Chattanooga African Violet Society meets at McDonald Road Seventh-day Adventist Church, 5440 McDonald Road, at 2 p.m. on the first Sunday of each month. 238-4057.
Green Thumb Garden Club meets at Collegedale City Hall, 4910 Swinyar Drive, at 7 p.m. on the second Monday of each month (except December and January). 236-5598.
You don't need a green thumb to grow healthy houseplants, but you do have to be willing to devote time to taking care of them, said local gardener Rita Boring, a member of the Chattanooga African Violet Society.
"I have had people tell me over and over that they don't have a green thumb or that they kill every plant they get," Boring said. "My answer to that is they just don't want to take the time to take care of their plants. Plants need repotting, watering, fertilizer, and you can't go off and leave them for weeks on end and expect them to thrive. You must take care of your plants. They do need attention."
Caring for houseplants is not an expensive hobby, said Beatrice Neall, also a member of the Chattanooga African Violet Society.
"All you need to buy is a bag of potting soil and a jar of fertilizer, such as Miracle-Gro," she said. "A thrift store is a good place to find containers."
Gardeners will often give cuttings of their plants to other gardeners, Neall said.
"Stick it in a jar of water and, when some roots appear, plant it in good loose soil," she said.
Houseplants, though, will rot in soil that is kept soggy. "Be sure they can drain," Neall said. "You do have to love and care for them, but they will repay you with lots of enjoyment"
Boring and Neall offered tips on plants that are simple to grow.
1. Violets: "The care I give my violets is the easiest I have found, as they are potted in a 4.5-inch pot with potting soil purchased from Volkmann's out of Texas," said Boring.
The potting soil, she explained, is for wick watering. She fills half the container with the potting soil and an equal amount of perlite. "This makes the mix light and airy and prevents it from packing down," she said.
She also uses Physan 20 to prevent algae, along with Volkmann's constant-feed fertilizer with a small amount of liquid pesticide added to the water.
"All this is mixed in a large container, and I fill my reservoirs about every five to six weeks," she said.
She also recommends removing dead leaves and blooms from the violets.Philodendrons, which are in the same family as violets, require the same treatment, but they should be planted in large plastic pots, she said.
2. Chiritas: Also in the violet family, chiritas can grow quite large, with one blooming throughout the summer months, Boring said. The blooms are bell-shaped, a pinkish shade and grow on a stem that is 6 to 7 inches tall. The plant requires regular water feedings and an occasional bit of fertilizer. It can be left outside in warm months and inside when the weather starts getting cooler.
3. Ivy, snake plant and arrowhead plant: These can be planted separately or together in one pot. Each plant is easy to grow but will occasionally needed to be thinned out and replanted in fresh soil, Neall said.
4. Peperomia and fica plant: Ficas make graceful floor plants with beautiful shiny and fleshy leaves. They will need to be thinned out eventually because they tend to get full and heavy as they grow, Neall said.
5. Ferns: Neall said she has a delicate fern that she has been growing for 30 years. "I thin it out every few years when it becomes too crowded," she said. Ferns like shade and moist soil. When Neall forgets to water the plant, its color turns pale and the outside fronds brown and die, starting from the bottom. "To avoid the necessity of cutting off the dead parts, I water faithfully," she said. But she always checks that the pot is not sitting in water before adding more.