Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Remember this plant?

Purple passion plant (Gynura spp.)

Purple passion plant looks more like a 70s craft project than a living thing.  Maybe I should hang it up with beaded macrame to take full advantage of the retro vibe.

Purple passion plant, velvet plant, or gynura, is one of the very first plants I ever grew.  The year was probably 1973.  My aunt had given me a piece of one of hers and told me to put it in a glass of water until it grew roots.  I did, and it did!  I'm not sure how long I wound up having it, but  I know it spent at least one memorable summer on the plant shelf my mother let me add to our tiny back porch.

I bought this one at Pike's the other day, unable to resist the crazy-colored velvet or the memories it brought back.  When I got home, I added it to the houseplant hoard on my desk and then looked up Gynura online.  It's a routine -- maybe you do the same thing.

I wasn't too surprised to discover that gynura comes from the Asian tropics originally.  In the US, you can grow it outside if you live in the warmest zones (10 or 11).  It is actually a vine which makes it particularly suitable for those macrame hanging baskets we fondly remember.  But if you want that gorgeous purple fuzz you need to keep it pruned.  It's mainly the fresh new growth that's colored like that.

A fun surprise is that gynura will bloom -- and the flowers are orange!  I've never seen them in person, but there's a cool picture of them here.   Do you think they look like dandelions?  They're in the same family, Asteraceae.  Unfortunately they are reported to be very stinky, and the general consensus seems to be, "snip them off."

I couldn't find any uses for the plant beyond the ornamental, but other species of Gynura are edible and cultivated for food in Asia.  The leaves are said to taste like "spinach."  Considering how often I run across that description, spinach is vegan chicken -- I'm not sure how useful that bit of info is.  If you've ever tasted it, please leave a comment!

Would love to hear about the first plants you grew, too!  Airplane or spider plant?  Heart-leaf philodendron?  Remember zebra plants with those bright yellow spikes?  What was your favorite?

~*~




20 comments:

  1. YES!!! I remember this one!! One of the many dorm plants, think as a college student I have as many plants as I did clothes carried back and forth to campus. Remember Piggy-back plant? Bridalwreath? Wandering Jew? (not really PC name), and many more!

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    1. I do remember piggy-back plant, in fact I saw it not too long ago and kind of wish I had bought it. Wandering jew was a favorite because it was so easy and grew so fast. I grew that in a coffee cup full of water in my dorm room for a couple of years. I don't remember bridalwreath, though. What did it look like?

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  2. I learn so much from your post today ... thank you for sharing and I'm sure that plant will pop back up as you expect it to look once spring arrives!

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    1. Thanks for stopping by, Bren. I appreciate the plus one, too!

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  3. took me a little while to find it in one of my books. It is not Bridalwreath but Bridal Veil! Tahitian Bridal Veil Gibasis geniculata, also saw Swedish Ivy in my book, remember that one?

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    1. Oh yes, I remember my grandmother had bridal veil. Swedish ivy -- another good one!

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  4. I don't grow any houseplants. My windows are tinted to reflect the light and keep the house cool so houseplants tend to do poorly. But I think my mom had a plant like that. :o) It's very 70's looking!

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    1. Are you able to garden outside all year? I don't think I could live without a few houseplants! Quite a few need very little light.

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  5. Putting this on my list to find. It will be super with the Persian Shield and Purple Heart I already have too many of.

    The first plants I grew? African Violets, Christmas Cactus. I gave up Violets but I'm really into Schlumbergera now.

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    1. I really like all the "been around a while" houseplants. African violets and Sclumbergera are two of my favorites. Are you planning to grow the purple passion plant outside? If so, I would love to hear how it goes.

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  6. My grandmother had a "crown of thorns" euphorbia that I spent a great deal of time fussing over during childhood visits. I was convinced that she was cruelly neglecting it, but in retrospect I think she put on a show to get me to coerce me into taking care of her houseplants. Now I've made a career of gardening, which I can probably thank her for.

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    1. You've certainly got a great name for a career in gardening, Amanda Plante! How great is that? Just the other day an elderly woman at WalMart - I didn't know her, but I do have "gardener" tatooed on my forehead ;)- told me she had a crown of thorns plant that she named after her husband, "if you get what I mean," she said. Then she gave me a few looks to empasize her point, which I only assume I got. Ha ha! It made me smile anyway.

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  7. hah, vegan chicken, that's great. I have the worst luck with houseplants. I've managed, knock on wood, to keep a Jade plant alive, I think mostly because I put it outside as soon as it is warm. I've got a peace lilly right now that I've kept alive since it was given to me 6 months ago when my daughter was born, we'll see how it fares. Houseplants beware at Chez Jen!

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    1. Jen, I have killed most of the houseplants I've ever had, though a few have thrived...for a time. Sometimes I "forget" about the leggy or buggy ones for a while and they die a slow and pitiful death. Shame on me! But I figure they cost less than cut flowers from the grocery store - at least the ones I buy do - and they last a lot longer, so I keep buying them and starting new ones from the ones I buy. I also put as many as possible outside in the summer which gives them enough vigor to make it through the winter inside, as I guess you've noticed with your jade plant. I'm actually getting much better at taking good care of them as time goes by. I think there's still hope, which I believe is what gardening is about!

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  8. Peperomia was my first house plant and still remains a favorite. You need a velvet Elvis to hand above your purple passion.

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    1. Velvet Elvis! HAHA! That's perfect! I like peperomia, too. Do you spray yours? I think I would need to grow it in a terrarium to keep the humidity high enough in the winter...or maybe just put it on some wet stones. I think I had it once years ago, but I'm not remembering it lasting very long!

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  9. Houseplants don't tend to like me much. Currently I'm even killing a snake plant. I do bring a few plants in to overwinter when I dismantle my mixed containers every fall as well as a small Agave collection. By March they're begging to be put back outside :).

    A couple of years ago I grew one of these in one of my pot combos. If I remember correctly, it did OK but I probably crowded it too much. Now that I know it's more of a trailer I can pick companion plants and site it better.

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    1. Hi Sue! Thanks for stopping by. Sometimes the plants most tolerant of neglect (like snake plant) are the hardest to remember to take care of! I've killed plenty of "easy" plants. Nearly everything likes to be outside better than in, but it's still nice to have a few in the house all the time, especially during the winter, don't you think?

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  10. I loved to grow String of Pearls?? Little green peas growing down a long stem. Also spider plant, couldn't resist planting all the babies

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    1. I've always loved string of pearls! And spider babies are irresistible to me, too....unfortunately. I always have too many starts of that plant.

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