October 2001

Producing Potted Purple Velvet Plants
By John M. Dole and Laurence C. Pallez

Rich, purple, velvety leaves make Gynura aurantiaca an irresistible plant to touch and buy. Not surprisingly, gynura is known as the purple velvet plant or, more imaginatively, the purple passion plant. The genus gynura consists of approximately 100 species of herbs and small shrubs native to tropical regions of Africa and Asia. Cultivated species such as the purple velvet plant have attractive green and purple foliage and are grown as hanging baskets and potted plants. The purple color is caused by numerous, small, deep purple hairs that cover the leaves and stems. Small, young plants grow upright; older, larger plants will become more vine-like. While the purple velvet plant has always been popular with indoor gardeners in North America and Europe, it is a natural for colorful spring sales as a small potted plant.

The small, yellow-to-orange flowers are striking against the purple foliage. The flowers, however, are malodorous (think about what attracts flies) and detrimental to sales. They are also carried terminally, interrupting cutting production. Purple velvet plants must remain vegetative for successful stock plant production and finished plant marketing. Flower number tends to increase as plants mature, making flower inhibition even more critical for mature stock plants.


flower production

Our research focused on preventing flowering through Florel, photoperiod control, light-intensity manipulation and combinations of photoperiod and light intensity. Although 1,200-4,800 ppm Florel completely inhibited flowering of purple velvet plants, plants were stunted and cutting harvest was impossible. Also, high concentrations of Florel decreased the purple coloration of the foliage (loss of the foliar hairs). Interestingly, lower application rates of 150-300 ppm promoted flowering. The 600 ppm rate inhibited shoot length, making it potentially useful for growth retardation of finished plants, but allowed a small number of flowers to develop. As a result, Florel was not acceptable for preventing purple velvet plants from flowering, but may be useful for growth retardation.

An 8-hour photoperiod increased plant quality. Plants had the largest vegetative shoot number and the brightest purple color, compared to 12- or 16-hour photoperiods. All of the shoots were reproductive under the 16-hour photoperiod, making the purple velvet plant a long-day plant. However, the number of flowers increased with time, indicating that photoperiod alone is not suitable for control of flowers.

Increasing the shade level increased the number of purple velvet vegetative shoots and could be used commercially for stock plant production. Increasing the shade level from 0-60 percent (3,950-1,150 foot-candles, 790-230 m·mol·m-2s-1) increased the number of vegetative shoots but did not completely eliminate flowering.

Plants grown under an 8-hour photoperiod and 60 percent shade had the most vegetative shoots. The combination of an 8-hour photoperiod and 60 percent shade overcame increased flowering due to increased plant maturity. The plants grown under 60 percent shade and short days had 94 percent vegetative shoots 102 days after placement in treatment. Growing plants under an 8-hour photoperiod and 60 percent shade from fall to spring is recommended to maintain vegetative stock plants and produce high-quality, marketable plants.

Cultivation Information

Propagation. Stem tip cuttings, 1.5-3 inches long, and root readily under tents or light mist. Excessive mist may result in diseases during propagation. Cuttings rooted in plugs will be ready to transplant in 3-4 weeks.

Cuttings can also be directly propagated in the final container. Generally, three cuttings can be placed in a 4-inch pot, 3-5 in a 5-inch pot, and Á five or more in an 8-inch hanging basket. Greater numbers of cuttings will result in a faster finish, and more cuttings than indicated would be beneficial if they are available. Potted plants and hanging baskets can be grown pot to pot for the first 2-3 weeks after transplanting, then spaced apart as leaves become large. Potted plants in 2 1/4- to 4.5-inch pots may not need to be spaced if marketed promptly.

Production. Growth is best between 65-75° F; growth and development slow at temperatures below 55° F. Do not overwater; allow the medium to moderately dry, then thoroughly water. Any medium that is well-drained and has a pH of 6.0-6.5 is acceptable. At least one pinch is usually required for 4-inch or larger pots or hanging baskets. Young, fresh growth has the brightest color, and plants may need to be pinched more than once if a large plant is required. Little work has been done on nutritional levels; we used a nitrogen rate of 250 ppm after roots were established. Lower fertilizer rates would probably be just as effective. Crop time for small plants in 2 1/4- to 4-inch pots will average 6-7 weeks from sticking cuttings; 4.5- to 5-inch pots will require 2-4 additional weeks.

