Planting Beautiful Violets in Your Home Garden


Planting Beautiful Violets in Your Home Garden

Planting Beautiful Violets in Your Home GardenPlanting Beautiful Violets in Your Home Garden

Violets are beautiful flowers that you will no doubt want to plant in your home garden. Whether you want to cultivate blue, African or any other variety of violets, you should have a basic comprehension of how to successfully grow the plants. Sowing the seeds is simple, and you should expect a new violet plant to sprout after as little as nine weeks.

The first thing you will have to consider is where you will be growing your violets. A medium based on your particular growing needs is best with which to start. It is essential that the surface be fine-grade and kept well aerated. If you live in an area that is very humid, use a lighter mix of soil. Pasteurized peat moss and milled coconut coir mixed with fine, crushed perlite are excellent options. If you use commercially available starting seed mix, you will have to pasteurize it yourself to reduce the risk of pests, molds and other fungi.

Violets require a good container for growing, and one that is shallow with drainage holes and a clear cover is ideal. Salad bar take-out containers are a good choice so long as there are holes made into the bottom. Keep in mind that the housing should also be large enough to accommodate the number of seeds you are planting.

Regularly and thoroughly moisten the container for growing your seeds, allowing it to drain. The dirt should be moist enough to hold together by hand when squeezed. Don’t make the container too wet, as the container will be covered, which will minimize evaporation. Once the seeds are planted, regularly mist the soil with water from a spray bottle to ensure regular moisture. Keep the plants away from windows and fans to prevent the seeds from blowing away.

Direct the seeds into the container and soil by releasing them onto a creased piece of heavy paper. This will ensure that all the seeds go into the container rather than accidentally landing elsewhere. Make sure the seeds disperse evenly throughout the dirt, or else you will have to later move them apart to allow adequate room for growth. Don’t cover the seeds with soil; they should sit on the surface and get access to direct light for germination. Cover the container with a clear plastic wrap or cover and place a light about 10 inches overhead so the plant receives 12 to 14 hours of light per day.

If you follow all the proper steps in the planting process, your violets will germinate within anywhere from nine to 60 days.

Planting African Violet Seeds

Planting African violet seeds requires a basic understanding of the requirements for successful seed germination: light, warmth, and moisture. Sowing seeds is a simple but rewarding process, with new African violet plantlets sprouting as early as 9 weeks.

Following are basic instructions on how to grow plants from African violet seeds. This method of seed sowing can also be used for gloxinia seed, streptocarpus seed, and most other gesneriad seeds.

How to Grow African Violets from Seed

Choosing a Growing Medium – Potting Soil or Soilless Mix

There are many options for seed starting, and you should choose a medium based on your particular growing conditions. The most important consideration is that the surface medium is fine grade and well-aerated. If you live in an area with high humidity you should aim for a lighter mix. One option is to use pasteurized peat moss or milled coconut coir mixed with fine, crushed perlite. You can use commercially available seed starting a mix, but be sure to pasteurize it to reduce the opportunity for molds, fungi, and pests to take hold. Some people have success with 100% fine-grade vermiculite, and many use a combination of peat, perlite, and vermiculite.

Choosing a Growing Container – Open Tray, Closed Propagation Dome or Mini Greenhouse

The best type of growing container is a shallow one with drainage holes and a clear cover. Large salad bar or take-out containers work well. Holes can be punched in the bottom with an awl or ice pick, drilled with a hand drill, or burned through with a soldering iron. (If you use a soldering iron be sure to have adequate ventilation ~ plastic fumes are toxic.) The container should be large enough to accommodate the number of seeds being planted, so if you are sowing 25 seeds the container should be 10 x 12 in. minimum.

African violet plantlets

Planting African Violet Seeds (or any Gesneriad Seed)

Thoroughly moisten the growing medium and allow it to drain. It should be moist enough to just hold together when squeezed by hand. It is important that the medium not be too wet since the container will be covered to minimize evaporation. Fill the container with medium to a height of about 2 in. deep. Spray the top of the medium lightly with water. (Now would be a good time to close windows and turn off fans since African violet seeds are like dust and can be easily blown away.)

