The African violet, or Saintpaulia, is the favorite blooming houseplant. It tolerates average house conditions and can be made to bloom almost continuously in any window exposure. The original plants were found in the cool, hilly areas of
LIGHT - Proper lighting is essential for growth and flowering. African violets need to be grown in strong light, usually within a foot of an uncurtained window, or must be on the outside edge of sunshine. Hot sun is unwise, but winter or morning sun is good. Although high light intensity is needed for growth and flowering, too much light causes the foliage to yellow, become tight in the center, curl down and become unattractive. Too little light produces long-stemmed, spindly growth and few or no flowers. Light is so important that you may need to experiment with different windows and locations to find the best spot for continuous flowering. Unusual factors which influence the light your plants receive include porches, overhangs, shade trees, size of windows, the closeness, and even color, of the neighbor's house.
The amount of light also varies greatly with the seasons. Although violets never need sunshine, it can be very helpful from Nov. until mid-Feb. For the rest of the year, full sunlight is too much. Thin curtains may be used to cut the light or the plants can be moved further back from a south or west window which is too bright. North and east windows are usually best.
Plants can be grown entirely under artificial light if natural light is not sufficient. Any regular fluorescent tube can be used if suspended approximately 10" over the plants. A single 40 watt tube will light an area approximately 18" x 48"; a double tube fixture, 30" x 48". The lights may be turned on for 12-16 hours, or they may be used to supplement natural light.
WATER - Keep your plants lightly moist, never soggy. When the top of the soil is dry to the touch, add water from the top or bottom.
TEMPERATURE & HUMIDITY - Violets grow best at an even temperature that stays between 65 and 72, with night temperatures not below 60 . If the humidity is above 40%, such as in the kitchen, the flowers will be larger and last longer. Very dry air can cause bud blast. Humidity can be increased by placing plants near each other, by misting with a fine spray or by placing plants on trays of moist pebbles or blankets. Fresh air is also important for plant growth. Cold drafts are harmful.
POTS, SOILS & FERTILIZERS - African violets may be grown in plastic, clay, ceramic or any type pot with drainage, although watering will vary with each. Potting soil is preferred that is coarse, loose and contains much humus (peat moss, compost) to hold the moisture and allow the roots to penetrate easily. A good mixture contains garden soil, humus and vermiculite or coarse perlite. Garden soil alone packs too hard. Any garden soil or compost used must be sterilized by heat or chemicals. It can be baked in the oven in a covered container at 250 for one hour or moistened with Diazanon (1 tsp/qt), covered and stirred for a week. Many fertilizers are made especially for African violets. Their use will help to promote plant growth and blooming. The food may be used according to package instructions or a dilute method may be used. In this method, plant food is used at nearly every watering, BUT at 1/4 the given strength.
PROPAGATION FROM LEAVES - Violet plants are grown from leaf cuttings. Select a healthy, small leaf, leaving a 1" stem. Fill a container with about 3" of vermiculite or other rooting mix. Insert the stem straight down, covering the stem and about half the leaf. Moisten the medium and keep it lightly moist; place in moderate light. New plants should appear in 2-6 months. A leaf may produce several plants which are ready to divide when each plant has 4-6 leaves. Remove the clump from the pot, gently separate plants and pot separately in 2 1/4" pots. Grow for several months until the plant is budded and then transplant into 3" or 4" pot. The latter is a good permanent pot for standard violets. It will maintain an attractive plant and continuous bloom. If larger plants and more and larger blooms are desired, a 5" or 6" pot may be used. Miniature violets are grown in 2 1/4" pots and semi-miniatures in 3" pots.
MAINTENANCE - Violets should be transplanted once a year. Remove the plant from the pot. If changing to a larger pot, the soil ball is left intact; new soil is filled in around the ball and up to the lowest leaf, leaving 1/4" space for watering. When repotting to the same size pot, crumble the root ball with the hands, removing about 1/3 of the soil and roots. Place in clean pot and add soil. If the plant is old and has a thick stem, remove enough roots to lower it to the proper position in the pot. Don't pack down the soil; tap the outside of the pot with the hands to gently settle the soil. After potting, water only lightly and then again in a day or two. Dusty plants may be washed at the faucet or sprayed with warm water. Add mild detergent to the water to remove the greasy dust. Follow with a warm rinse, shake gently to remove excess water and allow to dry before placing back in bright light. A soft paint brush removes light dirt.
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