The day I flew back from Turkey, I decided to embark on a new hobby that entailed turning my apartment into a jungle. I bought a sickly purple passion from Home Depot at the behest of my partner because of its vivid purple colors and soft fuzz, which reminded us of Pandora’s flora in James Cameron’s Avatar. This plant is native to Southeast Asia and can also be grown in the wild in Africa, Australia and Florida. It prefers medium doses of sunlight as well as dry-ish soil and apparently it’s a low maintenance house plant.
Now I was a bit skeptical whether or not I could successfully grow a Purple Passion so close to a single pane window in the middle of a Boston winter –especially since several of the shoots had already succumbed to blight. In an effort to save the plant, I took several cuttings (unfortunately short cuttings) and kept them in water for a week until roots sprouted. This process can take anywhere from a few days to weeks depending on the health of the plant. While I did take five cuttings, only two of them survived. This could have been due to the jars I kept them in. There was no ample soil drainage and so the roots most likely suffocated from the lack of oxygen–rookie mistake.
Since I didn’t want to drill holes in these glass jars, or purchase other pots, I relied on creating a heterogeneous growing medium that could tolerate an accidental overdose(s) of water. The first layer is comprised of clay pebbles. These clay pebbles are most often used in hydroponics set ups and can really help in absorbing moisture in case there is an overabundance of water. The clay pebbles also dry out pretty easily. Over the clay pebbles is a layer of perlite, an amorphous volcanic glass that obtains its shape and color from popping like popcorn in large heated ovens. Perlite is awesome because it’s light, airy and retains a ton of water. This of course allows for more air to flow freely around the roots or for the roots to obtain more water when necessary. The next layer and by far the largest was a mixture of coconut coir and a light sprinkle of mixed-in perlite. Coconut coir was chosen because I am wary of soil. Soil can often times bring in pests/plagues from the outside world and this could be detrimental to your surrounding plants. On top of being inert and sterile during its dry phase, coconut coir has a neutral pH level and has awesome water retention capabilities–again really targeting the whole aeration tactic.
I also like the fact that its a renewable resource that’s created a secondary market comprised of the scraps from the coconut industry. While having to wash and drain the salt out of the coir is time-constraining, the dehydrated brick of coir can often times provide more than several 5-gallon batches of coir once re-hydrated–I’m still using a single brick of coir I purchased from Amazon! Although it is important to note that the key to using coconut coir is to not over-pack the coir in the pot. While it may seem that packing the coir in is necessary to stabilize the plant, once the plant’s roots grow and adjust to its new container, it will be able to hold itself up–until it gets too tall/top-heavy. So use a light amount of pressure when re-potting a new cutting/plant with coir and if you still need support, use a chopstick/bamboo stick to hold it up!
Overtime I re-potted the mother purple passion plant to save it from the sponge-like texture the soil had eroded to. This gave it new life. Along with the two surviving cuttings and a healthy dosage of fertilizer, the plants sprouted to new heights, at times 1-2 meter tall heights. In an effort to control the height of the purple passions as well as not waste the new trimmings, I propagated the purple passions again by soaking the tips in water. You can either use this water method or another method that coats the roots with perlite–I have not done the latter, so I cannot attest to how effective it is. Since only 2/5 cuttings survived initially, I thought this would be a recurring trend and thus did not give much thought to propagating 5-6 cuttings at a time. My hypothesis was wrong. Since spring rolled in, all of my cuttings have survived. I currently have about 3 1+ meter tall purple passions, 12 smaller purple passions and another 3 that are currently rooting using the water method. Some have flowered (bright, yellow flowers with a strong body odor-like smell), others haven’t and a few others who had flowered now have tufts of white cotton balls that the yellow flowers withered into–still cute. We shall see how long this growth spurt lasts. I expect it to slowdown once winter blows in. In the meantime, enjoy the featured Purple Passion family photo. Happy planting!