African Violet – Saintpaulia hybrids

African violet, known botanically as Saintpaulia, was first discovered in the hills of Tanzania in East Africa. The leaves are hairy and fleshy, with long, brittle stalks. They grow to form a rosette-like mound. The flowers grow in loose clusters from the rosette.

Size and growth

The African violet can be 10-15cm (4-6in) high and up to 38cm (15in) or more across. Miniature varieties are about 15cm (6in) in diameter. Although it can bloom at any time of the year, there are generally fewer flowers between November and March.

Colour and varieties African Violet - Saintpaulia hybrids

Today there are many African violet hybrids. Flower colour ranges from white, through all pink, red, blue, mauve and purple shades. The flowers may be single (5 petals), semi-double or fully double.

Much in demand are plants with two-coloured petals. Frilly-edged flowers, plants with strongly variegated or crinkle-edged foliage are also very popular. Also available are miniature, semi-miniature and trailing stemmed forms.

Display ideas

The African violet enjoys the company of other plants, so it is an ideal subject for setting in containers with other house plants.

Making new plants

The easiest way to start new plants is to take leaf cuttings. Propagate African violets by taking leaf cuttings. This way you know the kind of plant and the flower colour that you will have in the end — it will be identical to the parent plant. It will take about 8-10 months from taking cuttings to a fully blooming adult plant.

1. Take the leaf from the parent plant together with its stalk.

2. Plant it so that half the stem is covered with a rooting mixture.

Keeping the cutting at a temperature of 18°— 21°C (65°-70°F) for about one month, and roots will form.

3. After a further 8-14 days at this temperature new plantlets will appear. Once they have reached a diameter of about 5cm (2in) they can be split up and transferred to small pots of their own.

4. Water with a liquid plant food every fortnight once the plants are well-established.

Maintain high humidity by growing plants on pebble trays.

Plant Problems

Brown spots/scorched leaves can appear if strong sun has been shining directly on the leaves, or if cold water has been spilled on them. Prevention: Do not expose. The plant to strong sunlight between March and October. Water carefully.

Crown rot fungus is a major problem with African violets.

Treatment: Discard the plant and clean the area where it was growing thoroughly.

Mildew can appear particularly in winter if the surrounding air is too moist and stagnant. Treatment: Allow humidity trays to dry out.

Sunken brown spots on undersides of leaves. This is due to thrips or cyclamen mites.

Treatment: Discard plants under severe attack.

GENERAL CARE

African violets are not demanding plants but will respond to regular and thoughtful attention, rewarding you with flowers all year round. Pick off faded flowers and leaves right to base to maintain only 3-4 layers of leaves on plants.

Potting: This plant grows well in an open but rich potting compost. Commercial peat-based potting mixtures are best. Repot every spring or summer when the roots have filled the pot. Split plants with multiple crowns when repotting.

WATERING

The African violet cannot tolerate cold water on its leaves or crown. It should be watered with tepid water from below in the saucer. Any water that remains in the saucer after half an hour after watering should be poured off. Keep humidity high by placing it on a tray of damp pebbles.

Feeding: Give it a liquid fertilizer feed every fortnight during the growth period.

CONDITIONS

Light: Although they love the light, African violets cannot take very hot sunlight, especially from March to October. The brightest possible light without hot direct sun is ideal. During winter you cannot give them too much light.

Temperature: You will get the best growth and the best flowers if your plant has a summer temperature of 15°-22°C (60°-72°F). Minimum winter temperature should be 13°C (55°F).

When to buy

These plants are available any time of the year.

What to look for

Make sure that the leaves are healthy and plump and that there are plenty of flower buds showing.

Lifespan

With the right care the African violet will grow for many years, flowering most of the time.

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