The African Violet or Saintpaulia was discovered over 100 years ago by Baron Walter Von St. Paul in the East African territory of Tanzania. In the wild, the species violets can be found growing in crevices of rocks in organic material. The temperatures are warm with the humidity averaging 70% to 80%. African Violets belong to the Gesneriaceae family. There are 20 recognized species. Since their discovery African Violets have been hybridized with tremendous results. Today we have access to large growing standards, standards, trailers, semi-miniatures, miniatures and micro-miniatures. All types of flower shapes, sizes and colors can be enjoyed along with different leaf types. The flower blossoms are classified by the following categories:
Single, Star, Wasp, Geneva (white edged), Ruffled Single, Edged Single, Single Geneva, Multi-Colored Single, Ruffled Star, RUffled Geneva Star, Semi-Double, Multi-Colored Semi-Double, Double, Ruffled Double, Edged Double, Double Geneva, Multi-Colored Double and Fantasy Blossoms (splashes with contrasting colors).
The leaves are categorized as:
Boy Type, Girl Type, Spooned, Plain Tailored, Serrated, Quilted, Longifolia, Curly, Holly, Ruffled, Variegated, Supreme and Piggyback.
When purchasing an African Violet, look for healthy and vigorous growing plants. The leaves should extend outward and present a firm appearance. Shiny leaves also indicate good health.
African Violets like temperatures around 75 degrees Farenheit and no lower than 50 degrees. Drafts should be avoided. Around 5 hours of bright light is considered ideal. Direct sunlight is not recommended. A northern window exposure is perfect, A sheer curtain can be used to block the sun in windows that receive the direct light. When using a natural light source place your hand 12" above the plant. A bright shadow should be cast. Make sure your violets are rotated during the month so that the plant leaves receive sufficient light and grow evenly. If the violet leaves lift upwards, increase the light. If the leaves curl downward around the pot reduce the light exposure. Without enough light the plant will not bloom. Artificial light can be used with good success. The plants should receive light 12 to 14 hours a day from the light source. Good air circulation is also an important requirement.
Violets like a loose and porous soilless mixture. A recommended mixture is 1 part perlite, 2 parts peat and 1 part vermiculite. Repot every 6 months or at least once a year with new medium and container. If your violet develops a "neck" repotting is the best solution. Bulb pans or shallow pots are preferred containers. Do not over pot. Violets can grow to 3 times the size of the pot. A 4" violet can grow to 12" in a 4" pot. When repotting make sure the plant sits above the soil line. Only the roots should be planted below. The leaves should sit on the edge of the pot.
African Violets like moisture and at 50% (70% is ideal) humidity. Violets do not like to dry out nor do they like to much water around their roots. Wick watering (Wicking is the drawing of water from a reservoir into the containers of the potted plant by various wicking materials.) is ideal for growing violets as they allow the roots to stay evenly moist plus supply humidity. Trays filled with gravel are also recommended. Then watering your plant avoid wetting the crown and leaves if possible. Do not wet the foliage if your violet is in the sunlight as damage may occur. Cold water should also be avoided. Underwatering is preferable to overwatering.
Feed your violet with one of the specially fgrmulated water soluble violet fertilizers once a month. Slow release fertilizers can also be used. Watch for any salt build up by flushing your container periodically. Use well water when possible. Tap water should be allowed to sit. When wick watering, fertilize 1 tablespoon per gallon every 2 weeks or once a month. Plants should be watered with plain water in-between fertilizing.
Remove yellowing or withered leaves, spent blooms and blossom stalks. Dust should not be allowed to accumulate on the leaves. New plantlets or side shoots should be removed in order to encourage flowering on standard violets. Side-shoots on trailers should be encouraged.
Violets propagate by leaf cuttings, side-shoots, flower stems, divisions and seeds. Propagation can be done any time of the year.
Courtesy of: Palm Hammock Orchid Estate - 9995 S.W. 66 St. - Miami, Fl 33173 (305) 274-9813 www.palmhammock.com