With their soft fuzzy leaves and delicate, repeated blossoms, it's easy to see why it's the most popular house plant here in the United States and the ENTIRE WORLD.
Is this charming plant really from Africa as the name eludes to? Yes. Violets in the wild were officially discovered in the 1892, in a region in Tanzania, Africa by the German governor, who was also the Commissioner of Tanzania, Baron Walter von St. Paul. He had an interest in botany. Violets were given the botanical name Saintpaulias, honoring him.
Beside a stream, there was a damp rock wall covered with dozens of African violets and others along the stream banks. The Baron sent seeds back to his father, an amateur botanist in Germany and within 10 years, African violets had become a horticultural sensation throughout all of Europe and eventually became and still remain as the number one chosen house plant variety across the entire USA. Talk about something becoming popular!
So, our charge is to emulate Mother Nature by controlling the humidity, soil, fertilizer, watering schedules, temperature and light reproducing each condition existing on the banks of the streams in Tanzania.
Hybridizers began working with the original small blue wild violets and have since created thousands of different varieties, ranging from flower colors from black to white.
Their size allows propagation/growth in small spaces and once the proper growing conditions are met, will bloom repeatedly indoors for up to nine months out of the year. Currently, violets are available in shades of blue, purple, lavender, pink, red, white, bi-colored and multi-colored. Their form ranges from single, star-shaped to double, fringed and ruffled flowers. Leaves can also be ruffled, scalloped, quilted and or variegated.
Ever since the African violet was introduced to America in 1924, 32 years after it was discovered in Tanzania, professional and amateur growers alike have attempted to re-create the plant that came to be known in legend and lore as "Big Yellow." A tough task but accomplished!
It takes at least a year from the time you plant a seed or cutting until you experience your first bloom, so just kept crossing plants and turning generation after generation.
It requires a full 3-5 years to create and then introduce a new stable variety.
Russian hybridizers continue to focus on bloom size and visual appeal. Many Russian Violet varieties have very large blossoms with seriously impressive color. In the 90's, several American growers visited Russia, bringing back may violets, thus beginning the commercial relationship between the two countries that continues to flourish, to this day, regardless of political views.
How to choose your African Violet
African violets are the most common house plant in the US to date. They are very beautiful, and they are easy to take care of. They are the only house plants, which bloom 7-9 months per year.
However, raising African Violets requires several mandatory conditions be met, in order for them to thrive and not barely survive.
When you choose your plant, make sure it looks healthy. The leaves: turgor and color are a good indicator of whether the plant is healthy. Ensure that flowers are full and supported by a strong peduncle (stem), the rosette is symmetrical and that the petioles of leaves are not too long or too short.
Upon purchasing a violet, your first inclination may be to repot it in a new beautiful pot. Please avoid that temptation as plants will experience enough stress from simply changing the condition of their surroundings (light and temperatures). In addition, most often they do not require a larger pot. Violets grow and feel most happy in a small pot. That's worth repeating. Violets grow and feel most happy in a small pot. First, the violet needs to adapt to the new environment, calm down and then get familiar with their new friends (your other violets).
Next on your list is to choose the type of pot in which you will keep your African violet. You can choose a plastic pot, a clay jar or a glazed ceramic pot. A plant in a plastic or glazed pot will not require as much water as those in an unglazed clay pot, because the unglazed earthenware pot allows water to evaporate throughout the day (water wicks through the pot). Glazed ceramic pots are the most expensive. In addition, plastic ones are cheapest.
When you are ready to put your plant in a pot, you will need to do a few things. You will need to buy a pot, a saucer, to put under the pot, soil, pebbles and fertilizer for the plant. African violets prefer a light loose potting soil that is high in organic matter and provides good drainage. Any container will work as long as it has drainage holes. If you prefer a more decorative effect, set your pot inside of the decorative container.
Cover each drainage hole in the base of the pot with pebbles. Fill the pot with half the soil and lower the plant there. After that, fill the rest of the pot. Slightly press down (compact)the soil with your fingers and add more soil. until it is planted.
As for the saucer, you need to make sure that there will be free space on it. Do not use a too small saucer. Concerning the soil, it is necessary to make sure that it is of good quality. You can use special soil for African violets, which will be your best choice.
The optimal location for your African violet is on a windowsill, ensuring to avoid direct sunlight. Even if in another place it will look better, it will not bloom as much as on the window. An Eastern facing window will provide the best light exposure. Should your plants not produce flowers, it's not getting enough light. If the leaves start turning brown at the edges or brown spotting appears, it's getting too much sunlight.
Although individual sub categories of Violets is not set in stone, here is the widely accepted general guideline. Plants are classified by one of several sizes, based on their aboveground diameter.
- Micro: less than 3 inches
- Super-mini: 3 to 4 inches
- Mini: between 4 and 6 inches
- Standard 6-10 inches
- Large 10+ inches
African violets love warmth, but not heat and prefer humidity of 50-60%; grow well in bright indirect light, but not direct sunlight.
