing season, you can fertilize your purple passion plant every 2 weeks with a balanced fertilizer diluted to half strength. However, during its dormant period in fall and winter, refrain from fertilizing as the plant does not actively absorb nutrients. While fertilization may not always be necessary, this method can be employed when needed to provide the necessary nutrients for optimal growth.

Pruning and Training Purple Passion Plant

Pruning is not always required for the purple passion plant. However, if vertical growth becomes excessive, pinch back the first set of leaves to promote bushier growth. Over time, you may also want to take stem cuttings to propagate new plants. Remove scorched leaves caused by direct sunlight, as well as any diseased or damaged leaves throughout the lifespan of the plant. To create a trailing effect, you can train the purple passion plant against a wall or trellis and avoid excessive pruning to allow for lateral growth.

One important aspect of purple passion plant care involves removing the orange flowers that appear among the velvety leaves. Not only do these flowers emit an unpleasant odor, but their presence indicates that the plant is nearing the end of its life cycle. This is an ideal time to propagate the plant and ensure its continued existence.

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Propagation

After a few years, your purple passion plant will reach maturity. To propagate new plants, simply take stem cuttings during the active growth phase in spring or summer. Remove the bottom leaves, leaving 1 to 2 sets at the top. Plant the cuttings in pots filled with the same potting mix you used for the parent plant. Provide ample sunlight by placing a plastic bag over the pot, creating a miniature greenhouse effect. After about two weeks, you will notice new growth, indicating successful propagation. Transfer the new plants to a hanging basket or any area that provides bright light and moderate humidity to showcase their beautiful purple leaves.

Troubleshooting the Velvet Plant

Insect-damaged purple passion plant
An insect-damaged purple passion plant. Source: Starr

While the purple passion plant is relatively resilient, here are some issues you may encounter and their corresponding solutions:

Growing Problems

If the leaves of your purple passion plant become greener or show signs of dryness and crispy tips, it is an indication that they are receiving too much direct sunlight. Filter the sunlight through a sheer curtain or relocate the plant to an area with bright, indirect light.

Overwatering the plant, particularly when propagating stem cuttings, can lead to diseases such as rot. To prevent this, wait until a quarter of the soil in the container is dry before watering again.

Properly tenting your propagation stems with a plastic bag is crucial to successful propagation. This creates a tropical environment that mimics the plant’s natural habitat, promoting the growth of healthy new plants.

Lastly, improper fertilization can harm the purple passion plant. Avoid fertilizing during its dormant period in fall and winter. Only feed the plant every two weeks in spring and summer if necessary, taking care not to provide more nutrients than it can absorb.

Purple Passion Plant Pests

The purple passion plant’s natural defense mechanism, the hairs on its leaves, deters many pests. However, a few may still pose a threat. Here are some common pests and their corresponding treatments:

  • Aphids: Spray the plant with a strong stream of water to remove aphids, or gently wipe them off with a damp cloth if spraying isn’t suitable. Neem oil can be used as a follow-up treatment if necessary.
  • Spider Mites: To prevent spider mites, maintain moisture in the soil and around your houseplants. Treat them with insecticidal soap or neem oil.
  • Mealybugs: Remove mealybugs by gently popping them off with an alcohol-soaked Q-tip. Follow up with insecticidal soap or neem oil to eliminate any remaining pests.

Diseases of the Purple Passion Plant

Fungal diseases, such as botrytis blight and fusarium wilt, can occur if the plant is cared for improperly. Symptoms include wilting leaves, brown spots, and mushy stems. Prevent these diseases by providing adequate light and fertilizing only in spring and summer. For treatment, apply neem oil as a preventative measure. If necessary, use copper fungicide.

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Root rot can also occur when environmental conditions are unfavorable. Rotting lower stems indicate the presence of root rot. To control its spread, repot the plant, carefully removing dead roots and replanting in fresh potting mix. Gradually reintroduce moisture and observe the plant for signs of recovery.

Frequently Asked Questions

Purple passion plant flowers
Purple passion plant flowers smell terrible. Source: jlodder

Q: How much sun does a purple passion plant need?
A: Purple passion plants thrive in bright, indirect sunlight for approximately 6 to 8 hours a day. If you notice browning leaf tips or the need for frequent watering, it may indicate that the plant is receiving too much sunlight.

Q: Are purple passion plants easy to care for?
A: Yes, they are relatively easy to care for. They have similar care requirements to many other tropical houseplants.

Q: Is a purple passion plant indoor or outdoor?
A: Purple passion plants can be grown both indoors and outdoors. In zones 10 to 12, they can be kept outdoors year-round. In other areas, bring them indoors when temperatures drop below or consistently remain at 60°F.

Q: How big can a purple passion plant get?
A: Purple passion plants typically stay compact when grown indoors, reaching a height of about 2 feet. However, when supported by another object, they can grow up to 6 feet tall.

Q: How long do purple velvet plants live?
A: Purple passion plants have a lifespan of 2 to 3 years. However, before this time is up, you can easily propagate new plants from a parent plant.

Q: Are purple velvet plants toxic?
A: No, they are non-toxic to both pets and humans, providing a safe and beautiful addition to your home.

Q: How often do you water purple velvet?
A: Water your purple passion plant when a quarter of the potting soil is dry, ensuring not to overwater it.

Q: How do you trim a purple velvet plant?
A: While trimming is not necessary, you can remove the flowers before they fully bloom to avoid the unpleasant smell they emit. Additionally, if your plant exhibits excessive lateral growth, pinching back the first set of leaves will encourage bushier growth.

So, if you’re looking for a captivating plant that will bring beauty and elegance to your home, consider the enchanting purple passion plant. With its velvety leaves and unique characteristics, it is sure to be the center of attention wherever it is placed. For a wide range of purple passion plants and expert care advice, visit the Ames Farm Center.