African violets: 10,000 varieties and growing

It's the dead of winter, it's dark, it's cold, and it's snowing on most of the Northeast corridor; but we can bloom wherever we're planted, even on the inside. According to the African Violet Society of Philadelphia, the African violet is the world's most popular blooming house plant. You can grow these plants from seeds, leaves, parts of leaves, flower stems, cuttings, and suckers; they originate from South Africa and there are over 10,000 different varieties. (1)You can find a small selection of African violets in local Philadelphia Garden Centers; but the Tinari family located in the Greater Philadelphia area, are the African violet pioneers from Huntingdon Valley that introduced more than 500 hybrid African violets to mainstream, and have sold African violets since 1945. Theyve sold African violets for over 30 years, until 1996, at the Philadelphia Flower Show. Visit their Tinari Greenhouses, located in Huntingdon Valley, to begin a real collection. Saintpaulia, known as African violet, is a genus of the family Gesneriaceae. Even though the blooms on an African Violet look like a violet, they are no relationship to the common violet plant at all. The traditional violet-purple color is what gives this highly collected, compact and continually blooming houseplant its name; although you can also find African violet blooms in white, light pink, dark pink, fuchsia, red, maroon, orange, salmon, yellow, lavender, amethyst, blue, silver, and many two-toned and variegated patterns of paint streaks, swirls, stripes, and speckles that are to die for. Their blooms are available in double, triple, rosette, and scalloped forms, and the colors, shapes, and sizes that are being produced are getting even more extreme every day. There are new colors and color combinations being introduced all the time and African violet collectors are standing at the greenhouse doors with hands out, waiting to add new varieties to their collection. The foliage is a beautiful dark-green, oval-shaped leaf that is covered with little fuzzy hairs. You can also find speckled and variegated leaves as well. African violets are very easy to grow if you follow a few basic rules; grow them in moist, humid conditions and in temperatures of 70 to 75 degrees in the day and no lower than 60 degrees at night. You can create a humid jungle-like environment by placing the potted plants in a 2-3 inch high saucer filled with an inch of pebbles. Fill the saucer with pebbles and then fill with water, but only fill up to the top of the pebbles, and not over the pebbles, because the African violet pots must not be sitting in water, but only sitting on top the pebbles. This will create a humid atmosphere as the water evaporates from the pebbles up and through the foliage. African violets breathe and drink through the roots; so again, if the pot is sitting in standing water, it will drown. Although they need moist soil, they cannot be waterlogged; so again, the pot should never sit in water.Watering African violets incorrectly is the main reason these popular houseplants stop blooming and eventually die. Water them at the bottom of the plant on the dirt line; you can use a watering can with a long sprout. The leaves and stems should never be watered. Let the water in the watering can sit overnight in order to get room temperature, as well as, to allow fluoride and chlorine from the tap water to dissipate.A few more basic rules: African violets don't require much sun, 4-6 hours of morning light or filtered sun. They will grow well in an north, west, or eastern window.Pruning unhealthy leaves and spent blooms keeps plant healthy.Leaves should be kept dust free so they can breathe by using a soft toothbrush to brush lightly.When potting, repotting or transplanting an African violet, make sure the soil is not too packed down because they like loose aerated soil.African violets like to be pot-bound, so you dont have to repot them often.Growing African violets is like starting a fish tank; once you get the supplies you need, the rest will take care of itself. There is a specialized potting soil for African violets, as well as, special fertilizer for African violets because the Saintpaulis requires trace elements that aren't usually found in other plant foods and fertilizers for blooming houseplants. Never use too much fertilizer too often as it can be just as fatal to the plant as over-watering. Follow the directions on the label. You can find the specialized African violet fertilizer, as well as, specially formulated potting soil just about anywhere African violets are sold. You can also make your own African violet potting mix by mixing 1/3 potting soil with 1/3 peat moss, and 1/3 perlite or vermiculite. Happy growing!(1) African Violet Society of Philadelphia***The Down to Earth/Higher Ground Blog is here: Join me.The sole intention of this blog is to give motivation through creation by discussing and learning how to sow seed in the garden, and in our lives, as well as, to climb higher mountains, choose narrow paths, travel through dark valleys, weather the storms of life, bloom in hard places, shine like precious gems, and dig deeper in order to find and fulfill one's true purpose in life.Please feel free to subscribe to Philadelphia Gardening column today. It's free; just click the subscribe button below and Ill take you through the entire year with up-to-date gardening news, plant information, and gardening to dos, all in real time gardening for every month of the year, even winter. From the first sprouts, to what will bloom each week/month, to container and urban gardening, to vegetable gardening, to choosing Christmas trees and buying poinsettias and more; youll learn all you need to grow outdoors and indoors. To stay in touch, find more information about Gardening Conferences and Seminars, or to purchase my book, go to www.joannetaylor.org. I'd love to hear from you. Subscribe today! Click here for my National Spirituality and Nature Column. This column combines nature and spirituality.Click here for my National Nature Photography Examiner column. Coming soon...This column will be nature photographs.Copyright of 2010 Joanne Taylor, Published by Joanne Taylor. All Rights Reserved No part of this publication, including the artwork and photographs, may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise-except for brief quotations in printed reviews, without the prior written consent of Joanne Taylor.Check out these "other" popular, and not so popular, houseplants below: href='http://www.examiner.com/article/african-violets-10-000-varieties-and-growing' - http://www.examiner.com/article/african-violets-10-000-varieties-and-growing -