The African Violet (saintpaulia) has become the most popular member of the Gesneriad family because of its ease of culture, continuous flowering habit, variety of blossom forms, range of colors, and leaf patterns.If there is any magic formula for culture, it is a faithfully followed program of care. Watering, fertilizing, and re-potting must be done with regularity and promptness if beautiful flowering plants are desired year round. “Hit-or-miss” attention will give only mediocre results.
LIGHT: Protection from the hot rays of the sun must be given, in spring, summer and fall, while during the dark days of January and February direct mild winter sunshine will promote flowering. To find the best place in the house for correct lighting, place plants in various windows and observe results. They will soon be evident. For symmetrical foliage, window grown plants need to be turned regularly so that the entire plant will get equal amounts of light.
ARTIFICIAL LIGHT: Artificial light is a satisfactory way to grow African violets for they receive even illumination. Lights should be placed approximately 10-14 inches over the plant table and kept on from 12-14 hours per day.
WATER: Check soil daily and water if soil feels slightly dry to the touch. Always use warm or room temperature water, never cold. They will grow best if soil is kept slightly moist at all times. They do not like soggy soil and shouldn’t be left standing in water. Water from top or bottom, but water under the leaves, never over.SOIL: As a rule, these plants do best in soils which are loose in texture, porous and well drained, with a high percentage or organic matter. Because of their fine hair roots they need a substance that can be easily penetrated. There are several good commercial mixes especially made for saintpaulias.
TEMPERATURE AND HUMIDITY: Best temperatures range from 65 to 75°F. with 50 to 60% relative humidity. They can endure higher or lower temperatures but they will not prosper if the air is excessively dry. If the temperature is too low, growth slows down, flowers will be sparse and of poor quality and the foliage will curl down around the rim of the pot instead of lying flat and neat. Air that is too hot and dry can cause the buds to fall off or the blossoms to drop soon after opening. Maintaining adequate humidity during winter without the aid of a humidifier is difficult. Try grouping the plants close together, placing them on a surface of moist pebbles in a shallow tray, placing open containers of water among them. This will increase the humidity.
FERTILIZING: It is better to feed very small amounts of plant food each time the plant is watered. Use a complete water-soluble fertilizer recommended for saintpaulias and read the manufacturer’s instructions printed on the label before applying. Do not over-fertilize and always be sure the soil is not too dry before using plant food.
PROPAGATION: New African violets are easily grown by three different methods: leaf cuttings (most frequently used; there are a number of satisfactory ways of rooting them), plant division, and seeds.
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