The velvet plant is an evergreen herbaceous perennial in the Gynura genus, which includes several dozen species, several of which are common houseplants. Native to Java, an island of Indonesia, velvet plants are both beautiful and unusual, boasting furry leaves in striking shades of emerald and purple. Velvet plants can be started and grown any time indoors and will mature very quickly, transforming from a shoot into a bushy little plant in a matter of a few weeks, with leaves that can measure up to 6 inches long.
|Botanical Name||Gynura aurantiaca|
|Common Name||Velvet plant, purple velvet plant|
|Plant Type||Herbaceous perennial|
|Mature Size||1–2 ft. tall, 2–4 ft. wide|
|Sun Exposure||Part shade|
|Soil Type||Moist but well-drained|
|Soil pH||Neutral to acidic|
|Flower Color||Orange, yellow|
|Hardiness Zones||10–12 (USDA)|
Watch Now: How to Grow and Care for a Velvet Plant Indoors
Velvet Plant Care
The velvet plant is a relatively easy houseplant to grow, provided its basic needs are met, including a sunny location, proper watering, and regular feeding. It is a great houseplant to add to your home if you're looking to break up all the green in your assortment, as its purple-tinged leaves are very eye-catching. The plant grows rapidly, but only lasts a few years, so repotting is often unnecessary. Because of this abbreviated lifespan, it's also a good idea to propagate mature plants early and keep a steady supply. They make wonderful plants to group with other brightly colored plants in a sunny windowsill, where the sunlight will pick up interesting highlights in the plant's natural color.
Aside from its rapid growth rate, the velvet plant is known for something else—its offensive-smelling flowers. When the plant reaches maturity, it begins to flower with small red and yellow buds that emit a strong (and very unpleasant) odor. Most growers solve this problem by simply snipping off the smelly flowers. Flowering is also a sign that the plant has reached maturity and will soon begin to die back.
Velvet plant loves bright light and will thrive in front of a sunny window, though they like some protection from direct sun in the afternoon. The brighter the light, the deeper and richer the leaf color, and too little light can cause the plant's purple hue to disappear completely. If your leaves start to show symptoms of scorching, then provide less full sunlight.
Velvet plants make it easy on you when it comes to their soil needs, preferring a basic run-of-the-mill soil-based potting mixture with no frilly. Make sure to choose a pot that boasts ample drainage holes in its base so you don't risk fungal diseases or root rot.
These plants like a steady supply of moisture and will quickly wilt in drier conditions. If your velvet plant begins to show signs of drooping, water it immediately and it should perk up quickly. Slightly reduce watering from fall to late winter. A word of caution: Do not spray the leaves of the velvet plant—their downy surface will hold water and it can increase the chances of a fungal infection.
Temperature and Humidity
In line with its native environment, the velvet plant prefers warm and humid conditions. Its ideal growing temperatures range from 60 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit, and it can tolerate a range of humidity levels provided its soil is kept consistently moist. If your home is especially dry, you can invest in a small-scale space humidifier to keep near your more needy plants.
Feed your velvet plant every week or two weeks with a weak liquid fertilizer. During the winter months, you can reduce your fertilizer applications to monthly or biweekly, depending on the strength of your fertilizer and the size of your plant.
Propagating Velvet Plant
The velvet plant propagates easily from stem cuttings, making it very easy to maintain a steady supply of the plant should you want to. To propagate, take a stem cutting at least three inches in length that features several leaf nodes. Allow the cut end to scab over, which should take anywhere from three to five days. Once dried, apply a rooting hormone to the cut end and place scab-side down into a container of potting soil, covering the top with plastic wrap to help keep the cutting warm and moist. It should germinate within a few weeks, at which point you can remove the covering so the young plant's leaves are allowed to dry out.
Common Pests and Diseases
Velvet plants are susceptible to a variety of typical houseplant insects and issues, especially aphids, which are attracted to their stems. You should also keep an eye out for spider mites and scale, both of which can be simply wiped away with a wet cloth if you manage to catch them early, or treated with an insecticide in more severe cases.