African violets

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I like to have something in continuously in bloom. In the dead of winter I can count on my African violets and orchids for blooms I can enjoy inside.  Most of my African violets are the variegated variety, a combination of white, green and in some cases pink on the leaves.

Adequate light is very important to get good blooms. A window with strong bright light is excellent. When grown in a window, you will want to turn the pot 1/4 turn each day or so to keep the plant from growing sideways toward the light. Mine usually only get turned during watering once a week, so they are leaning heavily toward the light. Violets also do well under fluorescent lights.

Watering: Use room temperature water only when the top of the soil feels slightly dry. I water mine on Saturdays. I have a plastic bucket that I keep in my spare bathtub with water that’s been sitting for at least 24 hrs to get rid of the chlorine and let the salts settle out.  My 4 inch pots have a watering port at the bottom and the water absorbs up from the bottom.  I used to use the wick system and didn’t like it. Algae will grow in the watering container, If you drop it you have algae water everywhere. You can water the plants from the top, but you need to avoid getting water in the center crown. Getting the leaves wet and  exposing the plant to direct sun will result in water spots.

Fertilizer:  I like to use a natural liquid fertilizer on my violets from my worm composter.  I’ll pour about a fourth cup in a  2 quart watering can when watering each week.  Lack of fertilizer or infrequent fertilization will result in skimpy blooms.

Temperature: Violets thrive at the same temperatures people feel are comfortable.  If you are comfortable not too hot or not too cold they are happy. Humidity should be 40% to 50% which is also what you are comfortable with.

Pests:  Fungus gnats are the only pest problems I’ve had problems with.  They look like very  tiny black flies that like to invade and live in wet potting mix and cause crown rot.  A gift plant apparently had it and I lost several of my violets before realizing what they were.  I allowed my plants to dry to the extreme and had a vacuum cleaner handy to suck them up, especially during watering times. They are very active during this time.  BT a bacteria used on caterpillars in the garden is also a treatment option.  Sticky traps are another option.

Repotting:  Ideally violets should be repotted every 6 months. With my busy schedule it’s usually yearly.  I have an excel spreadsheet that I keep up with who has and hasn’t been repotted. With around 50 in my windows, I usually will do 4 to 6 during rainy days when outside work can’t be done.  This is my home made potting soil. Mix all ingredients well.

1 part vermiculite

1 part milled sphagnum moss

1 part potting soil

1/4 part  vericompost (from worm composter minus the earthworms)

A few pieces of small charcoal chunks for each plant

Dash of bone meal

To sterilize the mix, I sit the closed plastic bin out in the the hot summer sun. That will just about cook anything.

Shoals area source of plants: For a locally grown source of African violets and also to help a good cause is at the Arc of the Shoals (Hope Haven) Adult Training Center. They are getting my excess leaves and others for starting plants in the garden training program.  Phone number 256-383-1472.

5 replies to “African violets

  1. Mary,
    I really enjoyed the info on African Violets! My grandma always had her kitchen windows full.
    I never had much luck with them.

  2. Mary,
    I really enjoyed this blog on violets. I learned a lot. I have never been a good violet grower. So, maybe I will take your tips and give it a try!
    Thanks for your wonderful blog!

  3. Mary, Do you have a list of resources for mail order African Violets? My favorites are the Miniatures and Variegated varieties. Like others, my Grandmother had them and instilled the love I have for them and all house plants for that matter.

    I am really loving your Blog too!

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