Friday, November 27, 2009

Have You Tried Growing African Violets?

Do you have a moment?

Let's talk about African Violets.

Does hearing the words "African Violets" make your skin clammy? Your heart palpitate? Are you Nervous about whether you can grow these plants? Don't be.

Well, I'm not sure I can control or remedy all that, but I do have a few tips you might consider... especially if you've admired the flowers for their color variety or the shape and size of their delicate petals.

(My plant)

The Plant You Purchase: You'll find a great variety of plants in discount and grocery stores for a better price than you'd pay in a nursery. (I've purchased nearly all my plants this way.) The only thing I would recommend in this instance is to take a very good look at the leaves of the plant. Watch for little white webs and/or little bugs... If everything looks good, bring the plant home!

(Mom's plant)

Propagating Your Own Plant: Most African Violets can be propagated by leaf cuttings. First, fill a small, clean pot with the lightweight potting soil described below. Using a clean, sharp knife, cut the stem of a leaf close to the plant. Make a narrow hole in the soil, and place the leaf stem in this hole. Water the soil from below, in the pot tray and or outer pot (in the case of a two-part pot), and keep the soil lightly moist.

(My plant)

The Soil: The first thing you'll want to do is re-pot the plant when you get home. Be prepared with a special Violet mix. If this is not possible, purchase a soil-less mix and add perlite to a level of one- or two- parts to one part of the mix.

(Mom's plant)
Potting Your Plant: My experience is that my plants don't need to change pots very often. When you do, add a few stones to the bottom of the pot before adding your soil mix. You will want a nice deep water tray for your pot to sit in. You can put decorative stones in the tray for the pot to sit on.

(My plant)

Another alternative is the use of the two-part pots. A small, straight-sided pot nestles inside a larger, rounded pot. The outer pot holds the water. The bottom of the interior pot is unglazed, which allows moisture to past through the pot to the soil.

(Mom's plant)
Watering Your Plant: What I read is that most regular African Violets won't need a pot larger than one 4 inches in diameter. If my plants are in a regular pot with a tray, I add the water to the tray. Adding water to the two-part pot is obvious... ;-) In either instance, allow the soil to be dry for three or four days or so before again adding water. Violets don't like their roots to be soggy, so don't allow the plant roots to sit in soggy soil. (I guess I'm talking about a "light hand" with regard to watering this plant.)

I add a very weak solution of plant fertilizer with the water most of the time; especially if the plant is blooming.

(My plant)

Temperature, Light and Humidity: I've always heard that East and/or North Windows and temperatures between 60-65 degrees (at night) and 80 degrees (in the daytime) Fahrenheit are the most highly suited for African Violets. To convert temperatures from Fahrenheit to Celsius, Click Here.

However, I have my violets in a large West window. The light is filtered by a corrugated fabric shade.

I've just read (and experienced) that a plant that gets too much light grows the top leaves tightly together. If a plant doesn't get enough light, supposedly the leaves will lift up towards the light. You should experiment with location.

(Mom's plant)

If your home is dry, add pebbles to the watering tray to provide for humidity through evaporation.

Other Care Issues: African violets don't like a pot with mineral buildup on the top rim (and the bottom should be cleaned periodically, too). I've had the stems of outer leaves rot if they touch dirty pot rims. A quick, thorough wash of the rim might alleviate problems.

If you decide to use a used pot for your violet, wash and clean it well with hot water and maybe a bit of bleach.

An experiment I've been trying is adding decorative wooden fibers or spaghnum moss on the top of the soil, to keep the leaves away from the pot's rim.

(Mom's plant)

P.S. I'm not an expert, but these tips have served me well. My plants bloom fairly often. My mom's plants are always healthier and bloom better than mine. The main difference I've noticed is that her plants are in a sunroom porch with light from South, North and West windows. However, every window is covered by the corrugated fabric window shades.

Are you ready to go shopping? ;-)


Catherine@AGardenerinProgress said...

Hi Shady, hope you had a great Thanksgiving!
These were all very helpful tips. I have a few African Violets, but really don't know much about what to do with them. I've got one blooming now, but think it was more luck than anything I did for them.
What a pretty collection you and your Mom have. I love the speckled one.