Insects and Diseases. Aphids are a common insect problem on young plants. Aerial and root mealybug and scale can become problems on stock plants, especially those forgotten in the overhead space. Slow growth and chlorotic foliage may mean the presence of root mealybugs. Purple velvet stock plants are especially prone to root rot and growers should avoid overwatering. Botrytis, Rhizoctonia, Phytophthora and Fusarium can all be problems during propagation and on stock plants. Be sure to monitor media pH and EC of old stock plants to maintain vigorous growth or repropagate stock plants frequently.

Marketing and Postharvest. While purple velvet plants are colorful, a bright purple or pink pot or pot wrap can really make small potted plants stand out, especially for spring sales. Hanging baskets should be marketed when full but before the shoots begin to vine. Rooted cuttings and other small plants can add color to dish gardens.

Purple velvet plants maintain their colors in bright light in the home. In low light, the hairs on the leaves become less dense and the foliage appears more green. Luckily, flowers are rarely produced indoors. Homeowners should be encouraged to fertilize the plants monthly if they are placed in bright light.

Summary. Purple velvet stock and finished plants should be grown under an 8-hour photoperiod and 60 percent shade (1,150-1,525 foot-candles, 230-305 m·mol·m-2s-1 maximum light intensity) to maintain vegetative growth and reduce flowering. Florel sprays are not commercially useful for preventing flowering but may be useful for controlling vine lengths. Mature stock plants are more prone to flowering than young, freshly propagated, finished plants.

John M. Dole and Laurence C. Pallez

John M. Dole is associate professor in the Department of Horticultural Science, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, N.C. Laurence C. pallez works in technical services for Color Spot Nurseries, San Antonio, Texas. They may be reached by phone at (919) 515-3537 or e-mail at

Purple Passion Plant Care: Tips For Growing Purple Passion Houseplants

Growing purple passion houseplants (Gynura aurantiaca) offers an unusual and attractive houseplant for the brightly lit indoor area. The young purple passion plant has velvety leaves; thick, deep purple hairs on a green colored leaf and a cascading habit, making it perfect for an inside hanging basket. Purple passion houseplants have been used for indoor decoration for more than 200 years and grow wild in some southern areas.

How to Grow Purple Passion Plants

The purple passion plant, also known as velvet plant or gynura, appears to have purple leaves from the thick hairs. As the plant ages, the hairs spread further apart and the color is not as intense. Most purple passion houseplants remain attractive for two to three years.

Plant the purple passion plant in a houseplant soil that offers good drainage, as the plant is susceptible to root rot from too much water.

When rooting cuttings, use a perlite or vermiculite mixture for ease of rooting. If you cover the cuttings when rooting, remove the covering at night.

Purple Passion Plant Care

Place the purple passion plant in bright to moderate light, but don’t allow direct sunlight to reach the leaves. Brighter light intensifies the purple color of purple passion plant. Purple passion houseplants prefer a cool location; optimum temperatures for the purple passion plant are 60 to 70 F. (16-21 C.).

Keep the soil moist but avoid letting the roots stand in soggy soil. Avoid wetting the foliage, as the hairy leaves can trap moisture and begin to rot. Fertilize every two weeks from spring through fall as part of velvet plant care. Fertilize monthly during winter.

The purple passion plant grows outside, as an annual, but is best contained to avoid prolific spread. Purple passion houseplants may produce orange flowers; however, their odor is unpleasant. Many gardeners snip off the buds to avoid the smelly blooms. Flowers are a sign the plant has reached maturity; be sure to start cuttings if you’ve not already got them growing.

Gynura aurantiaca | Purple passion care & info

Gynura aurantiaca, also known as purple passion, is a houseplant appreciated for its fuzzy purple foliage. Its interesting leaf coloration and relatively easy care make it a great addition to any colorful houseplant collection.

Keep reading for everything you need to know about purple passion care and growing purple passion at home!

Difficulty Moderate
Lighting Bright indirect
Water Keep lightly moist
Soil Well-draining

Gynura aurantiaca light, location & temperature


Purple passion appreciates bright, indirect light and doesn’t cope well with a lot of direct sunlight. This means that while it needs to be placed near a window, a sheer curtain might be needed to prevent it from getting scorched.

When supplied with plenty of indirect light the plant’s purple leaf coloration should become darker and more intense.


Like many other houseplants purple passion prefers relatively high humidity, so a spot in your kitchen or bathroom might be a good idea. If you don’t have any well-lit, humid spots available don’t worry too much. Some artificial lighting and a humidifier can already make a big difference.


Room temperature should be fine for Gynura aurantiaca. In fact, care should be taken to prevent the plant from being exposed to high temperatures. You should also try to avoid anything below 59 °F/15 °C.

Hover over image to pin to Pinterest!

