The African violet or saintpaulia is a type of flowering plant that is native to Kenya and Tanzania. It is not a true violet, but the flowers look similar to real violets. The flowers are always pink to purple in color. This is a perennial, but it commonly grown as a house plant since it requires constantly warm temperatures. African violets can grow up to 100 feet in the wild, but they generally only grow a few feet tall indoors. Grow African violets in full shade to part sun. Three main types of African violets are grown: variegated, rosette and trailing.
Variegated foliage African violets are named this way because their leaves don’t have consistent pigmentation. Generally, they have white edges or spots on the leaves. This variegated pigmentation is due to a recessive mutation in the plant’s cytoplasm, which is the clear liquid located between cell membranes. This mutation causes the plant to create less chlorophyll, which gives the leaves their green coloring. Three main types of variegated foliage mutations exist: crown, Tommie Lou and mosaic. Crown means that the leaves start out white and then turn green as the plant grows. Tommie Lou leaves have a white edge running around the length of the leaf. Mosaic or Jarrett leaves are covered with white spots. Variegated foliage African violets prefer temperatures between 68 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit during the day and 58 degrees Fahrenheit at night.
Rosette African violets have very short stems and internodes, which is the section of the plant located between two nodes. The leaves branch out from the main stalk and hang downwards, making this an ideal hanging plant. The leaves are broad and end in a point. These plants can grow up to 2-feet wide and up to 1-foot tall. The flower of this plant rises a few inches above the actual plant, and each stalk can have up to 10 flowers on it.
Trailing African violets grow two ways: bush-like or downwards. The bush-like trailing African violet grows upwards and looks similar to a bush or small tree. The downward growing violet grows either almost vertically or completely downwards. These violets may have multiple crowns, and are known as Caulescent Violets. Propagate these violets by either cuttings or leaves. The reason that these plants are called trailing is that the stems between the nodes are extremely long, and these plants are commonly used as hanging plants. The bush-like violet will slightly hang over the sides of the pot. Use larger pots, generally 6 to 8 inches wide, for this type of African violet.