African violets and care
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View our 'plant care' pages for advice and culture tips. Basic care advice below.
Saintpaulia, a.k.a. the 'African violet'
African violets (or Saintpaulia) are a genus of plants within the Gesneriad family. Discovered in 1892 by Baron von St Paul (hence the botanical name), many species can still be found growing in the Eastern Arc Mountains of Tanzania and Kenya. Though their geography is tropical, most species reside in the mountains, at altitude, and under the cover of other plants. This makes African violets ideal for the indoor home garden or window--requiring only moderate ("room") temperatures and light. Though many of the native Saintpaulia are now threatened by loss of habitat, millions of their modern descendants are grown throughout the world in homes of collectors and hobbyists. As you'll see by viewing our site and catalog, modern African violet hybrids can be spectacular and very different from the simple species first discovered more than a century ago. Much information about their care and environment can be found throughout these pages.
This month's tips: More can be found on our "plant care" pages.....
A comment on "African violet" soil, "violet" pots, and "African violet" food. Used together, they may do your violets more harm than good! If you use self-watering pots, it is best not to use the typical "African violet" soils typically found for sale at your department store or garden center. Because these pots will keep your plants constantly wet, you need a soil containing lots (at least 50%) perlite, which these commercially packaged soils rarely have. Add some perlite to your mix if using such a soil. As for African violet food, most typically contain more phosphorus (the middle number in the formula) than is necessary for good blooming. Like most living things, African violets need a balanced diet--look for a general-purpose houseplant food instead. These will have formulas that are more equal in major nutrients, like a "5-5-5" or "15-16-17" or the like (numbers closer together).
Did you know that African violets (actually most plants) need to be regulary repotted, even when they don't outgrow their pot? Repotting doesn't always mean going into a larger pot--if the root system hasn't filled the current pot, there is no need for a larger pot. African violets do need fresh soil around their roots to remain healthy, though. This means that you should repot your violet, repacing some of the old soil with fresh soil, at least once a year. Ideally, this can be done every 6 months. "How to" demonstrations of repotting African violets can be found on our "plant care" pages.
Can't get your African violet to bloom? If you've done everything else properly, the leaves are healthy and the plant is growing, it probably needs more light. You want to provide your violet with as much light as possible, avoiding direct, hot, sun. African violets should also be grown with only one crown (growing center)--if you have suckers (extra crowns or side shoots), remove these since this will cause violets to bloom less, or not at all. Also, since African violets typically only bloom from the newer growth, you can remove older, unnecessary foliage from the bottom rows. If you have more than 15 leaves or so, you have too many--after all, you want more blooms, not more leaves!
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We're famous for our miniature and trailing African violet hybrids. All 'Rob's' varieties are proven, show-quality plants that grow and bloom readily, even under less than ideal conditions. They are bred to shape nicely, bloom continually, and typically will have unusually colored and larger than average-size blooms.
All of our African violets do well under either artificial or natural light. We also grow many standard-size varieties (actually more than we do minis!). Our 'Ma's' varieties of standard-sized violets possess the same characteristics and have become favorites of both hobbyist and collector. We grow only superior varieties that grow and bloom easily. We have no interest in growing "problem plants". Most will also make excellent show plants for those interested in exhibition.
For basic growing suggestions, go to the bottom of this page.
Mininiature African violets. We specialize in miniature and semiminiature African violets. When mature, miniatures grow to less than 6" in diameter, semiminis to less than 8". With proper culture, actual plant size can be much smaller in practice. Because these are small-growing plants and have small root systems, never use a pot bigger than 2 1/2" in diameter.
Pictured at left: 'Rob's
Trailing African Violets have a naturally crawling or spreading habit. These African violets produce branches or "runners" which then often grow along the soil surface, rooting and branching as they grow. They can be grown either as ground-covers or as hanging plants. Though their leaf size will remain constant, the size of the plant is limited only by the grower. Care is identical to that of other African violets.
Pictured at left: 'Rob's Boolaroo', a Best in Show exhibit
Standard African violets are those varieties that, when mature, will exceed 8" in diameter. In practice, most grow to about 10-12". When grown for exhibition, they can exceed 18-24" across. We grow only those varieties that we deem superior to others in growth habit and bloom. These aren't your usual, run-of-the mill supermarket African violets! Only their size is ordinary.
Pictured at left: Olive with a 'Best in Show' exhibit, 'Opera's il Straniero'
Chimera African violets are plants for which propagation by leaf cuttings will not produce plantlets identical to the original plant. These are typically the "pinwheel" blossomed varieties that show broad center and side stripes of different colors. These are quite unusual, genetically more rare, and can be propagated only by suckers. Care is identical to that of other African violets. Both miniature and standard chimera African violets are available.
Basic Care of African Violets
Light. Adequate light is important for good growth and bloom. Try to provide bright, but not not, sunlight. If growing under artificial lights, place a two-tube florescent fixture about 12-18" above plants for 12-13 hours each day.
Watering. Use room-temperature water. Water when the soil feels "dry to the touch".
Feeding. A 'balanced' formula is best (relatively equal amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium). Avoid "bloom boosters". Use each watering, following the directions for that fertilizer.
Atmosphere. African violets like the same conditions you do--moderate temperatures and humidity. If you feel comfortable, so do they.
Soil. Use a peat-based, "soilless" mix consisting of at least 30-50% coarse vermiculite and/or perlite. Brand-name "violet soils" are NOT necessarily good for African violets! General rule: the wetter you keep the soil, the more perlite it should contain.
Grooming. Exept for trailers, do not allow extra crowns (suckers) to develop. African violets should be grown single-crowned. Most African violets look best with no more than 5 rows of leaves.
Potting. Repot all plants every 6-12 months. Most standard African violets, grown as a houseplant, will require a 4-5" pot at maturity. For minis and semiminis, us a pot no larger than 2 1/2" in diameter.