The African violet originated in the warm and dry climate of mountainous East Africa. In the wild, the African violet grows from 50 up to 300 feet tall.
A member of the large gesneriad family of tropical and subtropical plants, the African violet's relatives include Gloxinias, Streptocarpus and Ramondas. In fact, the African violet isn't a true violet at all! True violets are in the family Violaceae and the genus Viola. Deep-rooted plants with large to small heart shaped leaves and varying degrees of hairiness, true violets thrive in a variety of climates and are found worldwide growing outdoors in either full sun or partial shade.
Different from those cultivated in container gardeners, wild African violets tolerate a fair amount of sunshine but prefer shady spots for optimum growth. The African violet is a shallow rooted plant with fleshy, hairy leaves. Since it is a sub-tropical plant, the African violet is typically not hardy over winter and, especially in temperate areas, is grown only as a houseplant.
Adalbert Emil Walter Redliffe le Tonnevy Von St Paul-Illaire is credited with discovering the African violet in 1892 and its genus, Saintpaulis, is named for him. The first African violet species, Saintpaulis ionantha (violet-like), bears small flowers that are similar to the true violet in color.
The African violet is a favorite plant of indoor gardeners all over the world. Fleshy leaves that are soft with fine hairs form a symmetry that is crowned with a halo of flowers. The African violet grows in one of two ways. Plants grow either by forming trailers or in a symmetrical rosette. Of the two types, the rosette continues to be the most popular form of African violet for container gardening.
Flowers of the African violet may be single or double blossom clusters that sprout and are framed by a rosette of green to dark green foliage. Through the years, careful cultivation and breeding have produced 20 recognized hybrids in a color span that includes white, pink, violet, purple and bi-colored flowers as well as the familiar blue. Plants with bicolor flowers have edges in a contrasting color to the main flower. In addition to the rainbow of flower colors, leaf bottoms may also be colored with a reddish tint.
When purchasing an African violet, you can tell if the plant is healthy by its flowers, which should be bright and distinctively colored. Healthy African violets bloom continuously throughout their lifetime. The African violet is one of the most widely grown houseplants on the planet. Although the easiest way to propagate your Saintpaulis is through leaf cuttings, the African violet flowers are actually the reproductive organs of the plant and are equipped with all the parts needed for propagation.
The African violet is one of the easiest houseplants you can grow. While there are dozens of expensive preparations on the market, the essentials to growing African violets are potting mixture, bright indirect light, air circulation, water and a fertilizer and of course an African violet pot. Aside from the pot, there is little you have to purchase to grow continuous blooming, healthy African violets.
Even the novice can enjoy true success with the African violet. With just a little bit of know how, taking care of African Violets is easy. In fact, they do best when left alone except for watering, propagating, and repotting. Of course, in a standard four-inch pot, the African violet won't reach 300 or even 50 feet in height, but given minimal care, the African violet is happy in any sunny spot in your home.
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