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Velvet Plant

Velvet Plant (Gynura aurantiaca)

Velvet Plant Overview

Scientific name:

Gynura aurantiaca

Size:

Medium

Water requirements:

Moderate

Light requirements:

Indirect Sun

Benefits:

Pet Friendly

Table of Contents

Introduction to the Velvet Plant

The velvet plant, with its lush green leaves and vibrant red undersides, is an eye-catching choice for brightening up any office space. Also known by its scientific name of Gynura aurantiaca, this plant is beloved for its unique appearance and air-purifying abilities. Native to Indonesia, the velvet plant has soft, velvety leaves that feel as good as they look. When gently rubbed, the leaves release a subtle citrusy scent that can help reduce stress and anxiety.

Unlike many houseplants, the velvet plant thrives under fluorescent lighting, making it perfectly suited for the office environment. It requires little maintenance beyond weekly watering and can tolerate a wide range of indoor temperatures. With the proper care, the velvet plant can grow up to 2 feet tall and wide, adding a vibrant pop of color and texture to desks, shelves, and windowsills.

Unique qualities of the Velvet Plant

The velvet plant stands out for its lush green and red-purple variegated leaves that have a soft, velvety texture. When the leaves move in the breeze or are gently rubbed, they release a pleasant citrusy scent that has calming and stress-reducing properties. Unlike many houseplants, the velvet plant can tolerate low light and dry air, which makes it ideal for the office environment where there may be limited natural sunlight and AC systems running. With its air-purifying abilities, aesthetic appeal, and positive psychological benefits, the velvet plant is the perfect way to bring nature indoors to the office. Studies show that having plants in the workplace can increase productivity, cognitive function, and feelings of wellbeing among employees. The velvet plant checks all the boxes in terms of being low maintenance, visually striking, and providing health advantages.

Common and scientific names of the Velvet Plant

As covered already, the common name for this plant is the “velvet plant” thanks to its smooth, velvety leaves. The botanical or scientific name is Gynura aurantiaca. This name comes from the genus Gynura, which contains around 80 different species primarily from Southeast Asia and the Western Pacific. The species name “aurantiaca” refers to the orange-reddish coloration on the undersides of the plant’s leaves.

So in summary – Common Name: Velvet plant. Scientific Name: Gynura aurantiaca. Knowing both names can be helpful when searching for care information or purchasing this eye-catching houseplant.

Detailed Description of the Velvet Plant

The velvet plant is a small, bushy houseplant that gets its name from its soft, velvety leaves. These leaves are oval-shaped and come in various shades of green, with some varieties featuring leaves with white or yellow variegation. Mature velvet plants reach a height and width of about 12-18 inches.

Appearance

The velvet plant has a mounded, spreading growth habit. Its stems are reddish-brown in color and covered in fine hairs. The lush, velvety foliage emerges from multiple branches near the base of the plant. The leaves are arranged in pairs along the stems. In addition to the green and variegated varieties, there are also velvet plants with dark burgundy-colored foliage.

Flowers

If provided with the right conditions, the velvet plant may produce small white or purple flowers in summer. However, it primarily grows for its foliage rather than its less remarkable flowers. The flowers emerge from hairy spikes that rise just above the foliage.

Distinctive Features

The most distinctive feature of the velvet plant is its soft, velvety foliage that makes it truly tactile and appealing as a houseplant. The fine hairs covering the leaves and stems give it a fuzzy appearance and texture. Variegated varieties stand out for their beautifully contrasting leaf colors. The plant also releases a pleasant, sweet fragrance when its leaves are gently rubbed or brushed against.

Optimal Care Guide

Light Requirements

The velvet plant thrives in bright, indirect light. Place it near an east, west, or north facing window where it will receive plenty of gentle sunlight throughout the day. Direct southern exposure may be too intense. If the leaves start to fade or brown, move it to a shadier spot. Supplement with a grow light in darker winter months. The velvet plant grows best with 12-14 hours of daily light.

Watering Schedule

Water the velvet plant when the top inch of soil is dry. Water thoroughly until it drains freely from the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot. Allow any excess water to drain away before returning the plant to its saucer to avoid soggy soil. In warmer months or brighter light, it may need water every 5-7 days. In cooler or lower light conditions, allow the soil to dry for up to 10 days between waterings. Always check soil moisture with your finger before watering to avoid overwatering.

Temperature and Humidity

The velvet plant prefers average room temperatures between 18-27°C. Keep away from cold drafts or heating vents to avoid temperature extremes. Higher humidity is beneficial, ideally 40-50%, but it can tolerate lower household humidity levels. Group plants together, use a humidifier, or place pots on pebble trays to boost moisture. Avoid cold and overly dry air.

Soil and Potting Tips

Use a well-draining potting mix for houseplants with added perlite or bark chips to prevent soggy soil. Terracotta pots allow healthy air circulation around the roots. Choose a pot with drainage holes only slightly larger than the current root ball to discourage overwatering. Repot every 2-3 years in spring, moving up just one pot size each time to avoid transplant shock. Handle the stems gently when repotting to avoid damage.

