African Violet Experience

Afre years of dipping in and out I bought 2 Saintapaulia better known as African Violets (AV) in December 2016 and managed to kill one within months. This  12 month survivor has been in flower continuously ever since.
The plant is happy in a 4″ globular ceramic pot which has a sump to water from underneath. Through my unconscious neglect the plant has to wait until the leaves start to flop before I remember to water. They quickly plump up after a drink but after the first death I have made sure the Violet does not stand in water ‘damping off’ the roots.

After a year I have discovered some old special African Violet (AV) fertiliser and as a birthday treat the survivor has been given a weak solution in the last watering. The quick draining compost contained enough goodness to last until now. I don’t think they are heavy feeders. Too much feed would make the leaves soft and prone to rot.

As you can see the AV is kept on a windowsill facing east and except on one exceptionally hot sunny day there has been no scorching or burning.

Dead and dying flowers should be pinched off to make room for new growth. There is one ready to go on this plant and an untidy old stem in the background. I prefer the finger and thumb pinching method rather than ‘pulling’ the offending item to keep the plant roots firmly in the compost.

This AV has soft hairy leaves and you can see the hairs on the edge of the petals below.

What The Experts Say

African Violets were discovered in German East Africa by Walter von St Paul- Illaire  after whom the six  species (and numerous sub-species) were named. They were first brought to Europe  in the 1880’s and subsequently the USA where as a subtropical species they were cultivated for indoor or greenhouse use.

Adequate light and a  temperature of 60-75 degrees are the keys to successful flowering and a long season. 50% relative humidity is an ideal but I wouldn’t stress myself if this is not always achieved.

Plants will grow well in small pots or pans  2½” -4″. Only older larger plants need a pot of up to 6″

The best plants look symmetrical with a single crown. Side shoots can be pinched out and used as cuttings. Windowsill grown plants need regular turning and dust can be washed off as long as the center crown is dried.

Seed sowingg and vegetative propagation are one of the joys of AV growing. Leaf cuttings with at least 1″ of stem should be broken off the main stem without leaving a stub. Select a stem that is not one of the oldest, flopping over the edge of the pot, nor the youngest central crown stem. Cut the end obliquely and allow to dry out for 24 hours.(I do not bother with rooting hormone). Cuttings can be rooted in water alone but I prefer potting in a mixture including peat, sand and vermiculite. Keep in warm, light,  humid conditions for up to 3 months. Side shoots, offsets and even flowered stems can be rooted as cuttings. It is possible to divide a plant with several crowns by knocking off the soil and gently pulling apart to leave a bit of root on each bit when repotting.

Special tip. AV are not prone to infestations of insects though poor husbandry may give lie to that statement. One exception is the Cyclamen mite that can move from an infected Cyclamen plant so keep the away from your AV’s.

Gardenerstips including advice on watering

Books from my Collection

African Violets Clements Tony
African Violets and related plants Wall Bill
African violets growing in the home Milsted Muriel
African Violets How to grow Rector Carolyn

Books from Amazon

Book Cover
The African Violet Handbook (Paperback) by Tony Clements

Book Cover
The African Violet The Complete Guide

Book Cover
The African Violet Handbook

I have just bought some African Violet seeds from a company called ‘SunshinebyDung’,  appropriate or what? Eventually I ordered 12 packets from China so I will wait and see what happens as they pass through import control or not as the case may be.

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