The optimal temperature for adult violets is considered to be from 70 to 75 °F with a decrease at night to 64-68 °F. A little higher temperature is preferable for starters and growing young plants. Temperatures below 64 °F lead to a strong decrease in growth rates, and too high (stably exceeding 79 °F) - extremely unfavorable for flowering. Critical for violets are temperatures from 85 °F and above, as well as 55 °F, and below.
Heat typically goes hand in hand with excessive air dryness. In such conditions, violets do not lay buds, and flowers that have emerged from the already existing peduncles, turn out small and soon wither. To better avoid this scenario in the future increase the humidity around the plants and reduce the intensity of lighting (for example, reducing the length of daylight hours).
Too warm conditions often lead to the greening of variegated varieties. Variegated foliage coloring first becomes less bright, as if burnt, then it can disappear completely (in the first place, the warning refers to the crown type of variegation). With a decrease in temperature, such varieties are not restored soon, and only after a while, they begin to build up the mottled foliage by a new one, that is, the green leaves will remain so forever. Other varieties may not recover at all, and remain green, and this recessive sign will be transmitted to the offspring.
The most stable variegated variety can rightfully be considered those with a white border. In inappropriate conditions, the fringe color, can become thinner, but does not fade out.
Another evil that can occur with violets because of too high a temperature, is the rapid wilting of flowers.
Well, of course, in the heat of the soil in pots often dries so quickly that you simply do not have time to water the plants.
Thus, the optimal temperature for maintaining adults and growing new violets is 68-75 °F for variegated varieties and flowering specimens 64-70 ° F, but for young plants and planted cuttings the best option is 75-79 ° F, along with maintaining high humidity.
With violets are grown with artificial lighting, you are likely to encounter the problem of high temperatures, but you can overcome it by rationally using the shelf space. The lower shelves are excellent for placing variegated varieties and flowering plants, cuttings in little greenhouses are placed on the uppermost shelves.
Low temperatures (less than 60 ° F) have other consequences.
The growth of violets under such conditions slows down and can even stop and flower buds are not produced. Usually this situation occurs when the plants are kept on the windowsill in winter. If you cannot offer the violets a different place, make sure that there are no drafts on the window and the pots are not too close to the window's glass.
The soil in the violet pot, standing on a cold window should never be wet - this is fraught with hypothermia and decay of roots. Water your plants sparingly and occasionally, wait for a thorough drying (but not drying out!) before resuming your regular watering schedule.
Remember: for violets, there is nothing more dangerous than abrupt changes in growing conditions. Mainly this refers to temperature leaps. Such things, among others, cause serious damage to the plants immune system and this is true for all house plants!
Speaking about temperature, it must be understood that maintaining a constant temperature throughout the year is extremely important if you plan to grow violets for exhibitions. Only if healthy growing are met, will your violets grow in even rows of the same sized leaves, thus forming a symmetrical round rosette, and look luxurious.
The vast majority of violet growers face the problem of air dryness, at some time or another. For many collectible plants (orchids, ferns, streptocarpus) this factor is decisive. Violets are less finicky, as their ideal atmosphere is not much different from the conditions of our home, but still quite often we have to wonder: "how to increase the humidity level?"
The correct humidity level is mandatory to African violets and a humidity tray is recommended. Place the violet on a shallow tray with gravel or decorative marbles. A shallow layer of water will provide extra humidity as it evaporates. Do not sit the bottom of the pot in the water; this will cause the violet to become too wet and its roots will quickly rot.
Place plants in a common tray, filled with moistened sphagnum moss. Unfortunately, it often turns out that the moss may completely dry up in a couple of hours, and it's impossible to moisten it separately with your hands.
Therefore, it's best to group the plants and lower the temperature or reduce the amount of the light per day by an hour or two.
It's proven that plants standing together on the shelf rack, suffer from heat and dryness, much less than plants, standing alone on the window sill.
The common foliage carpet fuses with the increased evaporation of water, so in this scenario moss in the pallets will play its role. Please do not forget to ensure plants do not take away each other's living space by them overlapping leaves with neighboring plants.
In conditions of heat and dryness, use the greenhouses for starters and weakened plants for some reason. The greenhouse can do wonders! However, do not forget about airflow. The constant absolute humidity is also, to put it mildly, a big extreme.
A good method of combating air dryness (at high temperature) may be laying out the soil surface with moss-sphagnum. I use this method in the summer, it is very convenient and because it allows less frequent watering, since moss accumulates moisture and prevents its active evaporation. However, as soon as the heat subsides, I immediately clean the moss. Otherwise, the risk of water logging the soil and decaying is high. So be careful with watering the plants: do not over water them! Before watering, always check with your finger the degree of moisture in the pot.
Well, we got to the most interesting.
African violets like bright light, but not direct sun. The best location is a northern or eastern window. If there is too little light, the leaves will be thin and dark. Leaf stems will be long and thin as if they are stretching for the light. If there is too much light, the plants will look stunted with short leaf stems and small crinkled leathery leaves.
