published Saturday, February 11th, 2012

Five Tips: For growing African violets

FIVE TIPS

1. Do not overwater. This leads to root rot, which kills the whole plant.

2. Make sure your pots have good drainage holes.

3. In a humid area like Tennessee, extra perlite will need to be added to the soil. Try a mix of half perlite, half potting soil.

4. The soil in the pot should be loose, not firmly packed.

5. To guard against night-chilling, remove plants from windowsills after dark.

Rita Boring, a member of the Chattanooga African Violet Society, said growing the petite plants is not only a "very rewarding hobby," it also has health benefits.

"It is about the only thing that you can get addicted to that doesn't cause you to gain weight," she wrote in an email.

Sometimes known by their botanical name, Saintpaulia, African violets are a popular flowering houseplant. According to the department of horticulture at Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service in West Lafayette, Ind., African violets come in purple, blue, lavender, red, white and pink, as well as bi- and multicolored forms.

According to the school's website: "African violets are easy to grow for the beginning gardener, yet offer a wide range of cultivars to satisfy the serious grower."

Paying attention to light, water, temperature and humidity is key. A north- or- east-facing window, or 600 foot-candles of fluorescent light is best. African violets grow best at 65 to 70 F.

According to the African Violet Society of America, early incarnations of African violets were sent from Capt. Baron Walter von Saint Paul, the German Imperial district captain of Usambara, to his father, from where he was stationed in Tanzania. The plants were named Saintpaulia by Hermann Wendland, director of the Royal Botanical Gardens at Herrenhausen in Hanover, Germany.

African violets began to be grown commercially in the United States in 1926.

about Holly Leber ...

Holly Leber is a reporter and columnist for the Life section. She has worked at the Times Free Press since March 2008. Holly covers “everything but the kitchen sink" when it comes to features: the arts, young adults, classical music, art, fitness, home, gardening and food. She writes the popular and sometimes-controversial column Love and Other Indoor Sports. Holly calls both New York City and Saratoga Springs, NY home. She earned a bachelor of arts ...

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