Friday, November 2, 2012

The Amazing African Violet

I never thought I would own an African violet. For some reason, I thought of them as an "elderly ladies" plant. One day, at the florist where I worked, I was asked if I wanted to take one home. It was not faring very well and I thought I'd see if I could revive it. I knew they thrived being in a north-facing  window, and I had space in one of mine, so I took it home. Thank you, Scott!

It has turned out to be one of the most interesting plants I've ever owned. It blooms so easily when the light is just right for it. It can look half-dead and will recover wonderfully although it's best to avoid that scenario with regular care. You can even start a new plant from just a leaf placed in potting soil or vermiculite. 

As it matures, it will produce new plants out of its crown. The young sprouts can then be gently separated from the mother plant and then planted in its own pot. Although the new plants have no roots, when placed in a fresh pot of new potting soil, the seedlings will take root quite readily. When rooting new plants, you must be vigilant to keep the soil moist on the surface. When it feels just slightly moist on top, that is the time to add more water.

I've truly come to appreciate these charming beauties.   

They are members of the Gesneriad family and natives of East Africa, as their name implies. African violets, botanically known as Saintpaulias, are the easiest of the Gesneriad family to grow indoors. The other varieties are best recommended for those with some plant experience and an attentive nature.

You can order plants and flower arrangements almost anywhere in the world from: 

Care instructions--
  • Sitting in front of a north facing window is the very best place for them. Otherwise,very bright indirect light or some morning sun, works too. Direct afternoon sun is too strong.
  • It's been recommended for ages to water them from the bottom, meaning put water in their saucer or a bowl and let them absorb as much as they will take for about 15 minutes. The top of the soil should feel moist when they've absorbed enough water. 
  • I've found they do not mind being watered from the top if you are careful not to damage the leaves. 
  • Water as soon as the top is dry. 
  • Fertilize with African violet food regularly. Schultz Instant African Violet Plus works beautifully.

***For a variety of video clips on houseplant care from my 90's TV series, click here:


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