African Violets The More The Merrier!

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Like stamps, coins, and pressed glass, saintpaulias today are grown on a vast nationwide scale. But it is no longer possible for even the most ambitious devotee to have them all. 

The plant’s own capriciousness produces an unbelievable number of sports, and this tendency is abetted by commercial growers and amateurs all over the country.

African VioletsPin

Planning For New Varieties

They actually “plan” new varieties. There were not always such multitudes. In the early 1930s, when I first wrote of African violets, hardly a dozen varieties existed. 

Last fall, when I was completing my second book about them, I worked on 400 descriptions before admitting that new varieties appeared faster than I could sharpen my pencil to record them. 

Today, if I were to hazard a guess, I’d say there exist about 1,000 varieties. 

The collector must therefore become a selector – that is, if any table tops in his, or more likely her, home are to be reserved for letter writing and cake making instead of “violets.”

Collectors Share: How I Grow African Violets by Elsbeth C. Ohlson

As I examine the recent offerings, especially those of spring 1952, I found several outstandingly lovely, some interesting novelties but hardly as beautiful as many of the older varieties.

A few are noteworthy just because they are curiously “different.” 

In my opinion, these last are worth window space only in the inclusive, not the exclusive, collection. 

Goals remain the same as ever – purer colors, especially true blues and true reds, a double pink, bigger flowers, less brittle leaves, and, of course, departures in foliage or flower form or color that will appeal to the buying public. 

(Of yellow, so-called, I have not a word to say!)

White Saint Paulias


Some saintpaulia objectives have already been achieved. For example, there is the first double among the whites, PURITY. However, quantities are still quite limited. 

PURITY is lovely with perhaps smaller flowers than some other doubles, but lots and lots of them are of fine translucent quality. 

Foliage is a rich green and a plant of excellent form. 

Another double white, ALMA WRIGHT, is happily expected this fall. Two handsome single whites have also appeared recently. 

Snow Prince And Snow Girl

Snow Prince, a 1950 introduction, bears the largest blossoms of any single white with plain green leaves. Flowers are rounded, the petals being of fairly even size and distribution. 

Snow Girl, 1951, has a smaller blossom but is distinguished by variegated “girl-type” foliage, in this case, deeply scalloped, rather lacy leaves, which are stiff, crisp, and upright.

These three whites are well worth acquiring. 

They are obviously superior to the two best older favorites, White Lady and White Waterlily, which are still mighty nice plants.

Pink Varieties

Among pinks, there is really good news. 

Tinari’s Pink Luster And Pink Beauty

Tinari’s Pink Luster is a choice variety, true pink paler in the center near the yellow pollen and deeper at the edge. 

It tends to produce larger flowers than Pink Beauty and certainly many more. I counted twelve to a spray, and I am told 15 to 20 are not unusual. 

The paler Pink Beauty does not bear more than seven or eight. Growth is in even greater contrast. Pink Beauty is bunchy, a White Lady type. 

Pink Luster

Pink Luster is a plant with style. It has a springy, spreading, open habit and a wide but pointed leaf. 

As you guess, I am most enthusiastic over this recent offspring of my old favorite, Blue Eyes.

Red Varieties

The struggle for what I term “flag red” continues. This spring, Wine Velvet takes a how. I had fun naming it, so I have a natural fondness for my godchild. 

Even such prejudice, however, cannot make me see it as true red – only the nearest red to date, with a large flower and a pointed medium-green leaf. 

MAMMOTH RED still has the largest flower among “reds,” RED KING is similar, but both have Iess depth of color. 

Among doubles. RUBY BOUQUET is probably the clearest “red.” All of these are still more or less bluish reds. 

Will the saintpaulias’ cousins, the gloxinias, someday yield to the crossing and contribute their much-desired spectrum-red brilliance?

Blue Varieties

America: Favorite African Violet

Now let’s look at the blues, really lavenders and purples. If I had to name my favorite African violet, it would be AMERICA. 

