African Violets

Marlene Spinoza
Adams Count Master Gardener

(2/2) If you love a flowering indoor houseplant that is easy to care for and blooms a lot, consider the African violet. In the last 10 years or so people have taken the African violet for granted and become enchanted with the orchid and various colorful bromeliads, but the African violet is a lovely, colorful, inexpensive and beautiful plant. They became popular when they were introduced in 1927 in a California nursery. Theyíve been brightening my windowsills for many years and are one of my favorite plants to grow.

The African violet is a native of Africa that originally comes from forests near the mountains which extend from Kenya to Tanzania, and is a very tolerant plant if given the right care. It comes in many colors today ranging from white to pale pinks, pale violets, blues, violets magentas, medium to dark pinks, picot edged , mixed colors, single petal blooms, double petal blooms and fringed blooms. They plants come in a regular size about a 4 to 6 inch diameter plant or in mini and micro mini sizes. They can grow quite large, produce baby plants and have been known to live 25 years.

African Violets thrive in temperatures between 66 and 77 degrees with little night time temperatures fluctuations and in an indirect light during the day, or 6 to 8 hours in an 8 inch proximity to fluorescent lights and moderate humidity. The homes we live in vary so much in light, temperature and humidity itís impossible to say you should water every 2 weeks. You must look at your plant and see that itís lightly wilting from dryness and the soil several inches below the surface is dry, then water in the morning or early afternoon. Water with room temperature or slightly warmer tap water unless your water has been treated with a water softener, in thatís the case use rain water or spring water. You can water from above or below. If watering from below take plants to the sink and allow plants to sit for about 20 to 30 minutes in a dish or pan with a couple inches of water. Do not wet plant leaves or they can wilt or develop stains when they are wet. The water from below will work its way up to the top of the soil. Be sure you have holes in the bottom of the planter or the plant is in an unglazed absorbent pot; next allow draining well for another 20 to 30 minutes before moving back to its location. If watering from above make sure you use a watering can with a pointed spout so you can place it gently away from the leaves as you water. Water till you have water runoff from the bottom of the planter then allow the plant to drain as above. Most home growers kill their African violets by overwatering them, or their well-intentioned neighbors taking care may overwater them. When you go away leave your neighbor very specific directions about their care.

Always pot them in a soil mix specific for African violets and when you fertilize read fertilizer directions carefully. I find the best way to fertilize is to use a timed release tablet or fertilizer stick inserted in the soil. You can purchase a fertilizer specifically for African violets or use one for blooming houseplants, whatever works best for you. The direction will tell you how many tablets or sticks you need depending on the size and diameter of your plant. Insert when soil is moist after a watering. There are liquid fertilizers which are diluted in water but many times they leave behind excess soluble salts and residue, and often plants are over fertilized. A good east windowsill is a great place for an African violet. You can test the light on a sunny day by placing your hand in front of the plant next to window, if it casts a dark shadow the light is too strong and you may have to place your plant on an adjacent table. Be careful not to over fertilize your African violets during our slow growth winter season. If you are repotting do not overcrowd the pot. One 5 inch diameter plant fits well in a 6 inch pot. Two or three 4 to 5 inch plants fit well in an 8 to 10 inch pot.

These are some beginning care tips for growing African Violets; you can get additional information from internet sources or the library. Good luck growing these beauties.

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