By: Becca Badgett, Co-author of How to Grow an EMERGENCY Garden
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 and thick, deep purple hairs on a green colored leaf with 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.
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.
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 degrees 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 so be sure to start cuttings if you’ve not already got them growing.
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|Common Name(s)||Purple passion vine, purple passion flower, passionflower, holy trinity flower, apricot vine, may pops|
|Scientific Name||Passiflora incarnata|
|Origin||The southern united states|
|Height||Up to 25 feet long|
|Humidity||Moderate to high|
|Soil||Peat moss-based potting mix|
|Fertilizer||Feed every two weeks in the spring with a fertilizer diluted by half, and once a month in the winter|
|Propagation||Take 3-4 inch stems, cut just below where the leaf is attached to it, place in moist soil and keep sealed for the first couple of weeks|
|Pests||Root knot nematode, fungus that causes fusarium wilt, cucumber mosaic, bacterial spots|
The purple passion flower is a fast growing vine that can reach up to 20 feet or more. Both the fruits and flowers are edible on some varieties and many food items are made from the plant.
The unique flowers are about three inches wide and they have several petals accented with a purple fringe. The wonderful fragrance this plant gives off resembles that of carnations. The fruits, called may pops, are generally about two inches in size and are ripe when the fruit turns yellow. The fruits taste like a guava. To be fully ripe for eating, the fruits should fall off naturally.
The Passionflower has large leaves that can reach 5 or 6 inches long and they have serrated edges. They generally have from three to five lobes that alternate along the stem. Flowers bloom where the leaf stem is attached to the vine. Passiflora incarnata really needs something to climb on, and look great at fences or running up a trellis.
Purple passion plant is an herbaceous perennial vine that boasts exotic purple flowers from June through September. Hardy only in USDA Zones 10-12, Passiflora incarnata is enjoyed mostly as a houseplant and makes an excellent hanging basket specimen. These heat-tolerant plants grow best when temperatures are between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit during the day and don’t drop below 55 degrees at night. Purple passion is relatively short-lived, with lifespan of about five to seven years.
Test your purple passion plant’s soil for pH level. Very well-draining, fertile sandy loam soils with pH ranging from 6.5-7.5 are best. Adjust pH as necessary.
Situate your passion plant in very bright light, but out of direct afternoon sun. A spot about three to five feet from a southeastern or southwestern window is ideal. The more light it receives, the more flowers it will produce.
Set the plant outside as often as possible when the weather is warm enough. A bright spot in sun or filtered light is perfect, as long as it’s protected from hot afternoon sun.
Water your purple passion plant just enough to keep the soil evenly moist, but don’t allow it to stand in water. Let the soil surface dry out slightly in between waterings. Indoor plants may need to be watered once a week April through September, and somewhat less during the winter.
Feed half-strength blooming houseplant fertilizer once monthly during the growing season.
Pinch 1-2 inches from stem tips any time the plant is actively growing to encourage branching, which will produce a fuller plant.
Prune vigorous stems back by about one-third in early spring. Vining stems can grow 8 to 15 feet long, but flowers of overgrown plants my decrease in number as well in brilliance of color. Remove any dead or damaged stems.
A healthy purple passion can reach up to 2 feet high and spread 4 feet wide, depending on the growing conditions. Its bright purple foliage with a velvety texture is the focal point of the plant, but it also blooms small orange flowers in winter if grown in high light conditions. Supplying your purple passion plant with too much or too little water can be harmful and cause wilting. The soil should be evenly moist but not soggy. If the soil is extremely dry, immerse potted plants in a large bucket or tub of water until the water absorbs into the soil, then allow the pot to drain. Spider mites are extremely tiny and sometimes leave webbing on the plant. You can also wash them away with water.
Some gardeners prefer to clip off the blossoms to avoid the smell. If you find the smell distasteful and want to remove the blossoms, clip them off just beneath the blossoms with the pruning shears.
► 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.
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► 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.
By Logan C. Ritchie, contributor
Decatur, GA — Horticultural therapist Rachel Cochran discovered a passion for gardening when working on the farm-to-school movement in Decatur nearly 15 years ago. She was wrapping up the installation of a garden at Oakhurst Elementary School, when a teacher asked if her special education students could spend time in the space.
