How to grow African Violets
For years I scoffed at the enthusiasm of the few African violet collectors I knew, as they ranted and raved about their wonderful plants. I watched as they exchanged leaves, discussed rooting media, compared watering methods, and traded experiences.
Then one day two of the duPont violets came my way. When several flowers measured fairly close to three inches across, that was it! Now I’m as enthusiastic as anyone when it comes to growing these bewitching flowering plants. It’s amazing what some lovely blooms can do for you gardening enthusiasm.
Anyone can grow good, robust African violets by observing a few basic rules regarding proper lighting, temperature, watering, humidity and fertilizing.
Proper lighting is very important—too much light may cause burning; too little will check growth and flowering. Light from an east window from September to March, and from a north window from March to September, should give excellent results. It’s as simply as that.
During the months when artificial heat is necessary, house temperature should be about 70-72 degrees during the day, falling to 65 at night.
Proper humidity and watering can’t be stressed too much. Many troubles could be avoided if greater care were given to these two essentials. Let’s consider watering. Water should always be tepid or at room temperature.
Three-inch pots in saucers should be watered from the bottom. Pour enough water into saucer and permit plant to “drink” for a half hour, then pour off excess water. Larger potted plants should be watered from the top; do not overwater as this cuts off the air from the plants, and air is of the utmost importance.
Vases or pans of water set near radiators will increase humidity in rooms in which you flowering plants are growing, benefiting not only the plants but yourself too.
If the water in you area is chlorinated, draw some off for watering, allow it to stand for 24 hours and then heat slightly. Try to use rain or spring water when available.
To feed the plant, choose a clear bright day, water the plant, wait several hours to prevent burning of root hairs and apply a liquefied organic plant food according to directions on container. It is well to make a v-shaped hole against the side of the pot and apply fertilizer slowly at this point. Fertilizer should always s be applied to the surface of the soil and the watering following fertilizing should be surface watering, then return to usual method.
A three-inch pot will accommodate a plant for a long period of time. When there is a network of root hair sand a nine to 12-inch spread to the plant, then it is time to repot.
For repotting, the soil should be loose, friable one consisting of one-third good garden soil, one-third sand, and one-third peat or leaf mold. To this mixture add one teaspoonful of bone meal for each quart of mix. The soil should be slightly acid, about pH 6.5. For the beginner and the inexperienced gardener, it is advisable to use one of the well-prepared organic soil mixes on the market. These mixes are complete and specially prepared for violets by experts.
When potting, remember that the roots are delicate and the fine root hairs absorb the nourishment, so care must be taken to pot loosely, gently firming the soil about the roots. The potting mixture should be moist, not wet.
Place a piece of broken flower pot over the drainage hole of a large pot, then one-quarter-inch layer of chicken grit (or crushed oyster shells or flower pot chips), followed by a wad of sphagnum moss and the potting soil is placed in the pot so that when the root ball is set on it, the crown of the plant is one-half inch below the rim of the pot. Now fill in the sides of the pot, tapping gently to settle the soil and prevent air pockets.
Omit the drainage material and just cover the drainage hole with broken pot chips, if pots are to be watered from below.
The newly potted plants are ready for a bath to cleanse the leaves of dust and soil. Place them in the bathtub and sprinkle lightly with tepid water from a watering can equipped with a find nozzle until leave are clean and soil settled in the pot. Leave the pots in the tub out of the drafts and keep them shaded until the leaves are dry. If leaves become wet and room temperature is too cool, the leaves will spot.
The early spring months through the summer is the time for propagating leaves. Cut a few leaves from the center of a plant for best results. Trim the leaf stalk to about one an one-half inches in length and insert in a glass of water or vermiculite. I prefer vermiculite, and by using a large pot, a number of leaves can be rooted at the same time.
When leaves have been set in position in vermiculite, add water gently until granular mixture is damp. The plantlets now need to be potted and fed. Have ready a mixture of one-half soil and one-half vermiculite. Place a piece of flower pot over ther drainage hole, add some of the soil mixture, set one crown to a pot (one and one-quarter-inch size), and finish potting. Add water meagerly. Remove suckers as they appear. Feed once a week with liquid organic fertilizer.
When plantlets have outgrown the small pot, repot to a slightly larger one using a rich mixture, described above. Try to keep plants root bound to force blooms. If plants must develop roots, they will not develop buds at the same time.
Which Ones to Grow
Choosing African violets for the home is most difficult, but here are a few that are worthy of space in your collection.
STRIKE ME PINK is everything the name implies with its diminutive rose-like blossom to the cupped leaves, dark, glossy green with white throat. The fluted edge of the leaves adds extra enhancement.
DOUBLE PINK CHEER, a slightly darker pink rosette flower rises above its pinked margin oval leaves supported by longer petioles than Strike Me Pink.
The lighter green foliage of the FRINGED SNOW PRINCE is most alluring topped with tall stems of big, fringes, dainty white blossoms. This one, couples with contrasting varieties of deeper colors, adds more pleasure and interest to any collection. BLUE POM, with its lovely double bloom of deep blue, and fragile pale green foliage is appealing.
A rainbow of color awaits the grower of African violets. With more than 30,000 varieties to choose from, you can satisfy you every whim. Humidity, light, temperature, watering and soil—these are the things to watch. As long as you do, you’ll be producing African violets to equal—and even surpass—your enthusiasm.
Tips for growing vegetables:
Tips for growing herbs:
Tips for growing flowers:
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