What You Would Like to Know About Growing African Violets
It isn't easy to choose which one to have grace your home.
I love to grow these beautiful plants, the African Violet. Before I started growing them I thought them to be mysterious, beckoning, and frightening. I thought them frightening because how could I grow something so beautiful, and it thrive and grow and still be beautiful. But, in reality they are really easy to grow. They don't require a lot of direct sunlight, but adequate bright light does help flowering.
What part of Africa do these gorgeous flowers originate.
African Violets are a very rare item being one of the rarest flowers in the world. They are indigenous of the Udzungwa Mountains of south central Tanzania in of course the beautiful jungles of Africa. A Baron Walter von Saint Paul-lllaire, was a district commissioner in Tanganyika when he happened upon a tiny purple flowered plant in 1892. His father who loved growing plants was gifted by his son with seeds from these tiny beauties. He successfully germinated the seeds, and was able to grow the vielchen, or violets. His father, Ulrich, who also lived in Africa then began the path to which led to fame for these gorgeous household plants. The genus for the flower was branded Saintpaulia.
There are about 6 (six) different species of African Violets. Saintpaulia ionantha being the most popular of the species of house plants has a more flat spreading habit with thick stocky leaves, with single or double types of flowers. Colors of flowers range from pink to lavender to dark purple. Some are bi-color mixed with white. Often times some have a solid color trimmed around the outside of the petals in a darker color. I love the solid white flowers trimmed with dark purple. Then there is the dainty sweet white violet that is often sought after.
Where should I buy my African Violet?
You can buy African Violets almost anywhere these days. Grocery stores even carry them. Just pick out the color or type of flower you want, and bring it home. I have bought mine in the grocery stores when I saw a color that I didn't have, and had no problems with growing them. The large chain stores such as Wal-Mart a lot of times has a great offering of the violets at different times of the year. But, if you want a special type or color go on line, and just look at the different varieties available. I get lost with all the information about African Violets, and the different types and flower colors. No matter where you get your violet with proper care you will have a beautiful flowering plant. I have had as high as 25 different colors and types of these violets growing on my dining room table, and loved them all. My dining room had a double sliding glass door facing East, and the violets thrived in the morning sunlight. My sister has several colors, and I am helping her to re-pot her violets. Here I have several pictures of the violets along with ones that need to be re-potted. I love working with African Violets they are easy to replant and don't suffer shock that some plants seem to go through. I have included pictures of start to growing of some leaves that I planted. They are doing so great.
Planting your little beauty.
When you buy your African Violet say from a local store it will come in a plastic pot. I always have a pretty flower pot on hand to replant a new violet in because I always find a new color I don't have. I really like 2 part planting pots because with pots that have the base fused with it I had problems with not being able to gauge the water the violet needed. There are even African Violet pots where you can just keep water in the bottom part, and they water themselves. I didn't have much success with these pots, but my sister did, and I have seen where other people had beautiful violets growing in them.
I like to use African Violet potting soil, but I have used regular potting soil to replant my violets in with no problems. You need to be careful removing the violet from the pot it is in, so you don't break too many leaves. Although 2 or 3 leaves broken, hopefully, in a good place is not bad. The leaves broken can be potted to make new plants. Fill the pot about half full of dirt, and then check to see how the roots from the plant can be spread out on the dirt. If you see that the plant will be too low in the pot then add more dirt. You will need to hold the plant with one hand and add dirt over the roots and tamp down lightly until all the roots are covered. Make sure you don't plant the violet too deeply because this can cause rotting of the crown. So, you need to make sure that the dirt comes up to just below the bottom row of leaves.
Propagate by leaf cuttings, and plant division.
Want more of your prize African Violets that you have cared for, and loved dearly. You can do this by propagating by leaf cuttings. You can also do plant divisions. When you re-pot your violets there are usually a couple of small plants that seem to come up with the mama plant. They are easy to divide you just need to be careful that you don't break off too many leaves. But, the ones that do break you can use as leaf cuttings.
