Amazing African Violets
African violets are stunning tropical plants and one of the most popular houseplants of all time and for good reason.
The plant is not only beautiful but elegant. Their cheerful flowers perched just above a neat rosette of dark green fuzzy leaves are quite dazzling. These compact, low-growing perennial plants flower several times a year, and they are available. In thousands of cultivars, which provide a palette of flower colour.
African violets facts
African Violet, (Genus Saintpaulia), any of the six species of flowering plants in the genus Saintpaulia (family Gesneriaceae). Native to higher elevations in tropical eastern Africa, African violet is widely grown horticulture, especially S.ionantha. The members of Saintpaulia are small perennial herbs with thick, hairy, ovate leaves. These dark green leaves have long petioles (leaf stems) and are arranged in a basal cluster at the base of the plant, the violet-like flowers are bilaterally symmetric with five petals and can be violet, white, or pink in colour, the tiny seeds are produced in a capsule.
The Genus Saintpaulia is named in honour of Walter, Freiherr (baron) von Saint Paul- Illaire, a German colonial official who is credited with their discovery in German East Africa (now Tanzania) in 1892. Easily propagated from leaf-cutting, African violet is common indoor houseplant that can thrive in low light conditions and bloom throughout the year. Hundreds of horticultural varieties have been developed for their various flower colour and shape, including half-sized miniatures.
African violets come in an amazing variety of shapes, sizes and colors. Flowers can be single, double or semi-double; have ringed or ruffled petals; and appear as blue, purple, lavender, red, pink, magenta, burgundy, crimson, white or bi-colored. Some have variegated foliage or flowers. There are nine species of African violets, eight subspecies and hundreds of varieties and hybrids. But they’re classified generally by size, based on how wide the plant reaches at maturity: Miniature, less than 8 inches across, with flowers that are .75 inches across; standard, 8 to 16 inches across with flowers that are 2 inches across; and large, plants more than 16 inches across with 3-inch flowers.
Planting African Violets
Plant violets in an actual African violet potting mix or any light, loose, fast-draining potting mix that’s 30 to 50 percent perlite or vermiculite. You can mix up your potting soil, too; soil with sand and pumice or 1 part vermiculite, 1 part coarse sand, 1 part coconut coir or peatmoss, 1 pinch of lime dust.
Keep them planted in small pots and re-pot once a year to give them fresh, nutrient-rich soil. Keeping them a little root bound will encourage them to bloom.
Caring for African Violets
African violets are easy to grow if you play by their rules. The key to keeping them happy is giving them the conditions they’d get in their native tropical forest humidity, damp soil and lots of bright, filtered light.
African violets do best with 10+ hours of bright, filtered light. Never give them direct sun; they’ll scorch.
Keep soil moist but well-drained. You want moist, not soggy.
Water from the bottom, not the top. To do this, set the potted violet in a dish filled with water as long as it takes for the soil to become fully moist. Watering from the top with water that’s too hot or cold can cause leaf spots.
PRO TIP: Let tap water sit for two days so chlorine evaporates from it before watering violets with it. They’re sensitive to chemicals in tap water and prefer water at room temperature, not chilled. You can also catch rainwater and use that to give your violets a drink.
Violets love high humidity. Give it to them by placing the violets’ pot in a saucer filled with pebbles and a bit of water. You want the bottom of the pot out of the water so the soil doesn’t get sodden, hence the pebbles.
They like a warm house, 75 to 80 degrees during the day, with a 10-degree temperature drop at night. Remember, think jungle.
African violets are easy to grow as long as you care for them on their own terms and you’ll be rewarded with pots full of showy blooms. You’ll know they are certainly worth all the fuss. Also with the trend in houseplants going strong, African violets are a step away from being the new trendy plants.
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