How To Care For African Violets

   

Queen of the indoor plants, the African violet (Saintpaulia ionantha) was discovered in the North of Tanzania in 1892 by Baron Walter von Saint Paul.

Originally, its flowers seemed limited to blue, white and lavender. In 1936 some ten varieties were introduced in the United States, among them, the Blue Boy which gave us the double-flower "fantasy" varieties (curled, dentate and serrated petals).

Light - Watering and Feeding - Planting and Repotting - Types

Given the right conditions. African violets bloom nearly year round. They thrive in temperatures between 60 degrees F and 75 degrees F. In temperatures that are much higher or lower, they may stop growing and blooming.

Over 8,000 cultivars of African violets have been developed since Baron Walter Von Saint Paul-Illaire introduced the first African violets into Germany from the Ussambara Mountains of Tanzania, East Africa, in 1892.

Light

Bright, indirect light is essential.  The exposure that provides the best light also depends on the season of the year and the obstacles outside the window that may cast shadows or block light.

In summer African violets do best in an east or north window. In winter they may need extra light from incandescent or fluorescent fixtures of from a southern exposure where the suns rays are filtered.

In fall and spring, shade the plants from direct sun. Too little light or light that is too weak may result in extra long leaf stalks and unhealthy soft foliage with few or no flowers.

Light that is too strong may cause yellowing foliage and drooping leafstalks.

Watering and Feeding

African violets prefer to remain slightly moist. Never use either softened or cold water. Allow treated water to sit over night to release chlorine and come to room temperature.

African valets like a humid atmosphere and moist soil, but the soil should not be constantly soggy. To provide humidity, stand the pot on pebbles in a partly water filled saucer. There should be no contact between pot and water.

Wicking is the most popular method of watering African violets. Plants are placed on a reservoir or water and a wick of synthetic yarn draws water by capillary action from the reservoir. Use a 6 to 9 inch length of we, 2 ply acrylic yarn and thread it through a drainage hole in your pot, across the bottom, and part way up one side of the interior.

When the soil surface begins to dry out, water well with lukewarm water but take care not to wet the foliage. Once a month except in winter, feed plants with a water soluble houseplant fertilizer.

Planting and Repotting

African Violet Soil Mixture Recipe

1 part vermiculite

1 part perlite

1 part commercial African Soil Mix

African violets bloom more freely when their roots are a bit crowded: re pot them only when more than a third of the rosette of leaves extends beyond the pot's edge; use a pot a size larger.

Spring or early summer is the best time to re pot. Buy African violet soil or make your own from equal parts of peat moss, perlite, and garden soil.

If plants grow extra rosettes of leaves, nip them out with a knife. If leaves rot, turn yellow, or become crowded, bread or cut their stalks at the main stem. Don't leave any stem parts on plants; they will rot.

African violets can easily be propagated from leaf cuttings. Select mature, health7yleaves; retain 1 to 1 1/4 inches of the stem . In 3 to 6 weeks, when tiny new leaves appear, transplant the rooted cuttings to separate pots. Cover them with plastic bags in which a few small holes have been punched. Keep them in a warm shaded spot for 2 to 3 weeks.

Types of African Violets

Standard

Single crown plant with large leaves that is 8 inches or more in diameter at maturity.

Semi- Miniature

Single crown plant with small leaves that is 8 inches or less in diameter at maturity

Miniature

Single crown plant with small leaves that is 6 inches or less in diameter at maturity.

Trailer

Plant with multiple crown. Trailers are classified as standard, semi-minature or miniature. The stems of trailers will trail down around the pot or form a bush mound.

Double

At least two layers of petals

Fringed

Heavy serrated or fringed outer petals. The blossoms can be of any kind or shape.

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" A range of mountains, called the Usambara range, rises about 100 miles inland with heights up to 9,000 feet. The species of African violets which are found there are locally known as Usambaa violets."

African Violets, Countryside Books, 1961


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