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How to Maintain African Violets


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African violets (Saintpaulia ionantha) are popular houseplants and seldom grow more than six inches tall. Although the original color of the bloom is deep violet, varieties of the plant produce blooms that are pink, blue and, in some cases, two colors of the noted shades. Maintaining the plants includes providing them sufficient light, giving them the proper amount of water, keeping their leaves clean and pest-free, supplying them with the right potting mix and fertilizing them on a routine basis.

Difficulty:
Moderate

Instructions

things you’ll need:
  • Potting mix (1/4 potting soil, 1/4 finely chopped pine bark, 1/4 peat moss and 1/4 sand)
  • Water
  • Fertilizer (fish and kelp)
  • Sprayer for misting
  • Secateurs
  • Rooting medium (1/2 sand and 1/2 peat moss)
  • 4-inch clay containers
    1. Give the plants adequate lighting. From April to October, place the plants in natural indirect light. From late fall to mid-spring, place the plants so that they receive both natural, indirect light and two hours of direct sunlight daily. These plants thrive when exposed to 14 hours of light per day; a fluorescent light source can be used in the winter months to keep the plants flourishing.
    2. Water African violets at room temperature on a bi-weekly basis. Water the plants from the bottom by placing each pot in a container of water and permitting the water to seep through the pots’ drainage holes. Also, water from the top on a weekly basis to keep the soil from forming a crust, which can cut off air to the root system. Generally, if you water the plants so the soil is moist and not soggy, you will give them an adequate supply of water. Mist the plants when the humidity is low, but only in the early part of the day, out of direct sunlight.
    3. Bathe the leaves monthly with a solution of one tablespoon mild dishwashing soap in a pint of warm water to keep the plants pest-free. Use a soft cloth and gently clean the surface and bottom of the leaves with the solution.
    4. Feed the plants on a monthly basis with a water-soluble commercial fertilizer made of fish and kelp. Such a solution keeps the leaves from burning.
    5. Propagate the plant by using the secateurs to clip individual leaves with about two inches of stem attached. Insert the cuttings in a mix of 1/2 part peat moss and 1/2 part sand, with the stems buried up to each leaf’s base. Once the plant has rooted, transfer it to a 4-inch pot with a soil mix of 1/4 part potting soil, 1/4 part finely chopped pine bark, 1/4 part peat moss and 1/4 part sand.

Tips & Warnings

  • Place African violets in 4-inch pots. This is the size of container that most horticulturalists recommend.

  • African violets thrive in temperatures between 60 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

  • Don’t give an African violet too much light, as doing so will burn the plant’s leaves.

  • Do not use cold water when watering the plants, as this can cause white spots to form on the leaves.

  • Failure to blossom is usually attributed to inadequate lighting, low humidity, cold water or high temperatures.

  • The chief pests of African violets are mealy bugs and mites. Remove mealy bugs, which look like small fragments of cotton, by swabbing rubbing alcohol between the leaves where they form.

  • If you suspect a plant has been infested, set it away from other plants in your home until the pests have been eradicated.

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