Take a piece of heavy, white paper and make a crease down the middle ~ this will make it much easier to direct the seeds into the container. Gently shake the seed packet to bring all the seeds down to the bottom and cut open the top. Gently tap out the seeds onto the paper ~ they should roll into the crease. Carefully pick up the paper and slowly distribute the seeds evenly across the surface of the growing medium. This can be tricky, but a skill that develops over time. If the seeds roll too quickly and appear to land mainly in one spot, most will still germinate (if viable) and the seedlings will simply have to be moved apart later to allow room for growth. The seeds should not be covered over with medium ~ they need to sit on the surface where they will receive the light needed for germination to occur. Cover the container with a clear plastic cover or plastic wrap and place about 10 in. beneath grow lights or fluorescent tubes for 12 to 14 hrs. each day.

Germination times vary by a cross and by cultural conditions, but most seeds will germinate within 9 to 60 days, some may take longer. Monitor the container regularly to make sure the medium does not dry out. If the weight of the container feels very light, spray the top of the medium with water and recover. If too much condensation builds within the container, remove the cover for a couple of hours to allow it to dissipate.

Note: Sometimes seeds don’t germinate even when the grower provides the right care and cultural environment. This usually indicates that the seed itself was not viable, which can result from inadequate development within the pod (early maturation) or an infertile parent plant.

Transplanting African Violet Seedlings

Transplanted African violet seedlings from seed starting trays to small plastic cups

Once the seedlings have germinated they will grow fairly quickly. When they are a size you feel comfortable handling (usually when the individual leaves are about 2-3 cm. in diameter) you should separate the ones growing very closely together and redistribute them in the container and begin bottom-watering with a weak fertilizer solution. When the seedlings reach about 5 cm. in leaf span they should be transferred to small individual pots such as condiment or pill dosage cups with a hole drilled in the bottom for drainage and treated the same as mature plants.

Where to Buy African Violet Seeds

African violet seeds can be obtained through the seed fund of The Gesneriad Society, when available. Although membership is required for access to the seed fund, your membership helps support the hobby and includes with a subscription to their excellent quarterly magazine, “GESNERIADS‘.

The ultimate way to obtain African violet seeds is through hybridization: producing your own seed pods through cross-pollination. It takes approximately four to six months for an African violet seed pod to mature.