Where does one grow violets? "The rack, the rack ...", some who raise violets for their own enjoyment grimly murmur. I have between two and a dozen violets and after endless reading of "violet" articles, "How much can the growers talk about rack growing? Us violet collectors are about one theme - our collections and taking the best care of them but what type of shelving should I use when I'm starting out with only three and a half plants, having no clue how they will behave in my inexperienced hands? all? "
What can one say to this?
It would be unreasonable to build a greenhouse for the sake of several plants, with which you actually are hardly familiar. Nevertheless, you're reading this article, illustrating that you are indeed a person accustomed to logic and thoughtful approach. Therefore, I will propose a compromise: to start, buy one lamp.
My first violets were placed on a windowsill without direct sunlight. A fluorescent lamp was attached above, suspended with thin chains. The length of the lamp was 4feet with two 40-watt light tubes. The distance from the surface of the shelf to tubes was 1 foot. Literally after several days spent in new conditions; my pets experienced a truly breathtaking growth spurt. To date, this location remains the best and most successful location for my violets.
Perhaps the secret of such success lies in the northern orientation of the room, so that under the ceiling the violets are not hot, but just right. In addition, nothing warms the shelf from below, as it does on a multi-tier rack. Lamps are switched on daily for 8, 12 or 14 hours (but not more).
Having mastered the lamp and violets and as they say in the commercials, "feeling the difference", in time, with necessity, think about the rack. Moreover, collecting violets, a hobby hard-to-control, and starting with one or two random plants, after a while may well turn into many, many additional varieties.
However, let's say the option with artificial lighting is not something you're warmed up to yet (excuse the pun)and at the disposal of your violets still remains a window sill. Well, in this case, wait for spring to admire the flowering and growth. If you are new to growing - postpone the acquisition of leaf cuttings at least until February. From November to February, new cuttings on the window, which do not receive additional illumination, will still practically not seem to grow at all. Reproducing violets in February-March, place cuttings and young plants in the immediate vicinity of the window, but not on the windowsill itself. In windows of southern exposure, violets sometimes bloom in the winter, but this bloom is still incomparable with a true full-blown.
Do not feed wintering violets in the window from November to February and water them moderately.
Do not expect that violets, being under similar conditions, will grow the same as in photographs in magazines. Without having enough light, the petioles of the leaves are stretched and the leaf blades themselves grow smaller. The rosette of such a violet will not have the shape of a regular circle, as is the case with carefully grown plants on shelves. Thus, the senpolia, hibernating on the windowsill are categorically unfit for exhibitions, but they can quite successfully live there, if this circumstance is not fundamentally important to you or is it important for the year-round flowering in the house.
Personally, for me, a lush bloom in the cold season is the most desired gift and that is the reason why I originally noticed the flowers of violets.
We at RussionViolets.com know that effective watering of African violets remains a highly subjective and controversial topic among violet growers. The following remains our time proven strategy. Soil should be evenly moist while keeping the crown of the plant dry. Keep cold water off leaves. Water with aged, room temperature water only and never fresh tap water.
Watering the plant from the top is the easiest method. Water the surface of the soil until it starts to drip out the drainage holes. To water from the bottom, fill the saucer under the pot and let it stand until the soil surface is moist and then drain off the excess water. With either method, wait until the top inch of soil feels actually dry to the touch before watering again.
On the other hand, to water continuously, use a (synthetic) wick (yarn). Insert one end through a hole in the bottom of the pot and fray the end so it spreads over the entire bottom of the pot and also reaches up near the top of the soil. Place the plant into the pot and then place the wick into a water reservoir under the pot. The result is that the watering process will be continuous and the plant will draw only what it needs.
However, when plants are continuously watered from the bottom, salts tend to collect on the surface of the soil. Flush with clean water from the top about once a month to remove a plant damaging salt accumulation.
Use a water-soluble fertilizer that is labeled for blooming plants (Use one half the suggested dosage). Fertilize according to the package directions during the active growing season (spring, summer and fall). Omit fertilizer in the winter months, for sure!
Key Conditions for Growing African Violets
The optimal temperature
Adult Plants Daytime: 70-75F Night: 64-68F
Variegated Plants: 64-70F
Temperatures lower than 50 or higher than 95 are deadly for African Violets.
Lighting 10-14 hours daily. No direct sun.
Watering with room temperature, aged, chlorine free water. Never use fresh tap water, ever!
Fertilizing Use one-half the amount that the label suggests. Water three to four times with fertilizer and one time drench with only clean water.
Most importantly: ENJOY GROWING
Once you're comfortable, taking care of your African violet, tending will be second nature. If you take care of your plant correctly, it will grow very quickly. You will enjoy it's beauty every day and it will flower 60 to 9 months out of the year.
Once you know what to do, it's time to experiment and adjust your behavior according to the situation. Most importantly: Enjoy growing!