Propagating African Violets
One of the best things about African violets is that it's so easy (and free) to increase the number of plants for your own pleasure or to share with friends!
- Leaf Cuttings
- Spontaneous Division
- Pollination and Growing from Seed
The most common method is also the easiest - simply removing a healthy leaf and rooting it in water. Shown here are three leaves from 3 separate plants that have been set into small glass containers with steep sides to help hold the leaves erect, and keep them from coming in direct contact with the water. While waiting for these to form roots, keep them in an area where they receive indirect light and out of cold drafts. If you have space on your kitchen counter, that's a good place for them - no window sills, no direct sunlight - constant room temperature.
It can take up to a couple of months for the roots to form. Be patient! As long as the leaf looks healthy, is not turning black and withering, it's still in the rooting process. Keep the water level in the cup just below the green part of the leaves. Remember, these leaves will not tolerate being wet for any length of time. They will rot. If the water in the cup begins to look a little foul, toss it out and scrub the cup making sure to rinse it well - leave no soap residue in the cup. Then replace the leaf cuttings and add water to just below the green part of the leaf.
On the above cuttings, I made the stems a little longer than they needed to be. Note where the roots have formed at the tips of the stems. Consequently, when I put them into their pots, they were deeper in the soil than I would have liked, and it took the new plants longer to grow up to the top of the soil. They did, however, as you will see in the following pictures but it just took several weeks more. I should have cut the stems to about half shown here.
When planting the rooted leaves, I used a 3" clay pot with a hole in the bottom for adequate drainage. Again, the potting soil is all-purpose "Black Magic" brand. I place a small piece of gardener's mesh over the drainage hole to prevent the potting mix from leeching from the hole.
TIP: If you want to get the jump on watering, you can take a quart of the potting mix and mix in about a cup of water. You'll find the potting mix is easier to handle when it's a little moist rather than when completely dry and loose. When you're doing more than one pot, you may want to take the dry potting mix and pour it into a plastic lidded container, like a coffee can, and then add the water. Stir the water into the mix, then put the lid on securely, and give the whole thing a few good shakes. Take out what you want to use and store the rest until ready to pot another plant.
Sometimes, I plant more than one viable leaf in the same pot. If you've used leaves from different plants with different colored blossoms, it's fun to mix the different colors in the same pot! After they've matured and are blooming, if you wish to separate the plants then, it's perfectly okay and you should have no problems retaining the healthy blooming plants.
Fill the pot about half full of potting mix and tamp it down. You might want to add a little water then, if the mix is dry. Then place the rooted leaf (or leaves) lightly on the top and carefully add soil until the pot is full - between 1/2 inch to 1 inch below the top of the pot. Tamp the soil and add water.
Flood the pot until water drains out the bottom to be sure there is enough moisture for the tender roots to draw from. Allow the pot to drain overnight, then set it into the glazed saucer. Do not set the plant in direct sunlight - although they do like bright, diffused outdoor light. Avoid drafts and your new African violets should thrive.
SPONTANEOUS DIVISION (SUCKERS OR MULTIPLE CROWNS):
Spontaneous division occurs when "sucker plants" grow up around mature, older plants. This spontaneous division results in multiple crowns on one plant. They generally have their own root system which makes it relatively easy and safe to separate them from the original plant, and each other. Or, new plants might grow on the original stalk from an area where a leaf has been detached. This is a common habit of African violets and, if the pot is large enough to accommodate the extra topical growth, it makes a very attractive plant when it begins to bloom. Multiple crowns producing lots of blooms and buds are a show all by themselves. You'll want to display this one on your coffee table or office desk!
If you decide to separate the sucker plants from the original, you must carefully remove the whole plant from the pot, and gently separate the root systems. Put the young sucker plants in 3 inch pots (with drainage holes) and replace the main plant back into the pot adding potting mix as necessary. Within a few weeks, all of the plants should be in fine shape!
GROWING AFRICAN VIOLETS FROM SEED:
Although I've been an African violet admirer and hobbyist for many years, it was only recently that I learned you could purchase African violet seeds! My research tells me this is a fun and satisfying thing to do. Growing plants from seed takes about the same length of time as taking the leaf cutting and suffering through the time it takes to sprout roots, planting and waiting for the primary leaves to show.
If you really want to duplicate the color and leaf of your favorite plant, however, seeds are not reliable in duplicating the parent plant. Kind of makes sense if you compare it to human reproduction - no guarantee that baby will have daddy's blue eyes and momma's red hair! The only way to truly replicate the African violet is by cloning, and that means propagating by leaf cuttings.
African violet seeds are available through many mail order houses - just do a Google search and you'll come up with several options. For the adventurous grower, you can also find instructions on how to hybridize your plants by hands-on pollination. Refer up to the first African violet photo on this page. You can clearly see the ripe pollen (anther) sacs. To pollinate, you rupture the sac and dab on the stigma. It's not a complicated process, but it IS a process! If you are serious, contact Esprit for further information:
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