Saintpaulia – African Violet
DESCRIPTION: These compact, delicate plants are from central Africa. They form clusters of ovate leaves close to the soil. The leaves and stems are dark green on top, greenish-white underneath, succulent and fuzzy. The pretty flowers resemble large Violets in their shape and color, some are blue, purple, white, pink or magenta and they have little yellow centers. They bloom at any time of the year. They are known as African Violets. These are great as greenhouse plants and are very popular houseplants.
POTTING: When planting in a warm greenhouse these plants need a minimum winter temperature of 55-60 degrees. The soil should be a mixture of equal parts of loam, leaf mold and peat moss, with an addition of sand. As house plants they should be provided with good light, but shaded from harsh sunlight and a temperature between 60 and 70 degrees. The soil should be moist and always avoid getting the leaves wet. They should be set away from dry heat such as radiators. The humidity level can be increased for these plants by setting the pots on shallow trays of sand, cinders, gravel or moss that is always kept moist.
PROPAGATION: Mature leaves can be detached with the leafstalks and inserted in a well-drained pan of sand or sand and peat moss, or vermiculite. Water them and place in a propagating case in a warm greenhouse, in a terrarium, or under a bell jar or an inverted Mason jar. Shade them from direct sunshine and keep them moist and closed, only enough ventilation to keep moisture from collecting on the inside of the glass. When they form roots and shoots peek out of the soil, they can be potted in small pots and later, in 4-inch pots. Seeds that are sown in February will produce plants that bloom in late summer.
Sow them in a well-drained pot filled with finely sifted compost. Don’t cover the seeds with soil because they are so small. Just sprinkle with a little bit of sand. Lay a pane of glass over them and place in a warm propagating case that has a temperature of 60-70 degrees. Shade them from direct sunlight.
As soon as they are large enough to handle, transplant them to a pan of finely sifted soil at an inch apart. They need to be watered very carefully to prevent them from damping off (a diseased condition). As soon as they start to get crowded, pot them separately and treat them as advised for those grown from leaf cuttings.
In the spring, these plants can also be divided. Take them out of their pots and pull them apart so each piece has some roots attached and pot them in separate small pots. Water the plants in moderation and when they are established, keep the soil evenly moist and apply a liquid fertilizer weekly until the flowers open. After the flowers have faded, let them rest by keeping the soil a bit drier than usual. Only water when the soil is nearly dry. From spring through early fall, they need shade from bright sunshine. No shading is required the rest of the year.
Wet the greenhouse floor and benches to add humidity, but never the foliage.
VARIETIES: S. ionantha; S. amaniensis; S. diplotricha; S. kewensis; S. grotei; S. magungensis; S. tongwensis; S. pusilla.