African Violets, Successfully Grow Them

African violets have figured prominently in my life. When I was eight years old, my grandmother gave me a leaf cutting with directions on how to get more plants from that single leaf. I did what she suggested, it made more plants, and I was hooked. That simple act gave me a life long interest in African violets and plants. So much so, the hobby turned into possessing over 150 varieties of African violets. I just love the darn things.

Over 40 years ago, when my grandmother gave me the leaf cutting, there was not the variety in blossoms and leaf types as there is now. They were mostly purple-blue, toothbrushbamboo maybe a pink or two, usually single blossomed, occasionally double, and white. Leaves were standard round and green. Now, the variety of plants is mind boggling. All types of blossom shapes, colors in green, yellow, red, blue, speckled, thumb printed, and chimera. Leaves come crinkly, light green, dark green almost black, pointed, serrated, wavy edged, red backs, variegated with white, cream, tan, beige, and pink, on the edges, throughout the leaf, and combined on the same leaf using all of the types. There are standards, sinaivoyager semi-miniatures, miniatures, and trailing violets. Search the net for the African Violet Society of America’s images pages. There are a few thousand pictures of varieties. It’s eye candy for plant nuts.

Their popularity over the years has not changed. Violets are still the queen of houseplants. They are easy to grow once you provide their needs and they reward with tons of blooms. Most varieties are almost always in bloom. There are enthusiasts who purchase their plants from a grocery or department store and they only keep a few. There are those who go straight to the hybridizer and buy plants or leaves from them. Usually, แทงบอลโลก these are more expensive, but they are certainly worth it if one wants to get unique violets. Some who hybridize specialize in classes of violets. For instance, Ralph Robinson in central NY specializes in miniatures and semi-miniatures while his wife specializes in standards. Their violets bear their names in the description such as Rob’s Fuzzy Navel and Ma’s Watermelon. Yes, Fuzzy Navel is the name of the violet. I think my favorite name is Rob’s Suicidal Squirrel. One can also find leaves and plants online from a multitude of greenhouses as well as auction and selling sites.

How do you decide, if you haven’t all ready gotten plants, which type to grow? Their needs are all quite similar so this can be a personal preference for colors, type of leaf, or in many cases, size of the plants. The smaller the plants, the more that can be squeezed into a collection. African violet collecting has been described as an addiction so plans need to be made for the number of violets one can acquire. Not only are they beautiful, basically quite easy to care for, but they are very easy to propagate. One can never have just one of their favorite plant. At least I can’t. Either one has to keep them all, trade them for others, give them as gifts, or sell them.

The sizes of the plants are described thus: standards are over 8 inches when fully grown. That is, their leaf span measures over 8 inches from one side to the other. They can be kept a little smaller by regularly removing the outer leaves (don’t forget to save them for propagating!). Three rows of leaves are all the violet needs to stay healthy, four or five is better. Semi-miniature violets measure less than 8 inches when they are mature and miniatures grow to 6 inches or less. There is something really sweet about the smaller varieties. Not only do they take up less space, but they seem to bloom more profusely than the larger ones. Solid little bouquets of flowers which make a fine posy.

The following information is on growing requirements.

Soil and pots All of the violets need soil which holds moisture and is well drained. There are many commercial types of media which are mixed specifically for violets. If there are many violets in the collection, one may mix their own. Mix 1 part peat moss, 1 part perlite,  and 1 part vermiculite. To one gallon of this mix, add a teaspoon of ground limestone. African violets prefer the size of the pot to be one third the span of their crown. They also prefer to be root bound, that is, their roots filling the pots. This encourages the fastest growth and bloom. Standards should never have a pot more than 4 inches in diameter. Semi-miniatures will do well in a 3 inch pot and miniatures should have a 2 and a half inch pot.

