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Xela's Garden

African Violet [V]

Situated Vistbile mezanine windowsill 01.10 ... blue male, single pink male, wavy blue/white male;
Inherited from Mother 01.10

"Every West or East facing window should have one... or even two. These furry leaved fellas can flower right through the year given some proper nurturing."

African Violets [Saintpaulia inantha as they’re known in Latin] are one of the easiest house plants to grow and if kept correctly can flower for most of the year.
There are a wide variety of African Violets with single, double, wavy or ruffled flowers. Pick a colour and there is probably one available in it. There are several bi-colour hybrids available too. If cared for correctly, they can flower several times during the year. A selection of plants in one large pot should give you flowers all year round.
African Violets can have single coloured petals or multi-coloured petals, which are called sports.

"They also have completely separate male and female plants.

Female plants have a lighter colour down the middle of the leaf .They’re more likely to produce sports when propagated.
Males have a solid colour on their leaves, and on their petals, which have a subtle iridescence or frosty glistening to their surface"

"There’s no change in what they need from season to season, just one care routine all year round, feed them 52 weeks a year and only water them once a month.You need to add the water to the saucer under the pot, or they’ll rot.
They like it dry and cool. They need some sun, but it needs to be cool so a west facing window which gets the evening sun is best, away from radiators.”
Care for this plant is not unlike that required by Begonias. To ensure you grow a nice healthy plant, use terracotta pots, pick a warm (18-20° C) bright spot with no or very little direct sun and always remove dead flowers and damaged/dead leaves. Finally only water with room temperature rain/filtered tap water.

Watering can be a bit tricky. The idea is to keep the soil moist, but not too wet as the roots will rot. This is one of the easiest plants to kill with kindness/over watering. There is nothing African Violets hate more than soggy feet and leaves, so try to avoid this situation at all costs!

Only use terracotta pots, which are porous and breathe, not plastic ones that don't. If the top ¼-½ an inch of the topsoil is dry and dusty to the touch, it needs watering. Stand the plant in a bowl/sink of water for 15-20 minutes or until soaked fully. Stand the now soggy plant on the kitchen drainer, for at least 15 minutes, to allow the excess water to drain off. This way you don't get the leaves wet and the soil won't get waterlogged, thus avoiding the whole rotting problem.

Most houseplant books suggest you pot on and start feeding weekly from spring and during summer. I pot on when not in flower and tend to feed my African Violets as soon as I see the flower buds forming. I continue to feed until the last of the flowers die off, no matter what time of year it is. They don't seem to be suffering for it and flower regularly :)

Propagation: "is simple. Put the stem of a whole leaf in a jar of water and after around 15 days it’ll start to form several new plants.
You can get up to seven or so crowns developing on each leaf cutting, but they often break when you separate them so you’re lucky if you get three plants from that many.
pot up what you can, and keep pinching out the flowers once they die to keep them coming, and see what you get! "

Young African Violet cutting/plant Cuttings are dead easy and can be taken at any time of the year. The downside is that they require a lot of patience. Simply find a reasonably large leaf and cut it off cleanly as near to the base of the plant as possible. Fill a small glass with rain water/filtered tap water and place a small piece of charcoal in the bottom (to prevent algae from growing in the water) and cover the top with cling-film. Pierce a hole in the centre of the cling-film with a pencil, large enough to get the stem of the cut leaf through and allow it to sit in the water, but not touching the bottom or sides of the glass. Place the glass next to the plant you took the cutting from or in a location as described above and leave to grow roots. Change the water regularly, weekly should be reasonable. Take care to not damage the developing root system when doing this.
Here is where the patience comes in. African Violets seem to take ages to decide to grow roots, even if dipped in root hormone powder. My last batch of cuttings took 3 months to sprout roots! Don't expect every cutting you take to grow roots. The trick is to try several cuttings at a time and keep the water warm, about 20° C, for the best results. If the water is too cold the leaf will go brown and the stem will go rotten. Practice and experimentation are by far the best methods to employ here :)

When you have a healthy bunch of roots, carefully cut the cling-film away from the stem and place the rooted leaf in a terracotta pot using soil/compost from a tomato or cucumber grow-bag (98p from any local DIY superstore). Make sure you cover all the roots, leaving the bottom of the leaf clear of the top of the soil if possible. The last thing you want now is for the cutting to die from water on the only leaf! If given the normal treatment for keeping African Violets, 2 or 3 clumps of leaves should appear from the base of the planted leaf in a few weeks. When the clumps are quite well established, cut the original leaf off as near to the base of the plant as possile, to make the plant look balanced. I then recommend that you feed at least once a week to encourage growth and hopefully some flowers

Pests shouldn't be a problem if the plant is being kept in the correct conditions. The two main culprits are Mealy bugs and Thrips. These pests usually apppear if the plant is in a location that's too dry. In this situation I would do one of two things after trying to remove as many pests as possible. Change the plants location for a more humid one or provide for indirect humidity by spraying near/around the plant daily or standing the pot on a tray of wet pebbles.

The only other problems that may appear are grey mould around the base of the plant/on the soil and crown rot in the very center of the plant. These are both indicative of an incorrect watering method. The mould is caused by soil that is too wet and should be allowed to drain properly after watering (see above on watering). The crown rot is a direct result of water being allowed to rest on the leaves for a long period of time. Water should be poured off/mopped up immediately if it gets onto the leaves!


Photos of this plant

  • Africanviolettroughfrommezaninewindowsillvistabile11.05.25