In the Garden:
Lower South
March, 2006
Regional Report

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2043

A bright window or fluorescent fixture is all African violets need to bloom up a storm.

African Violets Provide Easy-Care Beauty

African violets provide a burst of blooms like few other indoor plants can. They are easy to grow if you provide them with a few simple requirements to make them feel at home. If you've tried them before without success, here are some tips to get you off to a successful start.

Location, Location, Location
African violets adjust well to the warm temperatures and dry air of homes. Choose a window facing north or east, as they prefer the indirect light to an exposure where the midday or afternoon sun blasts them in the summer. In winter months, a little filtered morning sun is okay and may provide a bit more warmth than a north-facing window.

You can tell if your plants are getting too much light or not enough by the way they grow. Sudden exposure to direct sun can cause scorching of the leaves. Artificial lighting is also okay. A fluorescent light with one cool white and one warm white tube works great. When the light is too bright they tend to bend their leaves downward as if to get away from the light. In less than adequate lighting they lift their leaves upward as if to try and get closer to the light. Turn plants growing near a window 1/3 turn a day to keep them growing evenly in all directions.

African violets prefer temperatures around 60 degrees F at night and up to 80 to 85 during the day. But they will do well in normal room temperatures.

Watering Savvy
Avoid overwatering your plants as soggy soil conditions bring on stem rots. They do like the soil to be evenly moist, however. You can check the soil every day or two and water accordingly, but I think the easiest way is to provide a wick to moisten the soil. The wick is placed in the soil at the bottom of the pot so it extends out of the drain hole a few inches. Then the pot is set over a container of water with the wick sitting in the water. The wick pulls water from the container up into the root zone. Or you can purchase special self-watering pots.

Use a fresh potting mix to grow your plants. A blend of 3 parts sphagnum peat moss, 2 parts vermiculite, and 1 part perlite works well if you are mixing your own. Whenever the plant size is more than 3 times the width of the container, it's time to repot it into the next larger size pot.

Fixing Leggy Plants
As the plant grows, it will lose lower leaves as it forms a "trunk" or stem. When the bottom of the stem is about an inch or more from the soil to the lower leaves, it's time to replant it. Gently lift the plant out of the pot. Cut away about 1/4 inch of the lower rootball and reset the plant lower in the pot, filling in fresh potting mix up to where the lower leaves attach to the stem.

So give an African violet a try this season. They'll grow on you.


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