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|
|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|
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.