Update: African Violets and Watering House Plants

The rescued African Violet is blooming, just two little pink flowers, but it is enough bloom that I think the plant is going to make it.

If you're new to my blog, let me catch you up on this African violet. My sister and mom's long-time neighbors brought it over to my sister when they were moving a few months ago.

Immediately the African violet went into some kind of shock... cats mauling it, kids hollering and rough housing around it, my sister trying to protect it by putting it up on a bookcase, and then leaving it sit for several days in a saucer of water. Very traumatic for an African violet that lived for years in a quiet home next door.

Now it is doing fine and blooming here at the serene headquarters of May Dreams Gardens.

And I think in the time I've had it, nearly two months, I've probably only watered it four, maybe five times, and it never sat in a saucer of water.

I believe that the number one reason that house plants die is because we overwater them. Oh, yes, we gardeners mean well, and often want to water on a schedule, say "once a week whether the plant needs it or not", and generally it is "not".

But we go ahead with our watering schedule because it suits us, and then we leave the plant sitting in a big saucer full of water.

No, no, no.

Water when the soil is dry a good inch or so down from the surface.

Make sure the pot has good drainage.

If you can, take the plant to a sink to water it thoroughly and let all the excess water run through the pot before putting it back where it belongs. If you can't do that, make sure to empty the saucer of excess water after watering.

Just don't let the plant sit in a saucer of water for a long time.

Soon I'm going to take some cuttings from this African violet, root them, and give them back to my sister. She said that her kids would like to have some African violets to try and grow but she doesn't want to kill off the "mother plant".

In the meantime, I was looking through the book 1,001 African Violet Questions Answered by Twelve Experts, and started to read the biographies of some of the 12 experts.

Lo and behold, one of the experts is from my hometown! And she registered a variety of African violet called 'Lady Greenwood' and at the time the book was published, 1958, she was 'growing a very nice sport from it, 'Greenwood Holly'.

What are the chances I could find these two varieties of African Violets? Anyone ever heard of them?


  1. Carol, that's so interesting that there are two cultivars named for one of your homies! I really hope you can find them! You need them to live at your house.

    I've had wonderful luck with African Violets so far. I've got three blooming at the moment, two of them for the second and third time since I've had them (about a year).

    I have never yet successfully been able to propagate from a leaf though! :-(

  2. Well, now you've done it! I want African violets again; I resisted during your earlier posts, but no, you had to push the issue, and I can resist anything but plant-temptation...I have to go visit a large greenhouse next week to take some photos for houseplant story...how many violets do you think I'll come home with?

    Not sure where you could find these rare cultivars, but maybe through Dave's Garden?

  3. Kylee... I've never tried to propagate an African violet from cuttings, but "how hard can it be" for such a popular plant?

    Jodi... I think I will check out Dave's Garden. I did a little half-hearted googling last night and came up with nothing. I bet you come home with no less than six African violets!

    Carol, May Dreams Gardens

  4. Agreed, you need no less then 6! Better make it a bakers dozzen....You don't want them to get lonely! :)

    SF's are easy to start from cuttings. There are a couple diffrent ways to do it. The easiest I think is to put teh leaf stem in a glass of water with the leaf above the water untill it grows some roots.

  5. Fascinating! A friend's mom years ago had always told me that the secret to African Violets was watering them from the saucer--i.e. never put water in the top, just fill the saucer at the bottom when it dries out. She had hundreds of the things, but I've never tried it. Does this sound nuts to you?
    ~Angela :-)

  6. Propogatin an African Violet is s easy as falling off a motorcycle. Just plop it in water with some support and keep the leaf try. My grandmother used to poke a hole in some aluminum foil fitted over a jelly glass.

    Plant watering day is always a little messy around here. I always have to poke my finger into the soil to see how dry it is--so I always have messy fingers.

    --Robin (Bumblebee)

  7. Propagating African violets is simple. Gently break off a leaf, dip the end of the stem in Rootone and stick it in regular old potting soil. Be patient. They take longer than most cuttings to root.

    My African violets seem to thrive on neglect. While I wasn't looking this summer, they multiplied again and now I have to divide them. Thank goodness the Master Gardeners have a get together every January that includes a plant swap/auction so I can donate my extras. Otherwise, I might be drowning in African violets!

  8. Nickie, Thanks for the tip, I will probably try that method.

    Cottage Magpie... watering from the bottom isn't a bad thing to do, it keeps water off the leaves. The trick would be to empty out the excess once the soil has become satured.

    Robin(Bumblebee)... Gee, I've never fallen off of a motorcycle, but I've propagated other plants before, so I think I'll be successful with the African violets.

    OldRoses... Better to drown in plants than some things people drown themselves in! Thanks for the tips.

    Carol, May Dreams Gardens

  9. Alright, this idea is either really good or downright crazy: Any chance this woman might be in your hometown's phone book? If I was an expert on a plant, and mentioned in a plant book or magazine... and some other enthusiastic gardener read about that and realized that she was in the same place, I might be flattered that she called me. Especially if she said that she was hoping that I could lead her to a source where she could purchase the African violet cultivars that I had grown and named for our shared hometown.

    (Although I admit, I might meet her at the local fast food joint to sell her my cuttings instead of inviting her to my house! lol.)

  10. Blackswamp_Girl... I thought about that but the book was written in 1958, nearly 50 years ago. So, if this woman was about 40 at the time, she'd be 90 now. I think she is deceased. I also recall that when we used to drive out to into the country from my hometown, we went past a house that had a sign that said something about "African Violets", so I think I might even know kind of where she once lived. I've still going to do some online searches to see where it all leads.

    Carol, May Dreams Gardens

  11. I love African Violets but can't have them because my Maine Coon Vita first picks off all the flowers one by one and then all the leaves. She does this only with this plant.

    You can propagate them by taking a leaf, cutting it in half and sticking it in the earth. I've seen that done a zillion times but never tried it myself because what's the point? Vita will destroy them anyway. And to think that I've named her after that great gardener Vita Sackville-West. LOL :-)

  12. I'm a huge fan of the african violet pot - the unglazed inner pot sits in a glazed outer pot that holds water.

    They work great and deliver just the amount of water the plant needs.

    The only other thing I do is remove and replace the soil medium once a year.

    This all worked great in Michigan. Now that I am in Phoenix, I have to figure out a way to get some humidity to these poor plants during the dry season... they hung on by sheer fortitude this last summer, I'd like to make it easier on them this coming summer. Don't know if I will use a water tray beneath the pots, or a humidifier in the vicinity. Seems the tray might work better, but that's really just a guess.

    Stay warm up there!


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