African Violet Plants
are among the most popular, widely grown and beloved houseplants
in the world.
Saintpaulia is the scientific name for this tropical plant which belongs to the
gesneriad family and was first discovered in the wilds in 1892. Propagation and
extensive hybridization has brought these charming plants a long way from the
simple blue flowers of their original species.
Other than the traditional solid green, violet plants are now available with
variegated foliage. Blossom colors range from pure white to vibrant red and all
possible shades in between, including yellow. In addition to single, bloom may
be double, ruffled, spotted or bicolor. There are also trailing varieties as
well as miniatures that grow and bloom in a one inch pot.
Both species and hybrid violet plants are ideal houseplants because they
thrive in conditions found in most homes. Temperature requirements are 60 to 80
degrees with average humidity. They need good light, but not direct sunlight.
You can grow them on a windowsill or even under lights. Keep in mind that
AV plants need a period of about eight hours of total
darkness at night in order to initiate flower buds and bloom. So don't keep them
in the kitchen if you have a habit of raiding the icebox at night.
Plants enjoy being somewhat pot bound. When repotting, a good rule of thumb is
to use a squat container about one third the size of the diameter of the plant
from leaf to leaf.
Time between repotting can be as short as every six months and up to a year if
the plant is in good condition. If you wait longer than that, the soil will get
depleted and the plant will suffer. Fresh soil will give them a new lease on
life. This is also a good time to remove suckers and unsightly older leaves.
If the plant has developed a bald stem, scrape off any dried matter and pot
deeply enough to bury the stem leaving just a little space before the lowest row
of leaves. If necessary, you can remove the bottom 1/4 to one third of the root
ball - just cut it off with a sharp knife.
Soil should be kept moist but not saturated. Water when top of soil feels
slightly dry to the touch. Use half strength soluble plant food every other time
you water and they will reward you by blooming nearly year round.
To help maintain and promote even growth, rotate the pot a quarter turn every
few days. Promptly remove suckers as they
develop unless you want to keep them to propagate.
You can easily increase your AV collection or share with friends.
Quite often your violets will produce suckers from the main stem. These can be
separated from the mother plant and put into their own little pots. The ideal
time to do this is when you are re-potting.
Another favorite method of propagation is by leaf cuttings. Select a healthy and
mature leaf from the bottom of the plant and cut it off cleanly close to the
stem with a razor blade.
You can simply put the leaf into a small glass container with water to cover
about half the length of the stem. Roots should appear within about two weeks
followed by tiny plantlets. Transfer to a small pot with moist potting soil when
growth is about a half inch tall. Alternatively, you can also begin the rooting
process by first dipping the stem into a rooting powder and then inserting into
a fine seedling mix or perlite. Keep mix moist and provide humidity by loosely
placing a plastic bag over the container.
As a general rule, gesneriads including violets are sturdy little guys
with hardly any problems. However, they may be subject to common plant pests
such as mealy bugs, spider mites and aphids.
Aphids like to hide on the underside of new growth and developing buds where
they are difficult to spot. First aid remedy is to dislodge them by spraying
with lukewarm water. If the infestation is severe or you have mealy bugs or
spider mites, you can purchase houseplant insecticide spray that will take care
Take care not to over water your violet plants as this will cause root rot,
powdery mildew and crown rot, all of which are incurable. Always wait until the
soil is just slightly dry before watering.
As with any other plant, blossoms and older leaves will grow
tired and fade with age. Cold water splashed on leaves can cause tissue damage and
subsequent brown spots. The same is true if plants are subjected to direct
sunlight. To discourage disease, any faded blossoms and damaged leaves should be
cut or snapped off close to the stem.
Plants that have been exposed to low temperatures will show their displeasure by
curling leaves downward and into themselves. Given a chance and good care they
might survive, but in severe cases the plant will die. Such a plant, even though
it may produce perfect bloom, will take up to two years to produce normal
foliage above the old curled leaves.
Practice good grooming to keep your violets looking their best.