Purple Velvet Plant – Gynura aurantiaca

The Purple Velvet Plant will add an exotic touch to any collection of green and variegated house plants. The leaves are carried on long purple stems which are also covered with fine, downy hair.

Varieties

The Purple Velvet Plant is a native of India and Indonesia, where about 20 different species are found, but only two of these species are commonly grown as house plants.

The most common is Gynura ourantiaca. It is a vigorous grower and will quickly develop into a neat, compact little bush if you pinch out the top shoots a few times during the summer.

It is equally at home on the windowsill or in the greenhouse. It has large, toothed leaves that are especially hairy underneath. If the plant gets plenty of light it will develop a handsome haze of purple during the summer. Because of the weaker light in the winter, plants usually lose a bit of their purple colour.Purple Velvet Plant - Gynura aurantiaca

Gynura procumbens, which is also sold as G. sormentosa, has softer stems which hang down if they are left to grow long. It can be trained to climb a trellis or wire lattice.

Older specimens of both types of Purple Velvet Plant will sometimes flower, sending up long stems topped with groundsel-like buds. Resist the temptation to leave the flowers and snip them off as soon as they appear. Not only do they sap the strength from the rest of the plant but they also have an extremely unpleasant smell.

Gynura aurantioca has an upright, bushy growth and can reach a height of about lm (3ft). Because it has softer stems, Gynura procumbens has a more pendulous growth habit.

Display ideas

Purple Velvet Plants look particularly good if they aremixed in with a gree plant collection.

Making new plants

It is difficult to keep Purple Velvet Plants looking good for more than a couple of years and it is best to renew them by taking cuttings in the spring or summer.

1 Take 10cm (4in) cuttings from healthy tip shoots. Remove the bottom pair of leaves and put three to four cuttings together in the same pot.

Use a light peat-based compost.

Remove lower leaves.

2 Put a perforated polythene bag over the pot and keep it at a Cover with polythene.

Temperature of 21°C (70°F). After three or four weeks when the cuttings should have rooted, remove the polythene bag.

Pests And Diseases

Weak, spindly or straggly-looking plants have just got tim ()Id. Treatment: Take cuttings and start new plants.

Droopy leaves are the result of either under- or overwatering.

Treatment: Regulate the watering more carefully. The surface of the compost should be dry before watering in the summer, hut the compost should never be allowed to dry out completely.

Aphids make the leaves sticky and they debilitate the plant. Treatment: Try blasting them from the plant with a water spray.

Brown patches on the leaves usually occur as a result of scorching by the sun.

Treatment: Move and keep the plant out of direct sunlight.

PLANT CARE

This is an easy plant to care for if it is given enough warmth and light. Pinch back the longest stems a couple of times during the growing season to make the plant more bushy. Remove the yellow flowers as they appear — they weaken the plant.

  • Potting: It is rarely worth repotting — it is better to start new plants from tip cuttings.
  • Water moderately during the spring and summer but let the surface of the compost dry out a little each time. Water only sparingly in the winter.
  • Feeding: Feed regularly in the summer, and not at all during the winter.

BEST GROWTH ENVIRONMENT

  • Light: The Purple Velvet Plant needs lots of light but it also needs protection from hot summer sun.
  • Temperature: It thrives at normal room temperature during the summer but growth will stop if winter temperatures drop below about 15°C (60°F).

Buying Tips

  • The spring is the usual time to buy these plants but they are often available throughout the summer.
  • Both the leaves and the stems should be fresh and succulent. Plants showing flower buds are likely to be older.
  • Renew plants from cuttings every other year.

The exotic Purple Velvet Plant has dark green, saw-toothed leaves covered with a fine layer of purplish hair — which gives the plant a luxuriant, velvety look and texture.

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