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Knowledge to Grow by Gail Daniels - African Violets

 

Gardeners love to have live plants around them and now that our outdoor growing season is pretty much over, we can concentrate on our indoor plants. African violets, one of America’s favorite houseplants, are very desirable for the indoor gardener. They have beautiful flowers that resemble small bouquets and easily spruce up any décor. They produce spectacular blooms all throughout the spring, summer and fall months.

The brightly colored velvet-leaved tropical plants are native to the coastal regions of Tanzania. They were brought to this country by a captain in the German Imperial Army in 1892 and became an immediate hit with gardeners.

African violets may be forgiving, but are not foolproof so you need a few basic gardening skills to be successful with them. The worst things you can do to African violets are to not provide proper watering and lighting conditions.

African violets like room temperature water and do not like to have wet leaves. The soil needs to be moist but take care not to let the soil become soggy. This can cause root rot and serious problems for the plant.

Proper lighting is important in getting the plant to produce flowers. African violets love around 12 to 16 hours of light a day. An east-facing window usually will provide an adequate supply of light. Professional growers and the seriously addicted use grow lights for best results. If possible, place the pots about 12 inches from the window glass so the sun doesn’t get too hot or too cold. A temperature of 60 to 70 degrees F is an ideal range for African violets.

Good air circulation is needed for the plant’s overall health, but they do not like to be placed in a draft. Humidity is to be encouraged when raising African violets and this can be accomplished by setting the pots in trays filled with gravel and topped off with water. Make sure the plant’s feet are not sitting in water, making the soil become soggy. As the water evaporates, ambient humidity is created, producing an ideal environment for African violets.

African violets need to be fed weekly. A specially formatted fertilizer for African violets available at plant centers in a concentrated liquid. A few drops to a quart of water is recommended. Follow directions on package.

Keep the plants well groomed and check them over for signs of disease and insects. If either is found, they may be treated with an appropriate insecticide or fungicide powder purchased at plant centers.

African violets will be happy in a four-inch or six-inch pot for quite a while, but can become overcrowded. When this happens, repot it in the next size larger pot using a good, loose potting soil for good drainage and air circulation. The potting soil can be purchased at plant centers or you can make your own mix. Vermiculite is a good additive to keep the soil loose.

Armed with these suggestions and a little bit of luck, you could become an expert on African violets.

The Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service can be reached at 499-6334 LaGrange County.