Growing African Violets: Advice From Two Amateur Experts

Speaking strictly as an amateur, I  would like to give sonic words of encouragement to gardeners who have not yet succeeded with African violets. 

Do not be discouraged by 1 or 2 or even more failures because these plants are delicate to handle, especially for any distance, though easy to grow once they are settled in your home. 

Growing African VioletsPin

Their leaves are very brittle and easily broken, and the plants may also be easily chilled or harmed, even on a short trip between the florist shop and your home. 

For this reason, I would recommend getting plants as near home as possible, with little change in temperature and climate. 

My first plant died promptly, and 1 or 2 others since, but a second plant, given me in full bud, grew and bloomed without check and gave me the courage to try more. 

Now, only about a year later, I have several varieties in full bloom, other younger plants just budding, and innumerable youngsters started from leaves for myself and gifts.

Also, do not worry too much about their culture, as I am convinced they are not so fussy as all the rules would make them appear to be. 

Custom Of Watering

One much-emphasized point of culture has not been at all necessary in my own experience, heretical though it may sound to the experts. That is the custom of watering from the bottom.

I am naturally curious and a little skeptical of most hard-and-fast rules.

So when I had to divide my first plant, I put one division in a pot with no drainage hole and perforce watered it wholly from the top. 

There has never been the least difference in its growth from that of its sister plant, and today both plants are in full bloom with the same beauty and obvious health. 

The results were so obviously all right that most plants were watered from the top during the winter.

Warm Water During Coldest Weather

I do follow the rule strictly for warm water, not just room temperature as for other house plants, but really warm and hot during the coldest weather. 

It seemed to me that on cold mornings the plants especially enjoyed the warmth around the crowns and at their feet, and I usually watered both ways, even standing pots with no drainage holes in warm water. 

Of course, I also take care that plants never become water-logged.

The rule of letting the topsoil become dry before watering again is probably safest, although I sometimes water more often. 

Baby African Violets Plants Propagation

Baby plants grown from leaves have been transplanted into small containers, many without drainage, and watered from the top, and I have yet to see faster-growing, healthier plants.

The ease of propagation from leaves is amazing once a mature plant is growing happily. 

It does take nearly a year for a leaf-grown plant to reach blooming size, but consider that one strong leaf will often produce a whole cluster of four or five baby plants at one time, and even 1 or 2 more families in succession, all from the one single leaf. 

At least one expert grower recommends separating the babies and potting them while still very small for the quickest growth, and I agree with my own experiences. 

New side shoots around older plants should also be separated gently and repotted. I have enjoyed several growing habits of the violets.

Blossoms Of African Violets

For one thing, there is the way the blossoms open so very small in size, ½” inch or less, looking almost stunted, and then expand day by day until they may be nearly two inches across. 

The very young flowers close at night, then as they grow larger, they merely cup the petals slightly and eventually stay wide open all night. 

Gold Eyes Of Individual Flowers

The individual flowers may last about 2 weeks and are still colorful when they fall with the gold “eyes” still intact. A friend reports that they may be floated in a low bowl for several more days’ pleasure.

The graceful flower sprays turn their faces toward the light, as do other plants, and the pots need to be turned every few days if we are to enjoy them at their best. 

They also need turning to keep the foliage growing evenly, as the leaves farthest from the window will gradually stand erect, giving an odd blank-wall appearance to that side of the plant. 

Central Bud Spray

The central bud of the spray is the first to open, not far above the foliage, but the stem continues to grow until it reaches a length of 5” or 6” inches, as the smaller buds open in succession. 

The height of loveliness is reached when all the flowers of a spray are opened, showing the variation in the flowers’ size and depth of color, as the newly open ones are often deeper in tone.

There is no doubt that I am thoroughly under the spell of these fascinating plants.

Because most of my previous successes have been only with the easiest of house plants, I am doubly enthusiastic about recommending African violets to other gardeners.

Most Popular House Plant

There are many conflicting ideas about the culture of that most popular houseplant, the Saintpaulia or African violet. 

Even experts do not always agree. This is probably due largely to the difference in climate, soil humidity, and exposure.

If your violets are thriving well, it’s only common sense to continue caring for them in the same way. 

Here are a few hard-earned hints from someone who is not an expert but a violet fan. You may like to try some of them along with your pet tricks.

Spraying With Tepid Water

About once a week, sprinkle or spray your plants with tepid water. Choose a mild day, spray in the forenoon, and keep plants out of the sun until entirely dry or you will ruin the foliage. This acts as a stimulant as well as a bath.

If your plants are in clay pots, try setting them in a pan of boiling water occasionally, and leave them until thoroughly soaked, and the water is cold.

This seems to be a real “pepper-upper” and lessens the job of watering for several days.

One of the best treatments for a weak, tender or small plant is to put it under glass for a time. This is easy if it’s a small plant; a drinking glass will do the trick. 

Miniature Greenhouse

A large plant can be put in a fishbowl and covered with glass or cellophane, or a glass bowl may be turned over them. 

This provides a miniature greenhouse and often saves their lives. Remove the glass gradually. 

If much moisture gathers on the glass, remove it for 1 or 2 hours. Sometimes this little boost will seem to be all a plant needs to start growing and blooming.

Often a plant wilts and looks sick. Investigation usually shows it has rotted off at the dirt line, but that does not mean you have lost it. 

Cutting The Rotted Parts

Cut off all the rotted parts and re-root them in water or sand. It’s surprising how soon roots will form, and you can pot it again. 

You will have a new plant much sooner than from rooting a leaf. Covering the soil with sand will prevent more leaves from rotting.

It’s interesting to grow one of these plants in water in a container, but easier to pot most of them in soil.

If you feel your interest in violet culture waning a wee bit, treat yourself to a few new varieties.

The lavender Fantasy with its streaks and splashes of purple is unique. 

Lady Geneva

Lady Geneva, a glorified Blue Boy with a white edging on each petal, is striking.

In contrast, the very new white with blue edge and eye is to be dropped on the market any day now, not to mention the novel fringettes, new colors in doubles, and fresh style in foliage. 

Like a new hat, a new violet adds zest to a collector’s life. 

Who knows, but that legendary yellow may yet appear in someone’s window – perhaps yours? 

Keep looking.


44659 by Mrs. Edward M. Babb