20 The Dafly News, Friday, January 17,1997
Promise yourself to grow an African violet
Every year, many of us make
resolutions. It might be to lose
weight or stop smoking.
Whatever the resolutions this
year. I challenge every resident of
thcsc islands tu grow and keep a
healthy African violent plant alive
in your homes in 1997.
There is no other house plant
more popular than African violet.
It has become the most widely
grown flowering house plant in the
The African Violet Society of
America now has a membership
over 15,000 and is probably the
largest single plant society in the
United States. It is native to East
Africa. In 1892, a German botanist
discovered the plant and was given
the scientific name-Saintpulia-
The plant began gaining popu-
larity in the 1930s. Many people
admired the African violet for its
beautiful symmetry and abundant
Grooming and cutting African
violet has developed into a fine art
by growers who take pride in the
beauty of prized specimens.
When I mentioned African vio-
let to some of my friends, one per-
son turned to me and said. "Olasce.
African violet is a difficult plant to
Actually, African violets are rel-
atively easy to grow under varying
growing conditions, and an ideal
plant for people who don't have
spare time for plant care.
The plant cannot take direct sun
for long periods. In its natural envi-
ronment, the plant grows under
humid shaded condition in the forest.
Its brightly colored flowers
which come in shades of red, white,
purple, and a nice mix will brighten
any room in the house. There are
also several kinds of leaves in vari-
ous species. For proper growth, the
plant should have a porous fertile
If you plan to get cuttings from a
friend, select a leaf toward the cen-
ter of the plant, and separate it gen-
tly from the mother plant. Either
water or soil can be used as a grow.
ing medium. A good soil mixture
can be prepared by using two parts
peat moss, one part sand, and one
part soil In the Virgin Islands, add
more sand and peat moss.
Before you pot your cuttings,
check the moisture content of the
soil mixture. When you squeezed
the mixture in our hand, it should
pack slightly. Then, poke the leaf
stem into the pot about an inch deep
and keep the soil moist. If you place
the leaf way below the soil line, the
plant will rot off rapidly.
When the leaf begins to grow
and it is about two or three inches
tall, it should be taken out of the
propagating pot and placed in its
Pots four inches in diameter and
three inches high are ideal for
growing this plant To grow African
violets successfully, water is impor-
tant to the plant's survival. Some
experts say pots of three inches or
smaller should be watered from the
bottom. Pour enough water into a
saucer and allow the plant to drink.
Larger potted plants should be
watered from the top, but be careful
the leaves do not touch the soiL If
V See VIOLETS, page21
CONiNUED FROM PAGE 20
they do, fungus will develop on the
leaves once the leaves come in con-
tact with the wet soil.
Water only when the soil surface
is dry to the touch. African violets
do best when the humidity is 50 to
60 percent. However, the average
homes in the Virgin Islands do not
have enough moisture in the air for
best growth of plant.
One way to add moisture to the
air in the area immediately around
the plants is to place the pots on
shallow trays or large saucers which
. have an inch of fine gravel on the
bottom. Keep the water in these
trays level just below the surface of
the gravel. This water will evapo-
rate into the surrounding air, and
give the plants a better atmosphere.
African violets grow best when
nighttime temperatures at night are
60 to 75 degrees.
Proper amount of light is impor-
tant to grow African violets. Too
much light may cause burning on
leaves, while too little light affect
flowering. There are several fertiliz-
ers on the market. The labels on
these products explain how the fer-
tilizers should be applied.
Olasee Davis, who has a master
of science degree in range manage.
ment and forestry ecology, is a St
Croir ecologist, activist and writer.