Encyclopedia Britannica Article

African violet, also known as Usambara violet, belongs to the genus Saintpaulia of the botanical family Gesneriaceae. Four species are known in tropical Africa, but only two of these, S. ionantha, the common African violet, and S. kewensis, the Kew African violet, appear to be in cultivation.

The plants are small and often stemless, hairy, perennial herbs, with basal long-stalked leaves and two-lipped, almost white to violet or red flowers in few flowered cymes. Through breeding and careful selection after about 1925 a large number (perhaps as many as 200) of horticultural varieties were developed and named, although the plant had been discovered only late in the 19th century. It became a popular greenhouse plant and one of the favourite potted window plants for home growing.

Propagation is by seed and by leaf cuttings inserted in sand. The ripened leaves should be cut off with about an inch of the petiole attached, and inserted in sand with only a little of the leaf blade covered. The sand should be kept moist but not too set while rooting is occurring to avoid rot. The method of watering and the temperature of the water have a marked influence on vigour and flowering, although plants watered in different ways may do equally well.

One common method is to permit the plants to become fairly dry, then soak thoroughly by placing the pot in a shallow pan of water overnight; allow to again dry fairly well before watering again, but take care to prevent water reaching the leaves or washing over the rim of the pot.

Although the size and type of pot, the season of the year, the weather and temperature and the light condition are all important factors affecting the water requirement, no fast rule can be prescribed. Cleansing the foliage of dust at intervals by means of a syringe or a rubber sprayer is beneficial and recommended. The temperature of the water preferably should be warmer than that of the room in whic the plants have been growing. Allow drying to occur away from direct sunlight and in warm circulating air.

With experience and care African violets may be grown easily and successfully. It is easily possible to keep them flowering through the entire year, or the plants may be given periods of rest by reducing the supply of water.

Encyclopedia Britannica, 1964, Vol 1, p. 316


If you want more information about African violets, try some of these links: Links to other African Violet Sites


Introduction | Type of flower pot | Potting an African violet | Potting procedure | Rooting an African violet from a cutting | The correct light for your African violet | Keeping your African violet humid | Watering your African violet | Encylopedia Britannica Article | Photos of African violets | Links to other African Violet Sites


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Last revised September 24, 2008