African Violets for One and
are the most popular houseplants in America, period.
Enduring symbols of friendship and faithfulness, African
violets have seemingly been around forever. Many of us
have nostalgic memories of the African violets that
always grew on our grandmothers' windowsills, charming
us with their fuzzy leaves and their perky blooms in
shades of blue, purple, and pink. In Grandmother's day,
there weren't all that many varieties African violets to
choose from. She might be surprised to learn that today,
there are more than 14,000 different named African
And while that
number may seem mind-boggling for most of us, to a real
African violet enthusiast, the possibilities are
endless. There's always another new combination of
blossom color, petal shape, flower size, foliage
texture, or leaf outline to be discovered among the
millions of seedlings that African violet hybridizers
create every year.
African violets were discovered in 1890 by Baron Walter
von Saint Paul, a German explorer who found them growing
in the crevices of rocks in East Africa, in what is now
known as Tanzania. He sent some of the plants back home
to his father, who gave them their botanical name,
Saintpaulia ionantha (which in Latin means
"with violet flowers"). It wasn't until 1920 that the
African violet was introduced in the United States, but
because it requires a warm atmosphere (between 65-75? it
did not become a popular houseplant until central
heating was installed in households. More than 20
species of African violets have since been discovered,
and hybridizers have had a field day crossing from these
original species to develop the thousands of varieties
we enjoy today.
hybridizers and fanciers delight in the minute details
of the plants. For example, blossoms are categorized by
several different characteristics, including:
number of petals:
single, semi-double, or double
bell-shaped, wasp (narrow petals), etc.
edge: fringed, rippled,
different color, etc.
(striped), fantasy (splotched or streaked), etc.
Some of the
defining features of African violet foliage include:
shape: pointed, ovate,
spoon, spider (elongated), etc.
crested, ruffled, fringed, tailored, etc.
supreme (thick and hairy), etc.
crown, mosaic, etc.
As you can
imagine, the possible combinations of African violet
characteristics are practically endless. And although
blues, purples, pinks and whites still dominate the
color selection, there are African violets available
today in shades of red, yellow, and even green. A true
orange seems to be the color that is still elusive to
African violet breeders.
care is fairly easy. In general, soil should be kept
moist but never soggy. Avoid getting water in the leaves
or letting water settle in the crown or center of the
plant, which can quickly lead to rotting. Use room
temperature water. Some African violet growers use a
wicking system for watering their plants, placing the
pots upon a mat of absorbent material that's kept moist.
This process allows the plants to draw water up from the
bottom. Allow for some air movement around the plants at
all times to prevent mold or fungus diseases.
plants grow best in bright shade. A north-facing window
is usually ideal; the plants can receive bright light
without direct sun, which can bleach or burn the leaves.
It is important that African violets receive at least
eight hours of darkness each night in order to promote
blooming. Even the light from a lamp or an overhead
fixture can disrupt this cycle, known as the "photo
period" (the daily amount of light and darkness required
to initiate flowering). Many enthusiasts prefer to grow
their African violets under lights, allowing them to
maintain absolute control over the amount and quality of
light their plants receive.
African violets regularly with a "balanced" fertilizer,
one in which the three numbers on the label (that
represent the available amounts of nitrogen,
phosphorous, and potash, respectively) are equal or
nearly so. Follow the directions on the package as to
the frequency of application. It's important to avoid
over-feeding, because it can cause cracked leaves and
will actually impede flowering. Be certain that the
fertilizer you use is 100% water soluble, which allows
it to be fully utilized by your African violet plants.
Its also a good idea to periodically leach the soil in
the pot by pouring water through the soil until it runs
out the drainage holes. This process helps to eliminate
the buildup of fertilizer salts that can damage the
African violet's tender feeder roots.
information about African violets, visit the website of
Violet Society of America or AboutFlowers.com. Also, check with
your area botanical garden to see if there is a local
group of African violet fanciers whose meetings you
might attend. Whether you're adding to your own
collection or sending an African violet plant to someone
locally or out of town, your neighborhood florist is a
valuable local source for discovering some of the new
African violet varieties. And if you've never tried
growing African violets, maybe now is the time to start.
They're not just for grandmothers after all.
*This article is cited from