Gardening > Houseplants

Starting African violets 101

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Getting started...

First, you need to decide how many leaves you have room to start. You can do as little as one, (though I seriously advise more) or as many as you dare.

Keep the following in mind when decideing on numbers:

#1. This is addictive. There is nothing quite like seeing a tiny baby AV and knowing that YOU did it.

#2. I feel I have a pretty good handle on starting leaves. For every 3 that I start, 2 will make it.

#3. For every leaf that makes it, you will have at least one baby, and more likely 3 to 5. It's hard for me to throw away a live plant, no matter how small. How about you? :BigGrin:

My advice would be to start around 10 leaves. I can fit around 12 in a mini greenhouse (which we will discuss later).

Light requirements...

Alright, now that we have talked about how many, let's talk about light requirements.

When starting leaves, light is important, though not nearly as important as it will be for growing the plants. Basically, you can start a leaf anywhere there is a moderate amount of light.

My first set of leaves did fine on my kitchen counter. Now I start most of mine on a rack in a North facing window.

There is much debate over how much light is needed, but the general consensus seems to be they will root and make babies as long as there is some light. Opinions vary on wether they produce faster with more light. Each leaf is different, and as long as you find a spot that works for you, that is all that really matters.

I do know that warmth plays a part, as the ones rooted in the main living areas do show babies faster than ones started in an unheated bedroom. If you are impatient like me, keep that in mind when selecting a spot.

The pots...

I start each leaf in it's own pot, that way if it's going to die, it can only take itself out, and not others with it. Also, because each leaf is different, they will each make babies at a different time. It's hard enough to separate them if they are alone.

These are pictures of pots I have used with great success in the past, with a pen for size comparison:

And this is them on their sides, so you can see how deep they are (or, in this case, are NOT)

The thing to think about with pots is how a leaf makes babies. First, it must root, then most leaves fill the pot with roots before it gets around to making any babies. So, if you limit the size of the pot, you can limit the time it takes to make babies!

When I started, it was far easier to buy the condiment cups in the top of the picture, found at wal-mart for 50 cents or so a cup. Now, however, It makes more sense for me to buy portion cups from a supply store in sleeves of 100 for 4 to 8 dollars, depending on size.

The main thing to look for in a pot is small and shallow. There are lots of different things that people use as pots. Most popular, besides condiment cups, are the plastic dixie cups for the bathroom. I've also heard of people using the individual serving cups for coffee creamer. Use your imagination!

Down and dirty about dirt....

First off, you are going to need some PLAIN potting soil. None of the ones with the fertilizers mixed in (like the miracle grow one!) Usually the cheaper store brand ones are the ones without added stuff. Read those labels carefully!

Also, due to the tendancy of leaves to rot, (and when you are impatient like me and water too often) it REALLY helps to mix in some perlite.

I know, I know...what the heck it that???

Here's a pic:

Perlite is the white stuff in most potting soils. It's super light, and very porous, so you don't drowned the poor leaves (and later, the plants!)

I mix my "dirt" half-and-half...that's half potting soil, half perlite.

Lots of growers have lots of recipes for their soil mix. This one works for me.

When you go to the store hunting perlite and plain potting soil, you will more than likely see a potting soil mix labeled "african violet mix"...these mixes are fine, but still to "heavy" for my taste. I still mix them half and half with perlite. However, plain potting soil is cheaper...hence the reason I use it.

Good donor plants....

Now, let's talk about "donor" plants. I would suggest a trip to your local wal-mart, fred meyers, home depot, lowes, ect. to pick through thier plant deptartment.

You will be looking for a healthy, happy african violet that you can take home and use as a donor for leaves to practice on.(You could also beg or borrow some leaves off of friends with violets.)This will also give you a chance to practice your growing skills with mature plants.

These are good examples of healthy mature plants:

See how full and healthy-looking they are? Nice and green. These are good.


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