Thursday, May 22, 2008

African Violets

It felt a little like finding an African Violet gold mine as I walked past Jensen's Ferndale Floral and noticed seven little pots of African Violets on the sidewalk in front of their store - all marked for clearance at only $.25 each!
Wanting to add a couple of African violets to my collection of house plants for some time now, I decided this must be a lucky day!
I brought them home, pruned off a few unsightly leaves and expired blooms, then gave them each a little sprinkle of Osmocote plant food.
I found the perfect set of little saucers stacked in my cupboard on which to show off each of my new African Violet plants - a beautiful antique set of red Thames River Scenes on tiny cups and saucers, complete with a matching serving pot, by Palissy Pottery from England that my father had given me many, many years ago. I now had a great way to display this beautiful set. My seven new little African Violet plants took their positions in front of my East-facing window, behind my other flowering house plants that seem to do so very well there.

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Here is some helpful information on growing your own African Violets I found on the Internet compiled by Virginia Nathan, Extension Technician, Consumer Horticulture, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA.
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African Violet Care
African violets are more dependent on regular care than most other house plants. They "sulk" quite obviously when they are dry or cold. The plants flower best in bright light, but not in extreme heat and humidity. They bloom well in east or west windows or under fluorescent lights. The preferred daytime temperature is 72 degrees F. Night temperatures should not fall below 62 degrees F.
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African violets are extremely sensitive to dryness, so it is wise to check the soil moisture daily. Water when the soil feels dry to the touch, but before it becomes hard. Never apply cold water to African violets. It can cause irregular-shaped, white-colored spots to form on the foliage. Use lukewarm water or fill your watering can after each watering and let it sit, so you will have room-temperature water on hand.
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You may water African violets from either the top or the bottom. When watering from the top, keep water off the leaves and make sure the plant is watered deeply. A small amount of excess water should flow out of the drainage hole. Pour off the excess water. When watering from the bottom, remove pots from the water dish as soon as the soil surface shows moisture. Leaving the pot standing in water will cause the soil to become saturated, eliminating the air spaces that are essential for healthy root growth.
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If you normally water from the bottom, occasionally switch to top watering to prevent the accumulation of crusty, white salts on the soil surface and edge of the pots. Leaf stems (petioles) can become soft or discolored when they contact soluble salts on the pot rim. This problem occurs most often when the plant is in a porous clay pot. A soil mix that promotes good drainage helps. A good mix contains 2 parts peat moss to 1 part perlite.
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You may put your African violet on a self-watering system to ensure a constant, optimum level of moisture. The wick method of watering uses capillary action to draw water into the soil. Several companies sell water-wicking systems, or you may construct your own.
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An easy self-watering system can be constructed by inserting an asbestos-glass water wick into one of the drainage holes of a pot. Or old nylon stockings can be braided and used instead. Set the pot on a water reservoir made from heavy plastic, such as a large-sized, whipped margarine container. Prepare the container lid by making two holes -- one for the wick to reach the water and a larger one for supplying fresh water. This is a highly efficient system for carefree watering. However, the plants should be periodically watered from the top to flush accumulated minerals from the soil.
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African violets need a regular supply of nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, iron, manganese, and zinc. A liquid, African violet fertilizer (1-2-1 ratio) is easy to use and specially packaged. It's best to apply this fertilizer every two to four weeks according to the manufacturer's direction.
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Amazingly, my orchid continues its blooms for a third month, and my Thanksgving/Christmas Cactus is preparing to bloom for a third time this year! Curious as to what colors of blooms all my new little African Violet plants will have, I shall have fun watching as their little buds begin to form and open.

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