African violets love full sun and thrive in hot conditions, which makes them a perfect houseplant for sunny windowsills.
Native to Tanzania, their cheerful flowers can be anything from white to purple to pink. Over the years dedicated breeders have created all manner of different color variations; so much so that there is now an African Violet Centre in the UK which focuses just on these beautiful and practical flowers.
One of the benefits of African violets is that they can be propagated very easily. When cared for properly, a single African violet leaf can grow into a whole new plant. This means that a healthy African violet plant can yield dozens of healthy babies, allowing you to quickly grow your collection. Baby African violets can also make attractive, low-cost gifts for Christmas and birthdays.
In this guide we’ll discuss growing African violets from leaves, so you too can try this fun and fascinating new skill at home…
How to Grow an African Violet from a Leaf
The process of growing African violets from leaves can seem somewhat intimidating the first time around. However, when you start implementing these steps you’ll find that the whole process is surprisingly quick and easy. What’s more, once those cuttings start to grow into vigorous, healthy plants you’ll find you’re hooked!
Here’s the step-by-step process…
Remove a Leaf from the Fully Grown Plant
The first step is to remove a leaf from a fully grown African violet plant. This leaf should be deep green and somewhat mature, but not old. To stand the best chance of success you should aim to cut the leaf off the plant at the very bottom of the stem. After removing the leaf from the plant, cut off the top half of it to reduce the chances of it drying out before roots form.
Cut the Leaf’s Stem
The next step in the process is to cut the delicate stem at a 45 degree angle. This helps to provide a larger surface area at the base of the stem, which can not only assist water absorption but also root growth.
Be careful when doing so as these stems are very thin. To stand the best possible chance of success you’ll want to make the cleanest cut possible, so try to use the sharpest blade you possibly can. A well-sharpened pruning knife can be effective, though some gardeners even got a step further and use a razor blade for the ultimate cut.
Put the Cutting in a Small Pot
Once the leaf is prepared it is time to actually plant it up. The soil is especially important at this stage, as it’ll need to support your cutting while it gets established. Peat tends to be particularly effective as it is filled with decomposed materials like moss and shrubs; something African violets love.
After filling the small pot with your substrate, dig a little hole in the center of the soil and gently place the stem into it. The soil can then be loosened to fill in the gap around the stem; your aim is to ensure that the stem is in contact with the earth, but without the stem getting squashed or damaged.
Cover the Container
While it isn’t absolutely necessary, you can increase your chances of success by adding some kind of lid over the pot. Mini propagators are easily sourced online or from your local garden center. Alternatively simply placing the pot into a clear plastic bag can have a similar effect.
Like placing a plant into a greenhouse this process offers two benefits. Firstly it gently increases the temperature, encouraging your cuttings to root faster. Secondly, it prevents the earth from drying out too quickly, which can lead to sickly, wilted African violets.
Wait for a Few Weeks
Possibly the most challenging part of this whole process is to just sit and wait while nature does it’s magic. However, this doesn’t mean to neglect your plant. You’ll want to check on it and make sure the soil stays moist. If not, add some water to it so it is, but be careful to not overwater it. Also, check to make sure the room you’re growing your plant in stays warm, because a cold room could otherwise hinder growth.
Pot Up the Rooted Cutting
After patiently waiting for a few weeks, your African violet cutting will eventually produce some small plantlets around the base of the leaf cutting. This is a very good sign that your project has been successful.
When you see these small sprouts appear, you want to wait just a little longer until they’re a tad bit bigger. This will help to prevent them from going into shock when removed.
Once a few weeks have passed, you can then remove the sprouts. To do so, you’ll want to carefully remove the entire plant system out of the container. Then, slowly remove the plantlets from the leaf cutting.
After safely removing the plantlets, you can replant them in a medium-size container.
At this point you can consider your project a success.
Ongoing Maintenance of African Violets
Given the right growing conditions, most African violets will thrive once through this difficult transition phase. All you need to do now is to feed and water your baby plants as they grow to maturity.
Most compost contains a reasonable amount of nutrition, but over time nitrogen and phosphorus levels will naturally decline. Adding fertilizer to your African violets should therefore be considered a crucial step for long-term success.
Special African violet fertilizer can be bought at your local gardening center, but you can also make your own at home. One of the best options is to reuse your coffee grounds, which are full of nitrogen so help to encourage a quick growth burst to the plant.
With a sunny spot and regular watering you should find that your new African violets give you years of pleasure with their brightly-coloured blooms. And of course the same goes for your friends if you opt to give away your cuttings as gifts.
Photo by Apes of Wrath & leslie.dray