The African Violet is one of the most popular flowering house plants. They are temperamental plants, but given the right conditions, they have been known to bloom year-round producing pink, purple, lavender, wine, white and other colored blossoms. African Violets became popular in this country in 1936 when the first varieties were introduced. Soon they were appearing in homes throughout the United States and today well-grown specimens can be found with lush rosettes of velvety leaves almost hidden under colorful flowers. The number of varieties of this plant is still unknown, with hundreds of new hybrids being introduced yearly. The flowers on African Violets may be single, semi-double or double; fringed or ruffled on the edges. They can have two shades of the same color or more than two colors on each flower. There are even star-shaped flowers for those who prefer the more exotic types. Although many people believe the African Violet is a species of the violet family, they are not. Nor do they grow like the English and Russian violets. The best clue to their culture is the African part of their name. If you try to give them growing conditions similar to their tropical homeland they will reward you with their bright blooms.
The trick to keeping this plant happy is temperature. In temperatures between 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit they will thrive. But in higher or lower temperatures they tend to stop growing and blooming. African Violets are great for terrariums. They can be started from seed in this condition and will grow very quickly. During the summer months, they prefer the north or east window. In winter they need extra light and will do best with southern exposure where the sun’s rays are filtered. When fall and spring arrive, African Violets need shade from direct sun. You will find that with too little light the stalks become extra long leaf stalks and the foliage begins to look unhealthy. Few or no flowers will form when the light is too weak. When this plant is getting too much light the foliage will yellow and leaf stalks will begin to droop.
If you are having trouble keeping an African Violet blooming after the original flowers have fallen off, you may not be giving the attention they need. The soil must be kept damp at all times, but never wet. They need to be watered from the top just as with other blooming plants. Using 10 percent of the recommended rate of African Violet plant food in your water and add a few drops of dish liquid per quart. These plants are sensitive to the chemicals in tap water so it is best to use rainwater, dehumidifier water, melted snow or air conditioner runoff. You can also melt the ice when defrosting your freezer and save this to water this plant. Each time you water you should feed this plant since all the flowering gives it a healthy appetite.
African Violets love a humid atmosphere. This can be accomplished by spraying the leaves with a warm mist of water or you can stand the pot on pebbles in a partially filled saucer of water. Make sure the pot and water are not in contact with each other or the soil may become too soggy. When you notice that the stems of the larger, lower leaves are turning brown or rotting off, you will need to work on the edges of your pot. Smooth the edges by rubbing completely around the pot with a candle until you can see a good wax build-up. This will protect the lower leaves from the sharp edges of the pot.
Since African Violets tend to bloom better when the roots are a bit crowded, it is wise to repot them only when more than one-third of the leaves extend beyond the edge of the pot. When repotting, use a pot that is one size larger than the original pot. The best time for repotting is during the spring or early summer. You can make your own African Violet soil by mixing equal parts of garden soil, peat moss, and perlite. To divide this plant you will need to remove any new crowns that appear when they look like they can take care of themselves. When doing this use a 2 1\4 inch clay pot that has been soaked for no less than an hour. Make sure the soil you are placing the crowns in is damp and that you have watered the original plant at least twenty four hours before making the transplant. If you prefer not to mix the soil, you can purchase it from any garden store.
Extra rosettes of leaves should be cut out with a sharp knife taking care not to damage the plant. Be sure when removing any yellow or rotted leaves to break or cut the stalk at the main stem or the parts that are left will rot. This plant can be propagated from leaf cuttings but be sure to select mature, healthy leaves. When doing this you should leave 1 to 1\2 inch of the stem. When tiny new leaves begin to appear, the rooted cutting is ready to transplant to a separate pot. This will usually take from three to six weeks. Punch a few small holes in a plastic bag and cover the cuttings. Make sure you place them in a warm, shaded spot for two to three weeks.
When plants produce flowers it tends to wear them out, so it is wise to allow your plants to rest occasionally. To do this simply pluck off the new buds and remove the plant from its lighted area. After the plant has rested for two to three weeks, add 1\2 teaspoon of Epsom salts to the water and return it to normal light conditions. Doing this will help the plant produce stronger, healthier blooms. African Violets tend to be their healthiest and flower better when they have only one crown near the soil where the stems come together and join the roots.

How to Root African Violet Leaves in Water

Rooting leaves in water is one of the traditional methods of African violet propagation dating back to the early days of the plants’ popularity in North America. If your grandmother grew African violets from leaf cuttings she may have used this method (or merely pinched off a leaf and stuck it in the soil of the nearest house plant).

Colored glass rooting jarsColored glass rooting jars

To root leaves in the water you will need a rooting container to hold water and a means of suspending the leaf above the water while the stem remains in the water. We like to use small, colored glass bottles (colored glass slows the growth of algae) and aluminum foil. Cheap and easy.

First, choose a healthy, firm leaf from one of the middle rows of the parent plant. Make sure you choose a leaf with a long enough stem (petiole), preferably 1-1/2 to 2 inches long. Cut the tip of the petiole at an angle with a sharp blade.

Fill the rooting jar with water to just below the rim and cover with aluminum foil. Poke a hole in the foil large enough for the leaf stem. Large leaves or longifolia leaves may require additional support. If you will be using leaf supports, such as coffee stirrers or plastic plant tags, you’ll need to make openings for them as well.

Leaf supports

An alternative to using additional leaf supports is to create support from the aluminum foil covering the rooting jar. This works well for smaller leaves:

Using foil to support the leafUsing foil to support the leaf

Monitor the water level in the rooting jar daily to make sure the stem is sufficiently covered. Plantlets should begin to grow and become visible along the stem within a few weeks.

This is a leaf of African violet ‘Cherry Dots’ showing several babies growing from the stem after approximately 3 months in water.

Have you tried rooting leaves in the water? Share your experiences by leaving a comment!

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