This came out in 1950. It has the size and beauty of its Dupont ancestors, with unusually large amethyst blooms rippled a little at the edges. My plants have bloomed almost continuously, with five to ten blossoms in a cluster.

Christina: Smaller African Violet

CHRISTINA, a 1952 introduction, is similar. This seedling, grown and named by the late Mrs. William K. Dupont, claims the affection of us all since Mrs. Dupont contributed so much to the advancement of saintpaulias. 

CHRISTINA is lovely, with a somewhat smaller, more irregular flower than AMERICA, the same heart-shaped leaf, and a more drooping manner of growth.

Violet Varieties

VIOLET BEAUTY is a lighter single, pastel lavender, 1950, and very understandably a favorite. 

It bears flowers as large as those of DUPONT LAVENDER PINK but far more of them. 

  • AMAZON PURPLE PRINCE, 1951, is probably the finest dark purple single with a glowing velvety flower. 
  • STAR SAPPHIRE, just now available, is another beautiful purple single, distinguished by regularly pointed petals that do indeed create a star. 
  • BLUE HEIRESS, 1951, not so large as America or Christina, is worth having for its Dupont-quality flowers with a girl-type leaf. It closely resembles DUPONT BLUE, and I like it very much.
  • VELVET CHM, with a similar, more pointed leaf, is a pale lavender-and-wine bicolor, a novelty of considerable charm.

Novelty Singles

Among the new novelty singles to be considered by the serious collector are: 

  • RAINBOW GENEVA (1951, white-edged wine)
  • LADY GENEVA (1949, white-edged purple)
  • LACY GIRL (1951, glowing, deep purple, fringed, free-blooming even outside the greenhouse, with wavy foliage)
  • GENEVA STAR (1951, a white with blue mottling)
  • PAINTED GIRL, (1952, is a single white with wine brush marks)

Girl-Type Foliage

Flowers are sometimes partly, sometimes completely, edged wine. Even the buds are attractively marked. The foliage is girl-type.

  • RUFFLED BEAUTY is a lavender to wine-colored bicolor with a rather short petiole and very lacy, variegated girl leaves, quite red in the center.
  • FIVE DOTS is now unusual except that each purple petal bears a clean white dot. It’s an avid collector’s item. 

So too, is BRUSSELS SPROUTS, which may be for you; it’s not for me.

Bouquet Varieties

Two series of doubles are outstanding. The Bouquets, which I also named, are marvelously floriferous, easy to grow, and in every way satisfactory. 

To date, there are six, including the just-out HELEN WILSON BOUQUET, the only one in the series with girl-type foliage. 

Others include: 

  • Very dark NAVY BOUQUET
  • Light blue MARINE BOUQUET
  • Dark red RUBY BOUQUET
  • Lavender RUFFLES BOUQUET, with the fascinating foliage of the original RUFFLES. 

You will probably like the nosegay look of this series’s flat clusters of blooms.

Rainbow Doubles

The new Rainbow Doubles I consider utterly lovely. There are three not to miss. 

  • AZURE BEAUTY has a light baby-blue appearance due to the pale lavender variegation on the white petals. 
  • SAILOR’S DELIGHT is similar but with girl-type foliage. It is really a double SAILOR GIRL. The lily-pad leaves are the most attractive. 
  • DARK BEAUTY is semi-double to double, a purple-tinted white. 

All have a flat, open, spreading habit of growth and blooming freely. I like these rainbow varieties tremendously; they are bound to have a well-deserved popularity.

Favorite Doubles

Among my other favorite doubles are: 

  • HELEN WILSON, which blooms so consistently, 
  • APOLLO, a lucid semi-double lavender I loved at first sight
  • TEAR DROP, a medium-sized to small grower of unusually lovely color. 

I’d always have these three!

44659 by Helen Van Pelt Wilson