“No one ever thinks of people with disabilities in gardening,” Cochran said, getting choked up. “I took it to heart. There are lot of opportunities for people who can feely move their bodies. But there are not the same opportunities for people in wheelchairs to get into nature and enjoy it.”
With her business partner Wendy Battaglia, Cochran founded Trellis Horticulture Therapy Alliance (HTA) in 2017. Working out of Callanwolde Art Center, Trellis HTA holds educational workshops and classes for special education students from Inman Middle School, seniors, military veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, people living with diabetes and adults with spine and brain trauma.
“Plants are a reason to get out of bed. They require care. Once you get something growing, you have to maintain it,” Cochran said. “Plants require motivation and provide purpose.”
There must be something in the Decatur dirt that inspires gardeners.
Rita Gowler’s hobby slowly became a business as she started selling handmade cards and illustrated seed packets at festivals and meetings. Her son encouraged her to start web presence for her small company, Botany Yards, selling seeds suited for growing in Georgia.
With a degree in horticulture, she has worked in greenhouses and gardening centers. Gowler, originally from Illinois, is known for the butterfly garden she planted while teaching at Decatur Presbyterian Children’s Community.
When COVID-19 forced schools to close, Gowler spent more and more time turning her half-acre of land in Oak Grove into a landscape of grasses and perennials like milkweed, pale purple coneflower, goldenrod, river oats and pink muhly grass. Botany Yards offers 36 varieties of flowers and seven varieties of grasses.
Some seeds can go right into the ground with no fuss, Gowler said. First-time gardeners can try easy-to-grow flowers in the ground from seed including columbine, hibiscus, coreopsis and sunflowers.
Chelsea Townsend is another gardener with a seed habit. In 2016, she had so many seeds that she started growing seedlings at farmers markets to support her non-profit. The non-profit later dissolved, but selling seeds and seedlings grew into Strange and Co.
“Some women buy shoes, I buy seeds,” said Townsend, who uses a spreadsheet to keep track of 350 varieties of seeds.
She starts seeds in her small home office, and once sprouted, Townsend places the thousands of seedlings into a collapsible greenhouse outside. In April, she will begin selling plants online. Customers can use contactless pick up from her porch, but she’s happy to come out and chat about the plants, too.
In her East Point neighborhood, Townsend is teaching kids and adults to garden. Nano-farming, she calls it. She says gardeners can use any tiny amount of land to grow food. Her inspiration is a family in California who grows 7,000 pounds of food each year on a small plot of land.
While farming with kids at Main Street Academy, she empowered students to grow their own food. She enjoyed watching struggling students open up to gardening.
“Their eyes brighten, they ask questions, lose fear and realize they can take care of something and make it thrive,” she said.
Urban agriculture is also the focus of Atplanta, a company run by 2020 Emory University graduates Gabe Eisen and Azhar Khanmohamed. The guys encourage gardeners to think about the politics of food – how and why we have access to fruits and vegetables all year, the impact food makes on the environment and global exploitation of farmworkers.
“Grow your own food. Rethink the food on your plate. You don’t have to be as radical as Gabe and I are,” said Khanmohamed.
Atplanta’s business model is to hold a gardener’s hand throughout each season, educating while growing. Atplanta uses a sliding scale for customers, making gardening accessible to as many clients as possible. They install a garden, come back to check on the plants and stay in touch as much as the client needs by text or virtual meeting.
“The idea is to hedge against the steady decline I’ve observed in an ability to keep a garden going year-round,” said Eisen, who grew up in DeKalb County.
Khanmohamed’s yard in East Atlanta is the model for the business.
“We can’t grow food for other people unless we are doing it ourselves,” he said.
For summer, Atplanta suggests planting okra, peppers, tomatoes, squash, melons, beans, cucumbers, eggplant, peppers, flowers, sweet potatoes and basil. And if a gardener is leaving town for a week or long weekend? Plants that can handle a little neglect are beans, okra and arugula.
Protect your plants from squirrels with bird netting, especially if the garden is near a tree canopy. Squirrels love tomatoes, but they’re not interested in cucumbers or peppers, Eisen and Khanmohamed suggested.
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