Anonymous said...

Hi Shady~~ I enjoy African Violets and used to grow them a lot, back in the days when I wasn't wont to neglect my indoor plants like I do now. Your plants as well as your mom's are so pretty and obviously well cared for.

Anna said...

My mum grows beautiful African violets too Shady. After a couple of unsuccessful attempts I have now have one of her cuttings which is thriving. It is a small leaved one with white flowers and has flowered since the beginning of July. I am a covert now :)

Shady Gardener said...

Catherine, Experience can be the best teacher sometimes. ;-) I've had violets fail... esp. in our other house. The best plant window was it's nice large North window. They did well for a short time... but I must have neglected them somehow and they died. Mom has quite the variety! I've started three of her leaves. I hope they grow!

Grace, I think my violets will appreciate their new two-pot situation! I already like that I don't have to worry about them as much. They stay nicely moist for a long time. As soon as the inner pot doesn't touch the water in the outer pot, I'll leave it that way for a few days and then add water to the outer pot again. :-) You might take a look at these pots!

Anna, I think it takes a bit of experience, patience and determination when you're trying anything new. I'm so happy to hear your plant is thriving and blooming!! :-) Way to go!

Sande said...

Your violets are lovely. I had some once upon a time, but not now. My neighbor does very well with them on her heated sun porch.

Kathleen said...

You do have a beautiful collection of violets SG. I have never attempted to grow them. I admire them then usually keep moving. These would be great tips if I should decide to change my mind and give them a try. (and if you keep showing those gorgeous photos, I might!)

azplantlady said...

Hello Shady Gardener,

I absolutely love African Violets, they are the only houseplant that I grow. Your post is excellent and will help to take the fear away from those who may be scared to try growing them. I have bought most of mine at the grocery store. I tried buying some from an African Violet grower, but they did not make it, so I am good with just trying the grocery store.

Thank you very much for leaving a comment on my blog :0)

catmint said...

Hi Shady, thanks for this. I had given up trying to grow these, but given your helpful tips and these inspiring photos, maybe I will try again. They are indoor potplants here too, wonder where they grow outdoors?

Anonymous said...

Excellent photos and tips... makes me a bit nostalgic for all those long-deceased Saintpaulias which ended up on the compost heap - not because I couldn't grow them, but because of my recent home downsizing and lack of proper light or space - that, and the ravenous houseplant-seeking felines who'll brook no living plant within these walls.

On a lighter note, I'm "cultivating" some pretty rugged, healthy looking silk plants in hanging pots. Maybe I should include their cultural preferences in my garden book? Should be a short chapter!


Rosey Pollen said...

HI Shady,
I just bought one of these, now I am scared! I did not realize how picky they were. We will see what happens. Thanks for all the good information. I learned a lot and hopefully I won't kill this one. The photo of mauve violet is stunning!

Dave@The Home Garden said...

We only have one from my wife's grandmother. I've found that they root easily in just a small cup of water. Some people use a bag method where they put the medium in a bag then insert the cutting and close. The moisture stays in the bag. Good post!

Monica the Garden Faerie said...

This is a testimonial of how easy growing African violets is. In fact, I admit I thought your title was "Have You TIRED OF Growing African Violets?"--seriously. Because friends and co-workers keep giving me theirs because they won't bloom for them. Yet, they always bloom for me (this really pissed one of my friends off, actually!). I don't give them Af. violet food, I have them in fairly dark conditions, I sometimes forget to water, and I *have* had water touch their leaves with no ill effects. My house is also probably too cool for tropicals, but there you go. I admit I did compost about four of them (I'm not a houseplant person (like them, don't like caring for them) and I have limited indoor space), but the one I have blooms multiple times per year, despite my worst efforts to kill it, LOL! Signed, Ambivalent African Violet Grower!

Mr. McGregor's Daughter said...

Thanks for the tips. I killed 1 African Violet last year by overwatering it before I went on vacation. I bought 3 more this fall on the bargain table. So now I need to repot them & get them in a tray. Maybe I can get them to bloom.

Shady Gardener said...

Sande, I've had a great time over at your place this morning. Thanks for visiting. I intend to return to visit you!