Benefits of the Velvet Plant in the Office

The velvet plant offers several benefits that make it an ideal addition to any office environment. First and foremost, it acts as a natural air purifier. With broad green leaves, the velvet plant filters harmful pollutants like benzene, formaldehyde, and trichloroethylene from indoor air. Research shows that just one velvet plant per 100 square feet can remove up to 87% of indoor air toxins. This leads to cleaner, healthier air for employees to breathe. In addition to air purification, the velvet plant brings natural beauty to the office space. Its large, glossy leaves and rich green color add a vibrant, tropical feel. The plant’s graceful arching growth habit also makes it an exceptionally attractive decoration. Its lush foliage can soften hard lines, brighten up dark corners, and generally create a more positive, inspiring atmosphere. According to one NASA study, having plants in the office can increase productivity by up to 15%.

Stress Reduction

The velvet plant doesn’t just offer physical benefits – it also provides psychological benefits by reducing stress. Studies show that having plants in view can lower blood pressure, reduce anxiety, and improve overall wellbeing. The velvet plant’s vibrant green color and graceful form make it especially soothing and calming to look at. This can be particularly helpful in high-stress work environments.

Increased Focus and Attentiveness

Research also indicates that views of nature improve focus, concentration, and attentiveness by allowing the mind a chance to rest from directed attention fatigue. The eye-catching velvet plant captures attention without being overly stimulating, giving the mind a place to rest during work breaks. This supports increased productivity, creativity, and work performance. So by purifying the air, reducing stress, and improving focus, the velvet plant offers significant health and performance benefits for the office. This versatile, easy-care plant should be a staple in any workspace looking to optimize wellness and productivity.

Troubleshooting Common Issues

The velvet plant is generally quite hardy and easy to care for, but like any plant, it can run into problems from time to time. Here are some of the most common issues velvet plant owners may face, along with tips for solutions and prevention.

Yellowing or Drooping Leaves

If you notice the leaves of your velvet plant turning yellow or drooping, it likely indicates an issue with overwatering or poor drainage. Velvet plants are sensitive to soggy soil and need the excess moisture to drain away readily.

To prevent and treat yellow leaves:

  • Check that the pot has drainage holes at the bottom, and water less frequently, allowing the top inch of soil to dry out between waterings
  • Consider repotting in a potting mix amended with additional perlite or bark to improve drainage
  • Move the plant to a warmer area away from cold drafts which can contribute to drooping

Dry and Curling Leaves

On the other hand, if the velvet plant’s leaves turn dry and begin curling inward, the plant is likely getting too little water. Velvet plants should be kept consistently moist but not soaked.

To treat and avoid dry leaves:

  • Water more frequently, checking the soil with your finger to gauge moisture
  • Mist the leaves occasionally to increase humidity around the plant
  • Make sure the plant gets adequate indirect sunlight

Insect Infestations

Velvet plants can fall victim to common houseplant pests like spider mites, mealybugs, or aphids. Check the plant carefully along the stems and undersides of leaves for any signs of tiny insects or unusual speckling damage.

To get rid of insects:

  • Isolate the affected plant away from others immediately
  • Wipe leaves down with a soft cloth dipped in insecticidal soap and lukewarm water
  • Use neem oil or horticultural oils to suffocate existing pests
  • Apply sticky traps near the plant to capture adults

With prompt troubleshooting and adjustments to care, velvet plant issues can usually be reversed, restoring the plant to excellent health.

Fun Facts and Trivia about the Velvet Plant

The velvet plant has a long history of being used as a houseplant. Native to tropical regions of Africa, it was first brought to Europe in the Victorian era as a decorative houseplant. Its soft, velvety leaves were a novelty and piqued the interest of plant collectors and hobbyists.

An interesting fact about the velvet plant is that it is part of the Acanthus family, which also includes the bear’s breeches plant. Both plants have large, dramatic leaves with a soft texture. This texture helps the plants retain moisture in the hot, dry conditions of their native habitats.

The velvet plant gets its common name from the soft, velvet-like feel of its leaves. The leaves feel like this due to the tiny hairs that cover the plant’s stems and foliage. Rubbing the leaves releases a pungent odor, which is thought to deter herbivores in the wild.

In India and China, various parts of the velvet plant have been used in traditional herbal medicine for centuries. Extracts from the leaves and roots have been used to treat coughs, wounds, and even venomous snake bites!

With its showy foliage and tropical look, it’s no wonder the velvet plant has been a popular houseplant for well over a century. Its versatility and resilience have secured its place in many homes and offices around the world.

Unique Properties

The velvet plant contains antifungal and antibacterial properties in its leaves and roots. These natural compounds may help the plant fend off diseases in the wild. They also lend themselves to various medicinal applications.

Role in Cultures

In India and China, velvet plant extracts have long been used in herbal medicine traditions to treat a variety of ailments. The Victorians prized the plant for its exotic, tropical appeal and distinctive fuzzy foliage.

Today, velvet plants are still beloved for adding bold, tropical flair to indoor spaces. Their showy leaves and resilient nature make them a staple for modern plant lovers and interiorscapers alike.

Call to Action

After learning all about the velvet plant and its ideal growing conditions, you may be inspired to bring one into your own office space. This unique and beautiful plant can purify the air, please the eye, and lift the spirits of all who spend time around it. If you’re ready to reap these benefits, here’s what you need to do next.

Purchase or Rent a Velvet Plant

Getting your own velvet plant is easy. You can purchase a young plant or mature specimen from specialty nurseries and some garden centers. Or, for a temporary addition, consider renting a large velvet plant from a botanical decor company like Aztec Plants.

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