Tips For Successful Rooting And Growing Of African Violets

Are you often discouraged when you try to root out or grow African violets successfully?

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Trial And Error For Successful Propagation Of Houseplants

Through trial and error, after many years of experience with these plants, I have found the following practices successful and offered them to those who may have difficulties propagating these popular house plants.

African violets will root in water, but the shock at transplanting is greater than if rooted in other mediums. Therefore, I prefer to root them in flats of porous mediums.

My favorite mixture is one-third sharp sand, one-third peat moss, and one-third milled sphagnum moss. 

Another good combination is equal parts mixed with sharp sand, peat moss, and vermiculite or perlite.

I have also found sponge-rock, a volcanic product, combined with peat moss and milled sphagnum to be very satisfactory. 

Milled sphagnum, used alone, is a good rooting medium if you carefully prevent its drying. After that, it becomes an almost air-tight surface.

Starting With Good Roots

Rooted leaves removed from the above mediums have a good root ball, with each hair-like root protected by the medium.

These can be potted in light soil or mixed with vermiculite and earthworm casting. On the other hand, any soil not overly rich that is porous and well-drained is excellent.

The inexperienced grower will run into trouble if plants are put in too large a pot at this growth stage. The tendency is to overwater.

Grace Eyerdoin of Granger Gardens says, “More plants are killed by water than by any other element.” 

The roots don’t absorb all the water when plants are in a large pot. The soil becomes wet on the bottom while remaining dry on top.

Eventually, a toxic-nitrogen condition develops, as the nitrogen does not go into the solution, resulting in the plant’s death. 

Hence, it is advisable to pot in a two-inch pot and gradually advance one-half inch to one inch each time you repot. And don’t believe African violets like to be left alone. I turn mine out of pots, examine the root system, and repot if needed. 

They like attention. If one or two bottom leaves get broken, it doesn’t matter, as I usually remove the bottom row when I repot. And sometimes, I pinch off long bottom roots.

Related: Tips On Dividing African Violet Plants

There is No General Rule on How to Water African Violets

Use warm or tepid watering from top to bottom and from bottom to top at regular intervals. This keeps mineral salts moving up and down in the soil and produces a better root spread.

A grower I know in Ohio tops waters constantly, using bottom infrequently watering to balance.

Drops of water on leaves make yellow marks, but only if it is cold water or plants are dried in strong light.

I have followed a program for years to syringe all my plants with a fine warm spray about when the sun goes down and the daylight dims while my house is still warm. 

The mist adheres to the leaves in droplets, which keeps foliage clean and shiny and gives the plants extra humidity. Under fluorescent lights, I spray any hour of the day, and they never spot, drying within an hour.

Foliar Feeding

About once a month, I add a little fertilizer to the spray. African violets, especially the young ones, like this foliar feeding. They also respond to a well-balanced root feeding, which a soil analysis can indicate. 

Light soil, low in nitrogen, phosphorus, and potash, should be fed every 2 weeks, while richer soil with a medium nitrogen reading, a high phosphorous reading, and a medium potash reading should be fed every month or five weeks. 

African violets prefer a nearly neutral — that is, pH 7 soil. It may vary from 6.8 to 7.2. Best results are obtained within that range. With a little reading or research, you can learn how to control the acidity or alkalinity of your particular soil.

Controlling Insects And Diseases

To keep insects and diseases under control, I spray my plants often with a good control spray such as N.N.O.R. Dimite or Optax.

If used carefully, according to directions, plants can be free from marauding insects, such as mites, spiders, thrips, and other pests. 

And there is no reason why, if they are all sprayed, African violets can’t live happily in a window with gloxinias, begonias, philodendrons, episcias, or anything else you enjoy growing. One winter, I had chives, parsley, petunias, and African violets on the same shelf.

Growing African Violets In Ideal Exposures

African violets will grow and bloom in North, South, East, or West exposures. However, requirements may vary, and I noticed the white kinds like the less intense light of an East or North window. 

The blue, purple, and red kinds get a deeper color in North light, and I think not such a profusion of bloom.

A hot, unshielded South window is not good in late spring, summer, or early fall. I use thin plastic sheeting on any plants close to the window during that period.

African violets appreciate fresh air but don’t like strong drafts.

An average house temperature during the day of 65 to 75° degrees Fahrenheit. Slightly lower at night, when the thermostat is turned down, helps to maintain a healthy appearance.

Keeping The Plant’s Appearance Fresh

Finally, don’t be afraid to handle and move them. Pinch off all the little side shoots, droopy leaves, and dead blooms. They need your attention to keep their appearance crisp and fresh since they do not shed their old leaves like other plants. 

Remove them close to the main stem when they appear wilted to encourage the growth of new leaves.

Once you lose interest in a window sill of fine blooming plants, ask yourself what would happen if you took pollen from a red variety and put it on a white kind. Then find out by doing it.

A seed pod is more interesting for water and planting, and growing. What you get will usually surprise you.

44659 by Vera I. Covert