By Patricia Bianca S. Taculao
Growing ornamental plants have become a popular trend for the past year since these offer numerous benefits such as being able to freshen up a room, provide clean air, enhance a person’s mood, and more.
Among the popular houseplants that home gardeners prefer to grow are African violets (Saintpaulia spp.). These low-growing, compact plants can thrive indoors, bloom several times a year and come in a wide array of leaf forms and colors.
Even gardeners with little experience can maintain and grow African violets for a long time.
As its name implies, African violets originated from Tanzania in East Africa. Its flowers are said to symbolize loyalty, devotion, and faithfulness.
There are many varieties of African violets available at present. But its ancestor, the S. ionantha, was first introduced in Germany in 1893. Two years later, another variety called S. confusa was introduced. Since then, thousands of varieties of African violets have been produced.
Although there are many varieties of African violets available today that differ in color and leaf shapes, the plants are usually classified by size, based on how wide they grow.
Miniature African violets grow less than eight inches across, while the standard size measures from eight to 16 inches across. African violets that grow to more than 16 inches across are then classified as large.
When planting an African violet, make sure to plant them in loose, well-draining soil that’s high in organic matter. The plants also prefer to be planted in small pots but need to be repotted once a year in fresh soil for best results.
The plant also thrives in bright, warm, and humid conditions. Place African violets in an area with bright, but not direct sunlight.
When watering, avoid letting their leaves touch water since it can leave brown spots. Simply keep the soil moist with warm water and work towards achieving high humidity. You can also lightly mist the plant.
When dead flowers and leaves begin to manifest, remove them immediately to encourage a healthier plant and to keep the rot from spreading to other parts of the plant. Also, check the soil regularly to see that there are no dead leaves that have been accumulated since this also encourages rot.
Growing African violets require balance. All the different factors in their cultivation need to be carefully weighed against each other. For instance, African violets should be kept in conditions that are moist enough to keep them from drying out, yet they also need to be exposed to a fresh breeze to keep them from getting too stuffy, while also giving them the right amount of sunlight without damaging their leaf tips.
Pests to look out for
Other than caring for them in balance, African violets are also susceptible to several forms of rot and blight, as well as pests so they need to be properly observed most of the time.
Cyclamen mites can occur in African violets since these also thrive in a warm, humid environment. These pests are invisible to the naked eye, measuring only 0.02 cm at maturity.
Removing cyclamen mites is nearly impossible so the best course of action is to immediately dispose of the infected plant and isolate the nearby plants to keep them from being contaminated as well.
Another thing that could attack African violets is a fungal disease called powdery mildew. One telltale sign that a plant is affected with powdery mildew is when its leaves look like it has been dusted with flour. Using a fungicide against it can do the job easily.
Through proper care even with little experience, African violets can thrive well in any home gardener’s space and add that burst of color that could liven up the area.