03 May 2009

African violets

I'm going to let my inner botanist geek come out right now, since I had the opportunity yesterday to go to one of my favorite bi-annual events: the Heart of Missouri Africa Violet Club sale. I'm such a fan of these plants that I'm considering throwing away most of my other plants at home in favor of them. I suppose I'll keep my aloe, and definitely my orchids, but I like the compact nature of my pretty little violets (which aren't actually violets, BTW).

The group is comprised of several women that have enormous collections of African violets and relatives. They propagate these plants (because it is SO easy) and sell them for unbelievably low prices (like, $1 for a plant) at their sales. They maintain databases of all the varieties/hybrids in their collections.

Because I think it is so interesting, I'm going to tell you a little bit more about these plants.

There is a group of a few species of plants (the genus Saintpaulia) that are hybridized and cultivated to produce the varieties we grow commercially today. They have awesome names like "Rob's Heebie Jeebie." They are characterized and described by a suite of characteristics, including:

1. Petal color (striated, dual color, etc)
2. Petal type (doubled, curly edges, etc).
3. Leaf color (variegated, green, purple, etc)
4. Leaf shape (curly, depth of veins, etc).
5. Plant size (miniature, semi-mini, etc).
6. Plant growth habit (leaf crown, trailer)

That was a lot of etc. Sorry. I'm sure there are more categories, but these are those I am most familiar with. This also doesn't even touch on the African violet relatives (Nematanthus, etc)

My list of important tips about maintenance of African violets:

1. Only ceramic or plastic pots that are smaller than the size of the leaf crown of the plant.
2. Bottom water. Accomplish this by always using pots with drainage holes, and stick a piece of acrylic yarn or pantyhose in the drainage hole (this will wick water up to the soil).
3. For plants that seem sensitive to temperature, or new plantlets, I use old fishtanks and fishbowls for
4. To propagate plants, use a sharp knife to cut off a large leaf. Place the leaf petiole (stem) into moist soil. Three to seven plantlets will sprout from the cut leaf end. It might take a few months, but separate the plantlets when they have a small crown of leaves (5-7 fairly large leaves).

Minatures and trailers don't like me much, so I don't have any advice about them.

Here's a gratuitous picture of a portion of my collection. I bought this little shelf at a yard sale with Katy yesterday, and it fits some of my planters wonderfully. The plant in the front center is an especially interesting variety, as it is a trailer that has these amazing leaves that are deeply curled.

If you have a hankering for a new little plant, please let me know and I would be happy to accommodate you.

Since Elene wanted some pics of my kitties, here's a nice one of Fatticat being cute.


Katy F-H said...

that shelf looks awesome so cute, what about the shroom cookie jar I think wee need to see a pict of you collection

Leenie said...

Fantastic plant and kitty pictures!!! I was glad to see the kitty picture wasn't of a cat eating the plants ;)