Saintpaulia ionatha

African Violet has, in fact, nothing in common with violets; it is not even related, for it belongs to a family very distant from the Violaceae family. Perhaps only the similar blue-violet colour of the blooms gave rise to its popular name. It is native to Africa, the home of the 20 other species of the genus. It grows from sea level to a height of 2,000 m (6,600 ft) usually in the undergrowth of rain forests. Horticulturists have developed a great many cultivars that differ chiefly in the colour of the flowers. These may be white, pink, blue or blue-violet, such as the cultivars ‘Alba’, ‘Rosakonigin’ and ‘Blaukonigin’. Others may have crinkly-edged petals such as ‘Mayfair’, and still others have leaves with crinkled margins, for example ‘Crispa’.

Once you have grown-an African Violet, you will surely want to continue, because it is a fairly undemanding plant that is readily propagated and produces flowers almost without stopping. It should be grown in a small pot. To maintain the dark green colour of the leaves, shade it from direct sun. Exposure to direct sun results in unattractive, pale leaves. A mixture of leaf mould, peat and sand is a suitable growing medium. It will produce flowers almost the whole year at a temperature of about 20°C (68° F). A temperature of 25°C (68° F) in summer will promote even more profuse flowering. Take care when watering not to splash the leaves for then they become spotted and soon rot. Propagate by means of the leaves. Put the leaf stalks in water to root or insert them directly into sand or compost. New plants can also be grown from the leaf blade.

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