African violet

by M. Arjoca,

Blue African violetThe African violets have little blue, purple, white or pink flowers and sometimes with different shades combination. The flowers have a single or more rows of petals and some hybrids make flowers with curly shapes.
Because her flowers resemble violets, her name is African violet or Saintpaulia violet. She is native to Africa where she grows in rainforests, in a warm, humid environment. Gloxinia and Streptocarpus are related to her.
The African violet is a short plant, ideal for north or east facing windows. She has round or oval leaves that are covered with hairs. She can be also grown outside.
Though their natural environment is a warm and humid one, the African violets can not stand water on their leaves and neither the sloppy soil. The hairs on the leaves make the water evaporates slowly and this can cause rot or spots on leaves. That’s why it is better to pour the water in the saucer, taking care not to sprinkle the leaves. Let the tap water stay a while before you use it, because this plant loves clean water, without additives.
The soil must provide a good drainage because not only the leaves can rot but also the roots. You can buy potting mix especially for African violets, but you can make one yourself, adding enough sand that let the water flow. The pot you use, must have drain holes and saucer. The African violets prefer slightly acidic soil (pH: 6.0-6.5).
Purple African violetThe African violet loves the moisture but not on leaves or at the roots. Some gardeners try to reproduce her natural environment, putting in the saucer gravel and pouring water on it. Then they set the pot on this gravel, so the plant absorbs just the right quantity of water she needs, and the rest of it evaporates around her. This way the water stimulates the plant, but not it doesn't hurt her.
The African violet needs light, but not strong or direct light. That’s why she is suited to north or east facing windows, to spots with partial shade. But this doesn’t mean that the total shade is good for her. If she doesn’t receive enough light, she won't bloom and if she has too much of it, brown spots can appear on her leaves or on the margins of the leaves.
The pot you use doesn’t have to be too high, but must have drain holes and saucer.
The African violet doesn’t resist to frost. She loves the warmth and the humidity, but the temperature that rises suddenly can shock her.
The propagation can be done through leaves. Take healthy leaves from an adult plant and put them in jar with water. Take care that the water doesn’t touch the leaf, just the leaf stem. You can cover the jar with a sheet in which you drill a hole. Stick the leaf stem through this hole. This way the leaf will stay on the sheet, without touching the water and reducing the danger of rot. You can drill another hole in the sheet and you can pour water through this hole in the jar, without disturbing the leaf. After about 6 weeks the leaf will have roots and you can pot it.
Dark blue African violetThe dangers in her case can be:
- excessive watering which may cause the rot of the roots, leaves and the flowers. In some cases you can still save the plant if you clean the rotted part and put the healthy one in a new pot with clean, healthy soil. Because of the excessive watering different molds can form on leaves and flowers. So water carefully, always in the saucer, taking care that the soil will not be sloppy. Also it is good to ventilate the air to prevent the mold.
- strong light can cause spots on leaves.
- the cold water can shock the plant.
- the pest insects that can attack her are: the aphids, mealybugs and the thrips.
If you offer her the right conditions the African violet can bloom almost all year (9 months has blooms and 3 months rests). To keep a healthy, beautiful image, remove the dead leaves and the dead flowers. To keep the plant blooming and to look better, some gardeners remove the lateral babies, letting just the central stem.
The African violets are happy, colorful flowers, ideal for partial shade.

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