I am often asked to offer my secrets for success in growing African Violets. I have no secret formulas since the African violet is one of the easiest of all house plants to grow with success.
Its widespread popularity among indoor gardeners all over the country is proof enough.
Basic Needs of African Violets
To answer the many questions about culture, the three basic needs of African violets are proper temperature, light, and moisture.
African Violet as Warm Weather Plant
Corning is originally from the tropical areas of Africa, the African violet is a warm weather plant that enjoys a day temperature of 70° to 75° F. and a night reading that does not go below 60° F.
The fact that it likes heat indicates why it thrives in the warm, often overheated, rooms of our homes.
Direct Sunlight is Necessary
To get good bloom, some direct sunlight is necessary. Although plants can be grown successfully in north windows, they do not flower as much as they do in exposures that provide some sun during part of the day.
During the winter months, pots may be kept in the south windows, but as the sun gets hotter in March, place them behind a thin curtain or move them to other windows where they will receive less sun.
To keep plants symmetrical and prevent one-sidedness, turn pots around periodically.
Three Important Needs
There are three points about watering African violets to keep in mind.
- One is to keep plants moderately moist but to be careful not to overwater.
- Another is to use lukewarm water and not water that is cold or hot.
- A third is not to allow pots to stand in water.
This can easily be avoided by resting them on pebbles placed in the saucers.
Watering From The Top
Despite popular opinion, watering from the bottom is not necessary. it is better, in fact, to water from the top, because the water -washes the salts, which come from the fertilizer, down into the soil.
This prevents them from collecting at the top. Wetting the leaves is not harmful; actually, it is beneficial because dust is removed. As long as the water is lukewarm, the heaves will not become spotted, even if plants dry in the sun that is not too hot.
As for soil, the simplest and best way is to buy soil that is already prepared. Not only does it have the proper fertilizer content, but it is clean and free from diseases and pests.
Those who prefer to mix their own can start with a good sandy loam and add to it 1/3 of peat moss and 1 tbsp bonemeal to each 5”-inches pot of sod mixture.
Soil may be sterilized with boiling water or by baking, but electric sterilizers are recommended for those who grow African violets in large quantities.
Methods of Propagation
Of the various methods of propagation, making new African violet plants from leaf cuttings is the simplest.
These can be taken any time, and for best results, dip the ends of the stems in hormodin powder and insert in a mixture of sand and sawdust, or sand and peat moss, vermiculite, perlite, or even light soil.
Common Method of Rooted Cuttings
Rooting the cuttings from leaves in water is another common method among window gardeners.
Once the leaf cuttings are rooted, plant them in 2 1/4″ pots, using the specially prepared soil. I always use plastic pots because they are clean, light, attractive, and desirable.
The soil in them also does not dry out as fast. Then the young plants develop and fill out the pots, shift to 3”-inches pots, and eventually to 4”-inches pots, but never anything larger.
Overpotting is Harmful
Overpotting can be harmful because the soil does not dry out quickly enough. When potting, I do not place anything at the bottoms of the pots. If the soil is light and porous, drainage will be good.
In addition to making new plants from leaf cuttings, it is possible to divide plants that have 2 or more crowns. New plants should be allowed to have only single crowns or divisions.
When they get straggly, start new plants from leaf cuttings and discard the originals. Some specimens can go for several years without getting straggly, while others become unattractive in less time.
Many African violet enthusiasts make the mistake of overfeeding. A good rule to remember is not to feed for the sake of feeding.
When starting with well-prepared soil, plants can go for about six months without feeding, but when they need a boost, it is better to use half the recommended proportion of plant food.
You can use any African violet fertilizer or a balanced mixture, such as 5-10-5, that is not too high in nitrogen. Always remember that it is better to underfeed than to overfeed.
Collectors Share: The More African Violets The Merrier!
Need for Humidity
To increase humidity, rely on a humidifier or keep moist pebbles in the saucers in which the pots rest. When many African violets or other kinds of plants are grown together, they give off moisture and help to increase the humidity of the room.
A bath from time to time with lukewarm water is helpful in this respect and also in keeping the foliage free from dust. If crowns get too thick, snap out some of the leaves with your fingers to allow more light to reach the buds.
Every Year Blooming
African violets tend to bloom all year if grown well. If they stop blooming, let up feeding them for a while to give them a rest.
During the winter months, from November to February, it is advisable to give them little or no food, again to rest. If you find that they do not bloom in the summer, it is probably because they get overheated.
Clean Plants: Healthy Ones
The best way to have clean plants is to start with healthy ones. Oftentimes, when plants become sickly, it is best to throw them out, particularly if you have a large collection.
Destroy aphids and mealy bugs with an aerosol bomb.
44659 by William B. Carter