Chances are you or someone you know (your grandma, maybe?) owns or has owned an African violet. They’re the standbys and workhorses of every garden center – and perhaps the most well-known of all the houseplants. But, they’re lovely, so it’s a well-earned place. And there are so many varieties and hybrids available that you could amass quite a collection of them – and then join the African Violet Society of America (or a local chapter) so you can show them off and collect more!
I don’t know that my little African violet would be welcome at any societies or conventions, since I don’t really know its heritage, but it’s blooming right now and is a cheery addition to my windowsill.
African violets are great houseplants for a couple of reasons – they are one of the few relatively easy-to-care-for plants that will bloom reliably and repeatedly (in fact, it’s the only plant I own that I own for the flowers and not the foliage), and they are great for sharing! Sometimes your plant will grow multiple crowns, or daughter plants (kind of like the spider plant, but less spiderish and more clumpish) and you can divide that part off and re-pot it into a pot of its own. Or, if it doesn’t have any daughter plants, it still will root easily from a leaf. Just pluck a leaf off, put it in some potting soil, water it well (and frequently – you don’t want it to dry out) and soon enough you’ll have a new baby African violet.
Like so many of my plants (this one and this one, for example), that is how my African violet got it’s start – a cutting from someone else’s. The thing is, I don’t remember where it came from, but the plant I thought it came from has very different flowers (kind of ruffly petals that are both purple and white), so I’m suspecting that I’m wrong. Regardless of it’s foggy past, it continues to be a great little part of my collection.
A few things to remember about African violets:
- They don’t like their leaves wet. Typical of many fuzzy-leaved plants, water on the leaves can cause discoloration or dead spots. So, lift up the leaves when you give it a drink.
- They don’t really like the cold, but, if your sunniest location is on a windowsill (like mine) you’ll be better off giving it light. It just might be a little slower growing with a little more down time between flowerings.
- To get really consistent flowering, make sure to feed it regularly. And by “feed”, I mean give it a bit of fertilizer (you can find some African violet specific liquid fertilizers that do very nicely, and they will tell you how much to add on the label) every other or every third time you water. And speaking of watering…
- This is one plant that needs to be watered more often than some of the others I’ve talked about (I’m looking at you ZZ plant). I water mine weekly through the winter, and possibly bi-weekly in the summer. When in doubt, always check to see how the soil feels – does it crumble away (it needs water now!) or does it kind of stick to your finger (it could probably wait another day or two).
Do you have any African violets? Are you an expert, belonging to a society, with really unique varieties? We’d love to hear your tips and stories (and will happily receive any cuttings you’d want to send my way…)