Monday, January 12, 2015

African Violets- My Choice for Indoor Plants to Enjoy by Ed Powers

I have grown and propagated African Violets for more than 30 years and have enjoyed it thoroughly.  I will admit that I have had a lot of trial and error with them over these years, but enjoyed it all.
They are my favorite flowering house plant. They are easily propagated from a leaf cutting, and they bloom continually most of the year depending on where you live and how well they are taken care of.  They are available in many flower colors and forms.  Not only are the flowers colorful but many are collected for their leaf color and shape.  Truly an attractive plant to grow.
Here are a few hints in growing these beautiful plants. (When challenged, I always refer to university plant experts and noted authors on the subject.) 
To grow African violets, you must provide the proper amount of light, otherwise the leaf blades will become thin and the stalks elongated. The plants often will retain normal color even when they don't get enough light, but they will rarely bloom. When the light is too bright, growth slows and leaves become pale or yellowish green. Leaves are often darker when they are shaded by other leaves and cause flowering to continue at a decreased rate. Eastern and northern exposures provide ideal light conditions, but filtered light in south or west windows also is acceptable. In addition, African violets grow well under artificial light.
Night-time temperatures for African violets should be between 65 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit, and day-time temperatures should be between 75 to 85 degrees. At low temperatures, the leaves on the plants turn dark, appear water-soaked, and eventually die. Plants grown on a window sill can be easily damaged by low temperature conditions, and may freeze if they touch the glass.
When repotting African violets, use potting soils specifically blended for these plants. As a general rule, water African violets only when the soil surface feels dry. Never wait until the soil becomes hard or the plants begin to wilt. Apply enough water each time to thoroughly saturate the soil, and be sure to discard any excess water collected through the bottom of the pot. To prevent spotting, avoid splashing cold water on the leaves.
Most water-soluble house-plant fertilizers are suitable for African violets. Apply fertilizer according to the manufacturer's recommendations, or use your best judgment based on personal experience. As a general rule, plants should be fertilized every four to six weeks. If the leaves become pale green and the plant begins producing fewer and smaller flowers, it's time to fertilize.
I have found 3 ways to propagate African violets. 1.Cut off a young leaf with its stalk and immerse the stalk in warm water. 2. Cut off a young leaf with its stalk, put it in a small pot with soil and cover with a zip lock bag. New roots will arise from the stalk and can be planted immediately.  You will have a new plant within 2-8 weeks.  Flowering will happen within 4 months.  3. The only other way to propagate violets is to grow from seeds, the most difficult but doable.

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