Gynura aurantiaca soil & planting

Although purple passion does appreciate regular waterings, root rot will quickly develop if the plant is left standing in water for too long. To ensure water drains properly, use a pot with a drainage hole and a well-draining potting mix (preferably slightly acidic). If necessary, the plant can be repotted during Springtime, although it’s usually a better idea to take some cuttings and re-root these as a single purple passion won’t last more than a few years.

Gynura aurantiaca has an upright growth pattern, which means it’s best suited to a regular pot. If you’re looking for a plant suitable for a hanging planter its relative Gynura sarmentosa might be a good choice!

Watering Gynura aurantiaca

Watering is one of the trickier parts of purple passion care, as this plant does need plenty of moisture and will quickly start looking sad and droopy when deprived of water but doesn’t respond well to wet feet.

The exact amount of water it needs is (as always) dependent on the amount of light it gets as well as your soil mixture and drainage, but try to keep the soil slightly moist during the growing months (Spring through Fall) and let it dry a bit more between waterings during Wintertime.

Propagating Gynura aurantiaca

Propagation is an essential part of purple passion care: this plant usually only lasts for a few years, so if you want to keep growing it you’ll have to take cuttings and re-root these when your plant reaches maturity.

A good indicator it’s time to propagate your purple passion is when it starts producing flowers, which are orange-colored and quite decorative but unfortunately smell very unpleasant and should be removed if you don’t want to deal with the odor.

To propagate your purple passion, simply remove a few stem tops and place them in a pot with moist, loamy potting mix. Enclose the pot with the plant in a plastic bag with a few holes or other type of closed, clear container for a few weeks to improve the chances of succesful rooting and growing.

Gynura aurantiaca fertilizer

During the growing season you can use a diluted liquid houseplant fertilizer every month or so to encourage your purple passion’s growth.

Buying Gynura aurantiaca

Purple passion is not the most common houseplant but you should be able to find or order it at some plant stores or garden centers.

You can also buy purple passion online.

Is Gynura aurantiaca toxic to cats and dogs?

Purple passion is non-toxic to both cats and dogs. Hurrah!

If you’re looking for more pet-safe plants be sure to have a look at the article on houseplants that are non-toxic to cats.

If you have any more questions about purple passion or want to share your own experiences with this fuzzy purple houseplant, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below!

Silver Squill houseplant with purple under leaves

16. Purple sweet potato vine – Usually grown as an annual plant for summer containers, sweet potato vine can be brought inside in the fall and grown as a houseplant. There are a couple of beautiful purple varieties to look for too. Learn how to overwinter sweet potato vines here.

17. Coleus – Also usually sold as an annual for the garden, coleus is fairly easy to grow as a houseplant. There are tons of shades of purple leaf coleus plants on the market too, so you can collect them all. Learn how to overwinter coleus indoors here.

Purple Houseplants Care Tips

Purple houseplants are definitely more exotic than boring green ones, and they can also be higher maintenance. Here are a few tips for keeping those beautiful purple leaves colorful, and your indoor plants healthy…

  • Light – Most purple leaved houseplants will require bright light in order to keep their color and their compact, bushy shape. A south facing window would be the perfect spot for them, or you can add a grow light and set it on an outlet timer.
  • Water – Since these purple beauties are more exotic than common houseplants, many of them will have special watering requirements. You can use a houseplant water meter to make sure you’re not over or under watering. Some of them will also benefit from added humidity (running a humidifier near your plants will help a ton during the winter).
  • Fertilizer – Your houseplants will benefit from being fed during the spring and summer months, and I recommend using an organic indoor plant food. Compost tea is also a wonderful all-purpose fertilizer that works great. You can buy it in a liquid concentrate, or get compost tea bags to brew your own.

Succulent indoor plants with purple leaves

Where To Buy Houseplants With Purple Leaves

You should be able to find some common houseplants purple leaves for sale at your local garden center year round.

But many of these purple houseplants are also sold as annual bedding plants, or in mixed containers during the spring and summer. So, be sure to check there for more options. Of course, you can always buy purple indoor plants online anytime.

How’s that for a list of AH-mazing houseplants? If you had all these purple indoor plants, your friends would be in awe (they would be purple with envy, haha). I mean, you would totally be the talk of the town!

Ok, well maybe nobody else will really care, but YOU will know how cool you are, right?!

If you struggle to grow healthy indoor plants year round, then my Winter Houseplant Care eBook is for you! It will teach you everything you need to know about keeping your houseplants alive and thriving all year long. !

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  • 17 Of The Best Office Plants For Your Workspace
  • 15 Easy Indoor Plants That Anyone Can Grow

Share your favorite purple houseplants that you would add to this list in the comments section below.

