Wednesday, January 25, 2012

An American Favorite

I have always loved African Violets. Probably because they remind me of my grandmother's house and the numerous violets she kept on her window sills in her living room.The picture above is one of two that I keep on my kitchen window sill and I have enjoyed their blooms all year.

The botanical or generic name for the African Violet is Saintpaullia and was discovered in the hills of Tanzania, East Africa by Walter Von Saint Paulliare who lived between 1860 and 1910. After introduction, North America took this tropical beauty to heart and as Americans do so well, soon adapted the African Violet into an indoor favorite. Also within several years the original deep violet flowered, hairy succulent-leafed plant was bred into a variety of hybrid plants sold in colors such as, white, red, blue, mauve and bi-color to include single or double blooms, and smooth or frilly leaves.

Buying Tips:
Regardless of the variety, size or color insure the plant you choose has no brown spots or mold. There should be plenty of buds and evidence of new leaf growth.

Maintenance Tips:
African Violets love bright light but not direct sunlight. Keep in a constant temperature year long between 68 and 77 degrees. Plant in soil of peat, sand and compost or buy mixtures sold specifically for African Violets. Never put water over the blooms or leaves but in the saucer or hold the leaves up to water in the pot under the leaves. Keep the soil moist. A good watering once a week will do well depending on the plant's location in your house. Pinch or cut off all dead or wilted leaves and flowers. Just like most plants violets love company, the more the merrier (however this is not a must). Some plant manuals and growers recommend fertilizing every 10 to 14 days during blooming periods throughout the year, however I have found two to three times a year will suffice. The easiest propagation is with leaf cuttings (propagation of seeds is difficult). Plant a healthy leaf and stem any time of year in the same type of soil you used for the parent plant. Cover the stem approximately halfway and keep it moist and around 72 degrees until the plant emerges from the rooted stem. Transplant the new plant into it's own pot when the plant reaches a diameter of around 4 inches.

Your Plant Doctor Says:
All in all, African Violets are healthy plants that are easy to maintain but can suffer from neglect without just a little loving care. Brown, shriveled leaves may mean too much direct sunlight or water spilled on leaves or blooms You can easily spot crown rot fungus because the main core will turn brown, then the blooms and leaves will shrivel. If this happens, discard the plant and disinfect if you have plants growing nearby. Two other problems which affect this American favorite can be mildew and thrips or cyclamen mites. If both are severe, discard the plant as not to infect other violets. Both will appear basically the same way with shriveled brown leaves and no evidence of new growth.

Maybe my reason for loving this American favorite is a little nostalgic but there is no doubt (as I show you a photo of the second violet on my kitchen window sill), America has a place in it's heart for the African Violet.

-- Posted by Wilma Smith

1 comment:

  1. I've been thinking of growing African violets, which I once did with some success (I rooted them before I learned that is supposed to be hard!). And like you, I had a grandmother who grew them. Sweet memories!