The wide assortment of colors, flower forms, and foliage to be found in African violets has made them a popular houseplant to collect. Propagating them has become a fascinating and absorbing hobby that’s easy to manage.
Today’s beautiful flowers must be seen to be appreciated. They are a far cry from the early ones with their small, yellow-eyed violet-blue flowers. Now one may enjoy exquisite flowers that are single, double, ruffled, and fringed. Besides rich dark purple, there are delicate blue, orchid, luscious pink and raspberry, waxy white, and lovely bi-colored blossoms.
The foliage too, is very handsome. Leaves may be stiff and heavy, waved, scalloped, or attractively patterned. The terms “boy” and “girl” refer only to the foliage. One of the first plants was named Blue Boy. A sport from this had a large white area in each leaf and was named Blue Girl. Plants with this type of foliage are now known as “girl” types.
- Soil should be sterilized. One may buy African violet potting soil or sterilize soil at home by baking it in the oven for about an hour at 250°.
- A mixture of soil, sand and humus is used.
- It is important to mix with the soil a liberal amount of material which will improve drainage: vermiculite, peat moss, compost, and coarse sand.
- Keep in a sunny place. When the sun increases in intensity during the summer, a thin curtain will protect them.
- Too much sun will result in short stems and yellowing of the leaves.
- Too little sun makes the leaves lengthen, as if reaching for the sun.
- Humidity is essential to its well-being. To overcome the dryness found in so many homes today, set the pots on sand or pebbles in a pan of water.
- A third requirement for lovely flowers is regular feeding. A soluble or liquid fertilizer should be given every few weeks, according to the directions on the package.
- This is easily propagated, remove the entire leaf from a mature plant and trim off the end of the stem.
- Put it in wet sand, vermiculite or water until tiny roots form. This is usually in a couple of weeks but may vary.
- Little plants will form. When they are large enough to handle, separate them gently and plant in small pots.
- Water whenever the soil feels dry to the touch. The water must soak in quickly and not remain long on the surface. Make sure to empty any water that has come through to the saucer (if pot is not resting above the water on sand or pebbles). Do not get the leaves wet, if they do get wet white or yellow rings and lines may appear on them.
- If they are provided with sufficient light, humidity and food, they thrive and will respond with an abundance of bloom.
- Insufficient light may be a cause of non-bloom.
- Protect from night time chills by covering the window with a curtain or separating the plant and the window with a thick piece of cardboard. The violet can darken and wither if it gets chilled.
It is not necessary to be a collector of African violets to enjoy their charm. Use them for a spot of color and interest on a small table, a sunny window sill, a shelf, or on a coffee table.
Source: The WorkBasket, 1962 (with some additions & editing)