The purple velvet plant, or gynura aurantiaca, is one of the most unique houseplants you can grow. This is due to the odd velvety purplish hairs that it produces on its green leaves.

Add the weird-smelling orange flowers to the equation and you have quite an interesting houseplant! Let’s get into how to grow, care for, and propagate these funky plants.

Purple Velvet Plant Overview

Common Name(s) Purple velvet plant, velvet plant, royal velvet plant
Scientific Name Gynura aurantiaca
Family Asteraceae
Origin Java, Indonesia
Height 1-2′
Light Part shade
Water Medium
Temperature 65-85°F
Humidity High
Soil Well-draining potting mix
Fertilizer Once a week with diluted plant food, once a month in winter
Propagation Stem cuttings rooted in water, then potted
Pests Aphids, mealybugs

The velvet and purple hairs of gynura aurantiaca

These plants have greenish leaves covered with velvety purple fuzzy hairs. Each leaf has multiple tips and the underside is generally a reddish purple. Blooms are a yellowish orange color and have a very bad odor.

Is the Purple Velvet Plant Toxic?

The toxicity level of gynura aurantiaca differs depending on who you ask. While it is listed on the non-toxic plant list and is generally thought to be non-poisonous, it should not be ingested. And, some people may have an allergic reaction to the plant.

You should also keep purple velvet plant away from dogs and cats, just to be safe.

Purple Velvet Plant Care

Caring for the velvet plant isn’t too hard, but it isn’t as easy as succulents or dead-simple houseplants like golden pothos.

They should be placed in areas of your home that receive bright, but filtered sunlight. If they don’t get enough light, their leaves will lose the brilliant purple color that the plant is known for.


The roots of purple velvet plants are incredibly delicate and can rot easily. For this reason, soil should be kept only moderately moist at all times. Whatever you do, do not over water this plant!


Because of how sensitive the roots are, you should use a potting soil that retains some moisture but drains quite well. You can even add some rocks or gravel to the bottom of your pot to ensure that water is draining well.


Gynura aurantiaca is a heavy feeder and can be fertilized once a week during the growing season. Use a simple high quality plant fertilizer that is diluted to 50% of the recommended strength.

During the winter months you can reduce fertilizing to once a month or stop completely if the plant is not growing at all.


Purple velvet plants do well when root-bound and can thrive in small pots for quite some time. For this reason, you may never want to re-pot it.

If you decide to, make sure to refresh the soil and choose a pot that is only 1-2″ larger than the existing pot.


Velvet plants are prone to legginess and stretching. To avoid this, prune them heavily as they grow by cutting stems off at no more than 5″ above the soil line. This will cause your velvet plant to grow more bushy instead of tall.


You don’t have to waste the cuttings that you prune off of your velvet plant! These cuttings root well in jars of water. Wait until roots form from your cuttings and then place them in a high-quality potting soil.

It typically takes 1-2 weeks for a cutting to root successfully.


The flower of gynura aurantiaca – remove these as they smell terrible!


All of the classic houseplant pests can affect purple velvet plants: whiteflies, mealybugs, spider mites, scales, and aphids.

To prevent these, it’s best to give your entire plant a scan from time to time (including the underside of the leaves).

Douse the leaves in water or spray with neem oil for minor infestations. For spider mites, keep humidity high.

For more serious problems, either use a systemic insecticide or discard the plant and start a new one from a healthy cutting.


The only disease you need to worry about is root rot, which is completely avoided if you water your velvet plant properly. You’ll know you are over watering if the plant feels soft and soggy.

To remedy root rot, cut out affected areas and repot the remainder of the plant in fresh soil. Take care not to over water in the future.


Goal: To answer common problems and questions about planting, caring for, harvesting, or storing this plant.

Q. The leaves of my velvet plant are wilting and it looks like it’s sick! What is happening?

A. Because purple velvet plants are fertilized often, many gardeners will over-fertilize and use too strong a mixture. This leads to wilting and in the most serious cases, burning the leaves and killing the plant. Be sure to dilute your fertilizer and keep a watchful eye for signs of nutrient burn.

Q. What should I do when my velvet plant starts to flower?

A. While the orange flowers of the plant produce a nice contrast against the purple leaves, most people hate the smell. If you can’t stand the smell, you should pinch flowers off of the plant as soon as you see them.

Q. My gynura aurantiaca is growing TOO FAST! How can I control it?

A. Heavy pruning is your friend here. Cut stems 2-5″ from soil surface and don’t be afraid to be aggressive. It will come back bushier and squatter, which is what you want.

The Green Thumbs Behind This Article:
Kevin Espiritu
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