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How to Grow Purple Passion Plant (Velvet Plant)

Caren White is a Master Gardener and instructor at Home Gardeners School. She has been associated with Rutgers Gardens for over a decade.

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The fuzzy purple leaves of purple passion plants always remind me of the 60s and psychedelic album covers where the ordinary becomes extraordinary, reimagined in new colors and shapes. These plants are a fun way to add color and texture to your indoor space.

What are Purple Passion Plants?

Purple passion plants (Gynura aurantiaca) are members of the aster family and native to Java. They are hardy in zones 10 – 12 so they are most often grown as houseplants. In warmer areas of the globe, they are grown outside and have escaped into the landscape in places like Florida, Central and South America, Australia and South Africa.

Purple passion plants grow to 1 – 2 feet tall but their branches then start to trail, growing to a spread of 2 – 4 feet. Another name for them is purple passion vine thanks to their habit of trailing. These plants are often grown in hanging baskets with their long stems sprawling over the sides.

They got their name, purple passion plant, because their dark green leaves and stems are covered with soft, fine purple hairs. Because the hairs are so thick and soft, the plants are also called velvet plants. The leaves can be up to 6 inches long.

Purple passion plants will bloom indoors. Bloom time is winter, November through February. The flowers are small and either yellow or orange. Each plant will produce 1 – 5 flowers. Most gardeners remove the flowers when they are growing the plants indoors because they have a foul odor.

Most gardeners remove the flowers because of their foul odor.

Most gardeners remove the flowers because of their foul odor.

How to Grow Purple Passion Plants

Purple passion plants like bright sunlight but afternoon sun can be too strong for them. An east facing window that only gets morning sun is perfect. These plants can be grown in regular potting soil. They like the soil to be moist, but not soaking wet. Overwatering can result in root rot. You can cut back on watering in the winter and allow the soil to dry out slightly. The plants won’t mind.

They are tropical plants so you may be tempted to mist them to provide extra humidity. This is not a good idea because those lovely purple hairs will hold the water and a fungal infection may develop.

Fertilize every other week with a liquid fertilizer formulated for houseplants diluted to half strenth. You can cut back the fertilizer to once a month in the winter.

Purple passion plants can get leggy when they sprawl. They look more attractive if you pinch them back to encourage them to be more bushy. “Pinching” simply means to cut off the growing tip of each stem. When you remove the growing tip (the end of the stem that is actively growing), the plant responds by growing two new ones. As the new stems grow, pinch them off and each one will grow two new tips resulting in a plant with lots of stems.

It’s called pinching because most gardeners cut off the tips by squeezing (pinching) them between their thumb and forefinger.

Purple passion plants are very short-lived plants, only growing for 2 – 3 years before dying. Most gardeners grow new ones from cuttings each year so that they always have healthy plants.

Gardeners have been growing purple passion plants for over a century.  This catalog is from 1900.

Gardeners have been growing purple passion plants for over a century. This catalog is from 1900.

How to Grow Purple Passion Plants From Cuttings

Growing new plants from cuttings is easy. Make a 3 inch cutting from one of your trailing stems. Remove the leaves from the bottom half of the cutting. You can use rooting hormone if you like. It will speed up the growth of new roots. If you don’t have any rooting hormone, that’s okay. Your cutting will still grow roots.

Gently push it into pre-moistened soil in a container. I like to water the soil before I plant my cuttings because if I wait until afterwards to water, both the water and the cutting may float out of the container. Cover the cutting and container with a plastic bag. This will create a mini greenhouse.

Place your cutting in an east facing window. You will need to remove the plastic bag periodically to both water your cutting and to allow the leaves to dry out. It will get humid in the plastic mini greenhouse. The hairs on the leaves and stems will collect that moisture and fungal disease may develop.

You will know that your cutting has roots when you see new leaves growing. Plants that don’t have roots can’t grow new leaves.

© 2020 Caren White

Comments

Danny from India on September 04, 2020:

haha, thanks Caren, Yes we get exotic plants.

Caren White (author) on September 04, 2020:

Your nursery sounds wonderful!

Danny from India on September 03, 2020:

Caren ,blue and purple plants are my favorite. There are bluebells & lilac that we have at nursery.