How To Start African Violets Without A Green Thumb

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I believe African violets have frustrated more people than all other houseplants. We read articles and books on their culture till we know just how it is to be done, what to do and what not to do.

We buy good plants from reliable growers, get hand-tailored potting soil, and determine the light requirements of these temperamental prima donnas – and what do the ungrateful little monsters do?

African violets flowers on a white tablePin

They die. Every year another significant segment of the flower-growing population decides that the African violet is not for it. They don’t have green thumbs.

The knowledge that we should have, that would tell us how to make them comfortable, the compromise we could make with our dry air, too little or too much light, that knowledge may start with a book, but our minds and hands have to be trained to use it before it can be available to, or violets.

The violets must also learn that they can be a little less comfortable than they were in an ideal environment and still be healthy and beautiful. They can understand this. Plants, like people, are tremendously adaptable.

How To Start

As an African violet beginner, I decided that an excellent way to learn was by starting from scratch, rooting cuttings, and using all I had read to train my fingers and mind to grow healthy African violet plants adapted to the environment I had to give them.

Then I’d be able to buy other plants and adapt them too. This was my course in growing African violets; the first blossom was my diploma.

Two Leaves From A Neighbor

I started my education with two leaves given to me by a neighbor. She showed me how to select the medium-sized ones, best for rooting, to cut their stems 1 1/2″ inches long, and make a slit in each 1/4″ inch deep.

That is to help the branch establish roots. We selected a bottle for rooting one of the African violet leaves in water. She said many people added powdered charcoal to the water to keep it clear.

I didn’t and had no trouble. We fastened a circle of waxed paper over the top with a rubber band and, with a razor blade, made a slit through which we pushed the leaf. We made the water just high enough to cover the slit quarter inch of the leaf stem.

My neighbor said that since it was better to be safe than sorry, I should use rainwater to start the leaves. Distilled water does as well, and often when I’ve had neither, I’ve taken the water from defrosting the refrigerator.

I placed a little label on my leaf, a neat trick for people who root many cuttings but a superfluous gesture for me, for I had only two, and both alike!

Placed in Good Light

I put my bottle in a good light, out of direct sunshine, and turned to my second leaf. Preparing it as I had the first, I dipped it in rooting hormone powder and knocked off all but a film of it.

I found this did not hasten to root but ensured many little plants. I planted my leaf in a small pot of dampened vermiculite and labeled it with a great show of horticultural competence.

The leaf started in water and made roots first.

In 13 days, the stem end was softened, suggesting a tiny hair root. I learned from my friend that some violets root much more quickly than others.

I have had one African violet standing on my window sill for five months, waiting for roots to form. It looks plump and healthy, so I’m not worried. I add water when needed and leave it to take its own time.

10677 by D Schroeder