I have a picture showing how long the leaf stem should be when you plant the leaf. Which should be about an inch long. Have your potting mixture in a container ready to put the leaf in. The container can be almost anything from a small Styrofoam cup to a small 4" plastic pot just as long as it has proper drainage. Leave about an inch from the top of the container to the potting mixture. In the center of the container push gently about 1/2 of the leaf stem into the dirt, and tamp or gently push the soil down around the leaf stem. There is also another picture showing the planted leaf. You will need to be patient because it will take about 3 weeks to a month before you will see any growth. Then all of a sudden you will see several tiny leaves starting to poke out around the leaf stem. I find this amazing. Then as they grow you will get a nice surprise because you won't have just one little plant you will have several. I have had as high as 7 or 8 little plants growing from one leaf stem. Let them grow until they have about 4 or 5 nice healthy leaves for each plant. I also will put 3 or 4 leaves in one container if there is adequate room. They don't mind to be crowded.
Ok, now you need to divide your plants that you started from a leaf. Be very careful these will be very tender, but will be worth the effort. You will need something to lift the little plants out with even a spoon will be fine. Push the spoon down into the soil a little away from the plants, and push underneath them then easily lift the plants up out of the soil.They should all come out in one clump. Gently pull the little plants apart. Make sure you have containers available to plant them in already prepared with potting soil. You can use Styrofoam cups, but make sure that you poke a hole in the bottom of the cup to allow for proper drainage. Then place one plant per container gently making sure the soil is tamped down around the plant. I like to use moist soil, so that it is easier to make sure the soil is firm around the plant. Then you can put a little water around the bottom of the plant to make sure the soil settles well. African Violets like to dry out almost completely between watering's. I have found that if you don't let them get just a little dry they will begin to rot, and they definitely don't like to sit in water because this really will cause them to rot. You can use African Violet food just follow directions.
Potting larger plants is not quite as tender, but you will still need to be careful of the leaves. The leaves break very easily. Be sure to have a pot ready with 1/3 or more of the pot filled with soil to re-plant the violet in. Have more soil near by to finish potting the plant. I like to use dryer potting soil for larger plants because it is easier to fill in around the roots. If the plant is root bound you will need to loosen the plant from the pot. You can run a sharp knife around the sides of the pot, or can be done by hitting the pot carefully on the bottom and sides. The plant should be able to be lifted easily from the pot. When you get the plant from the pot cut about 1/4 to 1/3 of the root ball off, and remove as much of the soil from around the roots as you can. If there are any smaller plants you should be able to remove them easily after removing much of the soil from the root. Plant these smaller plants like you would for the leaf cutting plants. The violet should fit into the new larger pot about 1" from the top of the pot to the soil level. Holding the plant at the base of the leaves at the level of the new pot and start putting soil around the roots until there is soil completely around the root system making sure you don't go above the bottom row of leaves. You then can put the pot into a saucer or base that came with the pot, and water the plant. Let the plant sit in the water until all water is soaked up by the soil, or for about 30 minutes. If there is any water left in the saucer pour it out. Make sure the soil dries out completely on the top of the soil about an inch down before you water again. You can tell this by inserting your finger into the soil to see that it is dry about an inch down from the top. I never fully saturated my plants. Watering can be tricky, and depends on the size of the plant. Never let it sit to long in left over water. If you do leave it to long in water, and becomes water logged for too long it will cause rotting of the plant this is hard to cure.
Have fun, and enjoy your little beauty or beauties.
I know that when you have success with one you will want more and more. So, just have fun and enjoy them it can be very relaxing working with these beautiful African Violets.
I want to make a little note here that I like to take a larger container that can hold 3 or more of the violets. I put rocks on the bottom, and set the pots of the violets on the rocks and add water to the bottom to cover the rocks. This allows moisture to be around the plants at all times, and the water doesn't reach the soil to cause rotting. Mine seemed to thrive better in these conditions. If you have any questions feel free to comment I will answer your questions soon.