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African Violets

African violets are native to eastern Africa and were collected in the wild during the late 19th century by Baron von Saint-Paul.

Saintpaulia ionantha 'Pink Amiss'.

After we get a hard freeze outside and there are no more flowers in our gardens, we gardeners have to rely on our houseplants.

One particularly well-known and well-loved houseplant is the African violet.

These plants are native to eastern Africa and were collected in the wild during the late 19th century by Baron von Saint-Paul, and not surprisingly their botanical name is Saintpaulia. There are 20 species and thousands of varieties with hairy, succulent leaves and pretty flowers, each with five petals.

They should always be planted in a commercial African violet potting mix. The soil surface should dry out between waterings with room-temperature water, and the leaves should not be splashed in the process. They prefer moderate humidity and bright indirect light.

Propagate from leaf cuttings rooted in water. They like to be a little pot bound, so wait until the flowering decreases, which signals the need to repot. The pests that afflict these plants are cyclamen mite, mealybug, and powdery mildew.

Saintpaulia ionantha is a quite common species that has clusters of tubular semi-succulent violet blue flowers held on stems above the leaves. Other colors of African violet blooms include white, mauve, blue, purple, pink, and crimson.

Moya Andrews

, originally from Queensland, Australia, served as Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Dean of the Faculties at Indiana University until 2004. In the same year, Moya began hosting Focus on Flowers for WFIU. In addition, Moya does interviews for Profiles, is a member of the Bloomington Hospital Board, and authored Perennials Short and Tall from Indiana University Press.

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