The purple passion plant is famed for its hairy, purple foliage. Taking care of this plant is relatively easy, as Gardenerdy reveals. It tells you how to grow and take care of a purple passion plant.
Did You Know?
A relative of the purple passion plant called the ‘stinking passion’ plant, is known to trap and consume insects as its food!
The purple passion plant is popular as a houseplant, thanks to its attractive appearance. This plant is a vine, which climbs up any support it can find with its delicate tendrils. It is identified by its showy, large leaves and hairy stem, both of which are purple in color. Strangely enough, the plant’s yellow-orange flowers are frowned upon, because of their undesirable smell, and its foliage alone makes it attractive enough without its flowers playing any role. The plant is either grown as an ornamental item or for its delicious, seedy fruits, popularly called passion fruits. It is known by various names like purple velvet, royal velvet, velvet plant, purple passion, or by its scientific name Gynura aurantiaca.
The passion plant attracts a lot of bees and butterflies, which helps in its pollination. The origins of this plant are relatively unclear, but it thought to have originated from either Asia or Brazil, and hence, is tropical in origin. More than 9 species of this plant are grown throughout the US, and it is suited to the USDA hardiness zones of 10 – 12. It prefers good sunlight, warm weather, and regular watering. The plant is notorious for its rapid growth, and can grow over adjacent trees in a short time span. It can grow to a height of 8 feet and up to 5 feet wide, though in most cases it is manually restrained to a small size to maintain its coloration. The instructions on how to grow and take care of a purple passion plant follow in the upcoming sections.
How to Grow a Purple Passion Plant
► The plant can be grown from stem cuttings taken any time of the year, though most commonly, softwood cuttings are taken in spring, or semi-ripe cuttings are taken in early summer.
► Take a 3″- to 4″-long stem cutting having several nodes. Snip off the bottom pair of leaves. You can also take the tips of stems removed during pruning, as a cutting.
► Plant the cutting at least 2″ deep, in vermiculite or potting soil, taken in a 6″ or 7″ pot. Plant several cuttings together in the same pot.
► Cover the stem of the plant by using perforated polythene, occasionally removing it to allow the leaves to dry.
► Provide a temperature of around 70ºF to the cuttings, which root in around 3 weeks, after which, the polythene should be removed.
► Collect ripe fruits from a plant and store them indoors for two weeks on a tray. This causes fermentation, which kills spores of harmful fungal pathogens.
► Gently squash the fruits to a pulp without removing the seeds. Allow this pulp to ferment further for 3 to 4 days.
► Take the pulp in a sieve and allow tap water to flow through it. This separates the seeds from the pulp.
► Immerse the seeds in warm water for some time, which softens their coats and makes them germinate easily. Do not prolong this step, as it can cause decay or kill the seeds.
► Plant the seeds in potting soil. If you want to grow plants of a particular variety, obtain such seeds from a nursery and omit the above steps.
► The seeds take between 10 to 20 days to germinate, with older seeds taking more time, even months in a few cases.
► When the seedlings are about 8 inches high, you can transplant them outside, if desired.
How to Care for a Purple Passion Plant
Purple passions are not picky when it comes to soil. Their only chief requirement is well-drained soil. They prefer rich, loose, slightly acidic to neutral soil types (pH 6.5 to 7.5), though they can grow even in alkaline soil. The soil should be kept moist by regular watering, especially during the growing season. Since the plant is shallow-rooted, adding a thick layer of organic mulch is recommended. Using a mixture of potting mix, peat moss, and coarse sand is also beneficial for potted plants.
This plant requires regular watering, since it prefers humidity. Water until the soil is drenched, and wait for the top 25 cm to dry, until the next spell. Avoid wetting the leaves while watering, as their hair traps water, inviting fungal growth and brown spots. Reduce the frequency of watering during winter when the plant is not in a growing phase. Water outdoor plants daily, while, once a week or 10 days suffices for indoor potted plants. Water more frequently if you want more flowering or when fruits approach maturity. Watering too much or too frequently can cause waterlogged soil, which is to be strictly avoided.