Shady Gardener said...

Hi Kathleen! My mom inspires me, and I've just now begun to start three of her beautiful flowers. :-)
PS These photos were taken last Spring - before my new camera.

Hi Noelle - AZ Plant Lady! I would imagine it's fun to grow non-desert plants indoors when you live in AZ! Thanks for your visit. :-)

Hi Catmint! You have to know that I don't have all the answers nor all the information there is out there. But this is just what I've found that works for me. I understand that these plants are tropical rainforest areas.

Shady Gardener said...

Deb, I've missed our visits! I'm so glad you stopped by today. Hope things are going well with/for you.

Shady Gardener said...

Rosey, Don't worry! My hints are not all set in stone... check out Dave's comments above! :-) Perhaps you'll post a photo of your new plant?

Hi Dave! Thanks for the extra hints and information. I've tried covering the new leaves with plastic, and did once try one in a glass of water (I used alum foil, with a hole in the center, for the leaf stem to cover the top of the glass). Neither one worked for me, but I'd be happy to try again! :-)

Shady Gardener said...

Re: African Violets - I like these little plants as "tuck me in little spots" as well as making a full collection on a table. :-)

Monica, I love your comments! It just goes to show that there are no hard and fast rules for Anything!! :-) I don't worry too much if there's a drop of water on a leaf (although I usually sop it up), but in my reading, they say to avoid getting the crown of the plant too wet. Watering from below takes care of these concerns.

Shady Gardener said...

Hi MMD! I have no doubt that your violets will be fine! I was sad last Spring when the starts I'd begun from one of my mom's plants didn't make it... but we're trying again! ;-)

joey said...

Great tutorial, Shady. I love African Violets and always keep them in my antique flow blue bowl plus on the window sill in the library. Sad to say, I often over water which is a killer :( For me, neglect seems to work best :)

Shady Gardener said...

I agree, Joey! ;-) Although I'm hoping to maintain a more even keel for these plants by using these new pots. lol. Having a great weekend? This is a beautiful day!

lynn'sgarden said...

Your collection (and Mom's) of violets is beautiful! I love the purple with white edging..and they are healthy and robust! Nice post on how-to propagate,
p.s. i'll be back tomorrow ;)

Di said...

So happy to have happened upon your blog and find this delightful post. I haven't had African violets in years; was looking at one only several days ago, and will now have to shop for one to put in our kitchen window once again. Thanks Shady, Diana

Shady Gardener said...

Hi Lynn! Thanks! :-)

Di, Thank you for visiting. I'm feeling the need to put a violet in my kitchen window, too. :-) I've had one there for a long time, but moved them into the living room. Do you suppose that's an excuse for buying a new one?? lol.

rambleonrose said...

Thank you so much for the tips! I have killed a number of African violets, which I think was due to overwatering and a bad soil mix (one that held too much water). Now I may finally try again!

Rose said...

Yes, I am! Last year as I saw everyone's pretty indoor blooms during the winter, I realized it was time to add some houseplants. I used to grow a few African violets, and they really are easier to grow than many people might think. My neglect finally did them in, but I'm ready to try again. Thanks for all these excellent tips!

Just saw your beautiful Thanksgiving post! Lovely images and sentiments. We do have so much to be grateful for if we only stop to count our blessings. Hope you had a great holiday!

Bren said...

Your flowers are wonderful! I enjoy your blog this evening... Can't wait to see what you post tomorrow!

Shady Gardener said...

rambleonrose, I understand. I think perhaps I'm getting a handle on growing these... we'll see! ;-)

Hi Rose, Have fun with new violets. Yes, we had a wonderful Thanksgiving. How about you??

Bren, Thank you. I'll see you tomorrow! ;-)

jodi (bloomingwriter) said...

African violets are sort of like potato chips...can't have just one. Or two or three..these are truly gorgeous.

Shady Gardener said...

Hi Jodi! I'm sorry I haven't been to visit in awhile!! Redbud Hazel is wonderful!! I may have to put this on my wish list, too! I'll have to do some reading... ;-) Your photos are so beautiful - you could have some very special photo cards that people would prize.