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Purple passion plant, or Gynura aurantiaca, is a very unique plant commonly found in American nurseries. Also known as purple passion vine or purple velvet plant (because of its soft, fuzzy leaves), this outdoor or indoor plant will add a vibrant pop of color to your space.
Thanks to the fine, soft purple hairs on its green leaves, the purple passion plant almost appears to glow in the sunlight. The stems and undersides of this tropical plant are usually deep red or purple, and variants can grow in upward bunches or as a trailing ivy. Unlike many houseplants that take a few years to reach their most attractive stage, this species thrives in its youth: Young foliage shows more of its signature color than mature leaves. Purple passion plants tend to flaunt their brightest colors in the first two to three years before flowering.
- Botanical Name: Gynura aurantiaca
- Common Name: Purple passion plant, purple passion vine, purple velvet plant
- Plant Type: Vine or ground cover
- Mature Size: 1–2 feet high
- Sun Exposure: Bright, indirect light
- Soil Type: Well-draining potting soil
- Soil pH: 6.5–7.5
- Toxicity: Non-toxic
The amount of water in your purple passion plant's soil is essential for proper care. Be sure to keep the soil of this plant evenly moist, but never soggy to avoid root rot. When watering, apply the water directly to the soil to keep the leaves from getting wet.
During the spring, summer, and fall growing seasons, fertilize your plant bi-weekly with standard houseplant fertilizer diluted to half-strength. Since growth will slow in the winter, cut back fertilizing to once per month during colder months.
If it gets overcrowded in its pot, a simple all-purpose potting soil in a container one size larger will give your plant more nutrients and room to grow. Purple passion plants may start to look weedy and unkempt if allowed to grow freely, so it’s important to pinch back excess growth regularly. This creates a bushier shape and promotes new growth of young, bright purple leaves.
Since these plants can get root rot easily, take care not to overwater. Check the soil moisture regularly when you bring your plant home, and ensure that water doesn't build up in the bottom of the pot or drainage tray.
Like Tradescantia plants, purple passion plants can start to look a bit rough after repotting or heavy pruning, so you may want to use those cuttings to start new plants instead.
When growing conditions are ideal, your plant will produce small, orange flowers when it hits maturity—but these blooms can give off an unpleasant smell. Many gardeners prefer to snip them off before they reach full bloom. Flowering is a sign that your plant has hit maturity and will soon die back (so it’s time to take cuttings for propagation).
Best Growing Conditions for Purple Passion Plant
Your purple passion plant needs to grow in a bright spot—likely by a window—to look its best. Since they thrive in strong, indirect sun, an east-facing window is ideal. Without sufficient light, the leaves will appear green instead of their signature purple, and the stems can get long and leggy as they try to grow toward the sun.
Choose a spot with night temperatures no lower than 60 degrees. The ideal daytime temperatures for the purple passion plant are between 60 and 75 degrees, so it grows best as an indoor plant. If you choose to use it as groundcover outdoors, find a spot that stays close to its best temperature range throughout the growing season. While it won't last through the winter months, this plant can easily be brought back in the spring with a few propagated stems saved indoors.
Purple Passion Plant Varieties
There are two species of plants in the Gynura genus that are sold as purple passion plants. The typical upright variety is G. aurantiaca. A variegated cultivar of this breed, with white- and green-striped leaves below its classic purple fibers, is also available at many local nurseries and garden stores.
If you're looking for the vibrant colors of purple passion plant with the look of ivy, one variant is the perfect combination. Because of its trailing, vine-like growth habit, the G. sarmentosa variety is great to use in hanging planters or as trailing plants in a standard pot.
How to Propagate Purple Passion Plant
While purple passion plants can be rooted in water, propagating these rot-prone plants with soil tends to bring about better results. Take cuttings for propagation during the spring or summer growing season to encourage them to root more quickly.
You’ll need sharp pruners or shears, a planter, a clear plastic bag, and a rooting hormone (optional) to propagate this plant. You'll also need soil or a seed-starting mix—make your own rooting blend by combining one part chopped bark, one part perlite or vermiculite, and two parts peat moss.
Use rooting hormones when propagating plants from stem cuttings to help new roots establish more quickly.
Step 1: Prepare a small pot with seed-starting mix or rooting blend. Lightly water the soil and make a hole in the center with the end of a chopstick or pencil.
Step 2: Using a clean, sharp gardening blade, cut a portion of healthy stem around three inches long with several leaves. Trim all but the top four leaves off the cutting. Apply rooting hormone to the cut end of the stem, if using.
Step 3: Plant the cutting in the soil hole and gently press the soil around the stem so that it’s stable. Moisten the soil with water.
Step 4: Create a humid environment for the cutting by tenting a clear plastic bag over the plant pot (make sure leaves aren't touching the plastic). You can also cut the top of a clear plastic bottle off and fit it within the planter's circumference.
Step 5: Place the cutting in a space with bright, indirect light—it needs less sunlight than a mature plant. Keep the soil evenly moist. Remove the plastic cover occasionally to dry the leaves. When you see new growth, the cutting has rooted properly and can be cared for as usual.
Common Growing Problems
It's common to find spider mites or small bugs living in your purple passion plant. Bronze-colored leaves or brown spots are an indicator of spider mite infestations. If your plant is attracting mites, simply cut off the affected leaves and rinse the plant with a hose or in the shower (taking care to dispose of leaves in a plastic bag outdoors and clean your cutting tools afterward).
Brown or curling leaves are a sign that your plant is getting too much direct sunlight. If this happens, trim off the damaged leaves and move your plant a few feet further back from the light source. If your plant starts to look leggy and loses its bottom leaves, it's likely a sign that it needs more water. Pinch back the growing tips to encourage new growth, or propagate cuttings into a fresh pot.
Houseplants: Safe and Toxic Varieties. University of Connecticut Extension. 2016