The plant prefers a humidity level of 50%. Do not use a mister. Instead, fill a tray with pebbles and fill it with water until they are partially submerged. Placing the pot on this tray will provide the required humidity.
It can be grown both, outdoors or indoors. When grown indoors in a pot, it grows faster if a small pot is used. The plant occupies the pot pretty fast, so adjacent pots should be kept away by some distance. When grown outdoors, the vine can be supported on a chain-link fence, water tank, or trellis. When grown beside a fence, adjacent plants should be separated by a distance of around 4 feet. Keep this plant at least 6 feet away from trees and shrubbery.
Being tropical in origin, the plant prefers good exposure to full sunlight. More the sunlight received, the brighter will be its coloration. Good lighting is vital if more flowering is desired. Plant an indoor vine at an east-west or south-facing window, having a transparent curtain. The plant should be placed at a distance of between 4 to 6 feet from the window to avoid overexposure. When planting outdoors, select a spot with partial shade. If the leaves of your plant are green, rather than purple, then the culprit is likely to be inadequate sunlight. The plant prefers between 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight. However, if exposed to the hot afternoon sun, the leaves may develop brown spots due to scorching.
Warm weather is preferable for the passion flower plant. It prefers an optimum temperature ranging between 60 to 75ºF. The daytime temperature should lie between 65 to 70ºF, while a range of 60 to 65ºF should be maintained at night. At no time should the temperature go below 55ºF. When selecting a location for planting, choose an area shielded from cold winter winds. This is because the plant is not resistant to frost. However, frost affects only the top parts of the vine. The layers of leaves shield the inner branches from cold temperatures. Also, the roots and stem are not affected, and regrow back when it gets warmer. However, covering the lower stem with a blanket can be done in cold weather. Providing overhead protection from wind, or growing the vine against a wall, deck or patio may be beneficial.
Snip off the tips of all the branches just before the growing season, as this promotes a bushier appearance. Ensure that you sterilize the shears using cotton soaked in rubbing alcohol to avoid the spread of infection from a cut. Observe the vine regularly to remove any dead and diseased branches. In warmer regions, prune the plant after the harvest is over. In cooler areas, do this in early spring. Cut back all vigorously-growing vines by one-third of their length. This is important if fruiting is desired, as fruits only appear with new growth.
Potted houseplants look good when restricted to less than three feet in height. If the vine is overgrown, or is frost-affected, then cut down the vine to 3 or 4 nodes. It will show new growth by the next growing season. The reddish-yellow flower is considered undesirable, thanks to its strange smell. It is also said to weaken the plant. So, flowers can be plucked off, or their buds can be pinched off with the fingertips right when they first appear.
Since the plant grows vigorously, fertilizing is very important. Fertilize the plant once every week during periods of active growth. This dosage can be reduced to once every two weeks in spring, and once every month during winter. Use a water-soluble, balanced fertilizer after diluting it to half, such as a fertilizer with an NPK ratio of 10-5-20. Giving a liquid fertilizer high in nitrogen like most products available in the market, such as a 20-20-20, leads to lots of leafy growth, but little flowering and fruiting. This leafy growth is attractive to a lot of insect pests, leading to an infestation. One can also provide bone meal as a fertilizer. If frost has taken a heavy toll, fertilize the plant once it gets warmer.
Insects pests like aphids, mealybugs, scales, spider mites, and whiteflies are attracted to this plant due to its succulent stem. They feed on the plant sap, which causes yellowing and leaf drop. These pests can be removed by a blast of water from a garden hose. Or else, cover the plant with horticultural oil or an insecticidal soap.
The plant is quite disease-resistant, though some diseases like tobacco mosaic virus, Fusarium infections, and root rot do occur. These can be prevented by avoiding propagation with seeds, or using seeds of a disease-resistant variety. Root rot can be kept at bay by avoiding over-watering.
To sum it up in a sentence, good sunlight, loose soil, and regular watering is all it takes for a healthy purple passion plant.