Purple Passion Vine: 101 Plant Care Guide

I did a double-take the first time I saw a Purple Passion Vine. On closer inspection, I noticed that the dark green leaves were covered in tiny purple hairs that shimmered in the sun.

This fascinating native of the Indonesian island of Java grows upright in its native habitat. The cultivar ‘Purple Passion,’ though, is weak-stemmed and perfect indoors as a trailing houseplant.

The stems reach 6 to 8 inches high before they spill over the sides of a hanging pot and grow to 5 feet long.

The foliage is amazing. My Gynura’s new leaves are like purple velvet, with thick, downy hairs that protect the tender young foliage from the sun. More green shows on older leaves that are covered in a purple haze.

As the leaves mature, the colorful hairs (trichomes) thin out, and the oldest leaves can be almost hairless. Purple Passion leaves are coarsely toothed, curving downward, and can grow 6 to 8 inches long as they mature.

And even though they’re grown for their foliage, mature Purple Passion Plants will bloom in the winter with small, yellow-orange flowers. They have an unpleasant fragrance, so I’m keeping my plant short and young with cuttings to prevent it from blooming and for the best foliage color.

Care Tips for Gynura aurantiaca ‘Purple Passion’

Image Credit: Nancy Maffia.

Fortunately, these beautiful plants are easy to care for and are non-toxic. You need to provide them with the basics of light, water, soil, and fertilizer, and they should reward you with their stunning display for years to come.

Light

Like many tropical houseplants, Purple Passion Vine does best in bright, indirect light, which would be in an east- or north-facing window that doesn’t get direct sunshine. Purple Passion’s leaves will burn in full sun, so ensure that it gets bright indirect light out of the sun’s direct rays.

Temperature

Purple Passion Vines don’t like extreme temperatures. They need household temperatures to be about 60 to 75 degrees F year-round and won’t tolerate cold drafts, like from a winter window or an air conditioner.

Humidity

This plant does best with low humidity since the little purple hairs trap moisture that could rot the stems and leaves. Make sure that there is enough air circulation around the plant to keep it on the dry side and away from other houseplants that need a lot of humidity.

Soil

A good indoor potting mix will work fine for Gynura if there is good drainage. I add perlite to all my indoor soil to ensure adequate drainage and prevent the dreaded root rot.

Pot

Countless pot styles are available, made of plastic, terracotta, composite, or ceramic in beautiful colors, shapes, and designs. But whatever type and style you choose, make sure that it has a drainage hole in the bottom.

Water

Keep Gynura’s soil slightly moist (never soggy!) during the spring, summer, and early fall. Rather than keeping a watering schedule, I test the top of the soil with my finger to see if it’s moist or dry.

If it’s dry, I water the plant from the bottom to hydrate the soil and keep any moisture from getting on the leaves.

The plant won’t be actively growing in the winter, so it won’t dry out as quickly and won’t need to be watered as frequently.

I always water my plant with rainwater since our local water supply is heavy with minerals, which can harm the plant over time. I collect the rainwater in pitchers and keep them to water all my houseplants.

Fertilizer

During the spring and summer, I fertilize my Purple Passion every two to three weeks with an all-purpose, liquid indoor plant fertilizer and dilute it to half-strength to prevent fertilizer burn.

In the fall and winter, I dial back the fertilizer to once every four to six weeks.

Pests & Diseases

Pests

Purple Passion Vines are susceptible to several houseplant pests, such as aphids, spider mites, whiteflies, mealybugs, and scale. Inspect your plant frequently for signs of bugs that can cause damage and distortion of the leaves.

Aphids are small, green, red, or black, soft-bodied insects that such plant juices from the leaves and stems. An insecticidal soap or Neem oil spray will take care of these insects.

Red spider mites are common pests of Gynura. They are tiny, spider-like critters that spin webs on your plant and suck the plant juices. Insecticidal soap or Neem oil will also control these pests.

Mealybugs are cottony, soft-bodied pests that suck plant juices and distort the leaf tissues. A dilute solution of rubbing alcohol will kill them. You can pick them off your plant and then spray the plant with rubbing alcohol to kill any remaining ones.

Scale are the hard-bodied, smooth versions of mealybugs. Sprays will not work on these critters, so pick as many as possible off the plant, then wipe the upper and lower surfaces of leaves with alcohol.

Cut off the affected leaves of your plant, or if it has a heavy infestation of any of these bugs, you may have to discard the plant.

Diseases

The most common disease that Purple Passion can fall victim to is root rot, a fungal infection caused by overwatering.

If your plant starts to droop and its leaves are yellowing, it may have root rot. Remove the plant from the soil and wash off the roots so you can see them.

Healthy Gynura roots are white to light yellow, but if they are black, mushy, and smell foul, cut them off with clean clippers. Spray the remaining roots thoroughly with Neem oil or a weak solution of 3% hydrogen peroxide (one part hydrogen peroxide to two parts water) to kill the fungus.

Remove damaged leaves, then repot the plant in fresh soil in a clean pot. Plants with a minor infection can be saved, but those heavily damaged from root rot should be discarded.

Pruning

The oldest leaves of your Purple Passion Vine will have the least number of purple hairs. To keep the plant in shape and ensure that most leaves are velvety purple, trim your plant occasionally in the spring or summer.

Propagation

Fortunately, Gynura is a very easy plant to root, and you can do it in a couple of different ways – in water or a medium like sphagnum moss or light potting mix.

Water Propagating Method

My favorite way to root the plant is in water. I remove the bottom leaves and put a cutting in a jar filled with rainwater so that only the stem is submerged. A clear jar is best so that I can see the progress of the roots.

Change the water every few days to prevent algae from growing, and roots should appear in about two weeks. You can plant them in potting mix once they’re about two to three inches long.

Sphagnum or Potting Mix Rooting

You can also root cuttings in moist sphagnum moss or a light potting mix. This works just as well as in water, but the downside is that you can’t see when the roots are forming.

Stick a pencil into the sphagnum or potting mix to make a hole. Then, remove the bottom leaves and insert the stem in the hole. Keep the medium moist, and roots should appear in two or three weeks.

NOTE: As an option, you can dip the end of the stem in rooting hormone to encourage rooting before sticking it into the sphagnum or potting mix.

Author & Editor | + posts

Nancy has been a plant person from an early age. That interest blossomed into a bachelor’s in biology from Elmira College and a master’s degree in horticulture and communications from the University of Kentucky. Nancy worked in plant taxonomy at the University of Florida and the L. H. Bailey Hortorium at Cornell University, and wrote and edited gardening books at Rodale Press in Emmaus, PA. Her interests are plant identification, gardening, hiking, and reading.