Light Violets can not tolerate full sun. It fades them and burns them and they quickly decline in health. If one only has a few violets and they are on a window sill, an east window is best. Morning sun is generally not strong enough to hurt the violets. West facing windows are the next best, though in hot climates, a sheer curtain between the plant and window may be needed. Southern exposure windows should not be used unless there is a sheer curtain between the plant and the window, shading from a tree, or the plant set back from the window by a few feet. Winter is the only time a violet can handle full sun in a southern exposure. The sun isn’t strong enough to damage the plant. Violets can be grown under artificial lights. Grow lights or just ordinary fluorescent lights work fine. Some experimenting needs to be done to determine the best distance between the bulbs and the plants. I grow mine at about 2 feet from the lamps. If there isn’t enough intensity, the violets’ leaves will stretch upward. The entire plant will look pale and it won’t bloom. If there is too much, the leaves will droop down and hug the pot, the centers of the crown will get bunched up and brittle, leaves and flowers will be deformed.

Water This is probably the one aspect of growing violets which seems the most complicated. One hears horror stories about the disasters of incorrect watering or have experienced them first hand. Put them out of your mind and focus on what the plant needs. Violets need consistently moist soil, but not waterlogged. There are many ways to provide this. Top watering with a watering can which has a long spout is adequate for just a few plants. One needs to be careful not get water on the center or on the leaves. This is because it may cause spotting, or damage to the leaves if the water temperature is too warm or too cold. Also, the salts and minerals in the water will leave a white stain when the water evaporates. Too much water in the crown can cause rotting. If you draw the water the night before and let it sit, it will be room temperature when you water the plants and there will be less problems with cold water spotting. To avoid getting on the leaves all together, one can water the plant from the bottom. Put the water in the saucer of the pot. Keep putting it in until no more water is absorbed. Then, dump the water in the saucer and let the plant drain. Do not let the African violet stand in water. It will suffocate the roots, begin to rot the plant, and it will die. Periodically, the plant should be watered from the top to flush fertilizer salts out of the pot. If there are a lot of violets involved, one can use the wick method or capillary matting. Either way, both methods depend on capillary action to get water into the pot. A piece of wick made out of nylon string or yarn is used. Put one end which has been unraveled in the bottom of the pot and thread the wick through the drainage hole. Either have it go into another vessel that holds water or have the plants sitting on a platform to keep them out of the water yet the wick extends down into a common water reservoir. The water will be drawn up the wick and into the pot. Capillary matting works the same except the plants are sitting on the matting. I use sections of synthetic blanket instead of the much more expensive matting and trays which lack drainage. I water when the matting dries out to just barely moist and some of the pots are light and getting dry. Then I pour in enough water to completely soak the mat and leave only a bit of standing water. The plants should suck this up very quickly and if they don’t and there is more than very wet, the water should be drained off. The soil needs to be formulated differently than for other violets which are watered from the top or bottom. Mixes that are predominately perlite work the best. Perlite has an amazing, natural capillary action. My favorite mix is half perlite and half vermiculite. So, how does one tell if an African Violet needs water? The number one tool for determining if water is needed is as simple as an index finger. If you touch the soil and it is dry to the touch or just not really moist, the violet needs water. The best is if the soil is very moist to moist, not wet or bog like, not desert like either.

Feeding African violets are heavy bloomers and as such, they need a high amount of phosphorous. African violet food is sold for this purpose. It has a lower amount of nitrogen and potassium and a higher amount of phosphorous. How do you know what to buy? There will be three numbers looking something like this: 10-10-10. The first number is nitrogen, the second is phosphorous, the third is potassium. A typical analysis for African violets would be 8-14-9 or 5-15-5. The middle number always needs to be the highest number. Overfeeding is very bad for violets. It causes fertilizer salt build up which burns and damages roots. The plant does poorly and may even die. Follow the directions on the label of the fertilizer as to the rate and frequency of application. Most professional growers use the fertilizer at one quarter the rate and feed every time they apply water. If the wick, capillary mat, or bottom watering is used, it is very beneficial to flush the pots from the top with fresh water. In fact, the violet will really appreciate a complete shower. Wait! Didn’t I say not to get the leaves wet? Yes, I did. Don’t get them wet with cold water. Warm water is fine and being sprayed at the sink cleans and freshens the leaves as well as lets fresh water flush the pots. Don’t put the wet plants where it is drafty or in direct sun after the shower. I flush pots when the matting needs changing which means there is an algal bloom. When it gets green and smelly, I change the mats and wash the used ones in the washing machine with bleach to get rid of the algae and fertilizer salts.


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