Five Tips for Easy African Violets

African violets make delightful house plants. Even a small plant
purchased for a few dollars at the grocery store, can be shaped into a large specimen with masses of flowers that will be the envy of your gardening friends! That is, if you know how to grow them . African violets hail from Kenya and  like warm temperatures, so are well suited to most homes. Here are tips to keep your African violets in tip-top shape:

1. Bright light means blooms. Your violets must have bright indirect light for most of the day to flower. Not getting  enough light is the reason most violets don’t flower. Try moving them to a brighter spot or closer to the glass. In the northern hemisphere, southern, eastern or shaded west light is best. If you grow plants under light, African violets are an excellent candidate.

2. Feed your plants often. If you aren’t getting enough flowers despite getting good healthy growth with medium-dark green leaves, you probably need to feed you plants. There are plenty of good cheap African violet foods that will help. It is most convenient to make up a gallon jug of plant food mixed with water and use this intermittently to water your plants.

3. Water from the bottom up. African violets like to be kept moist but not wet. The bet way to water them is from the bottom up. When the potting mix begins to feel dry to the touch, fill the saucer your plant is sitting in with about 1/2 to 1″ of water depending on the pot size(i.e. more water for larger plants) and let it drink up what it needs. This also prevents getting water on the leaves which will  damage them or leave unsightly marks

3. Small pots, big plants. African violets like to be under-potted. You can grow large plants in nothing bigger than a  4″ pot. Of course the pot size will depend on how big the root ball is. The amount of foliage or spread of the leaves is irrelevant! But these plants do a lot better when pot-bound.

4. Pot often. Most African violets purchased off the shelf are in cheap peat mixes. As soon as possible, report your plant into a quality  houseplant mix, or make your own blend with 1 cup of peat/soil,  14 cup perlite and an optional 1/4 cup vermiculite or charcoal. Re pot your plan every 12-18 months or whenever the mix appears to be stale and compacted.

5. Remove dead flowers. As flowers fade, begin to remove them at the base. Sometimes flowers will be produced on branching stalks, with one branch coming into bloom while the other is fading  so be  careful not to break off a stalk that is still blooming. This is a good time to mention that African violets tend to produces blooms in flushes, often taking a rest between bloomings.

65th Orchid Show Ushers in Fall

The Orchid Show and Sale, held every Columbus Day weekend at the US National Arboretum kicks off  Saturday Oct 6 and runs through Monday.  This year marks the 65th Annual Orchid Show put on by members of the National Capital Orchid Society.

The show features hundreds of orchids in bloom, the likes of which you will not see for sale at your local grocery store. And if you want to add a few of these beauties to your collection, you’ll find a sales tent with many different types of orchids for sale, and experts who can help you choose.

Here are a few photos from this years show to whet your appetite. Visiting the show and sales tent is  free, so this is a great way to while away a few hours and enjoy a burst of tropical color.  There are also tours and workshops to help you hone your orchid growing skills!  See details and hours of operation

Lycaste Concentration ‘Santa Barbara’ AM/AOS


Trichoglottis philippinensis

Trichoglottis philippinensis

Orchids for Sale

Gorgeous Display from J&L Orchids

Starry Summer Orchids

My Brassavola David Sander is in bloom again! This year I was rewarded with about 6 blooms sequentially over two months. This plant needs to get big before it bloom profusely, but the attractive elongated foliage stays contained so a specimen can be grown in a 5″ pot. See my earlier post on this orchid for more information.

Orchid Mystique in Washington D.C.

The U.S. Botanic Gardens show Orchid Mystique: Nature’s Triumph, in collaboration with Smithsonian Gardens, runs until April 29, 2012. This year’s exhibit observes the 100th anniversary of Japan’s gift of the cherry blossom trees to Washington, D.C., apparently by presenting our orchids around the Conservatory “in serene settings evocative of Japanese gardens to complement the thousands of orchids on display.”

Unfortunately there is not too much of a Japanese aesthetic going on(Italian style terracotta pots don’t quite cut it) other than a lovely Japanese garden, and with the hordes of tourist, serenity is in short supply.  Still, there are always some beautiful orchids to observe and we’ve selected a few here to  share with you.

Also on display are photographs of Images of North American native orchids from Hal Horwitz, which are really worth seeing. In that same vein, its also worth checking out an exhibit about a new national effort to restore and conserve native US orchids. Sadly, may of our own orchids are extinct or endangered in our own backyards of Maryland and Virginia.

Cymbidium Blue River ‘Thunder’

Dendrobium aggregatum, a tiny species with large sprays of flowers


Dendrobium Gold Star 'Orange Royal'

Vanda Pachara Delight ‘Pachara’

Chysis bractescens

Cymbidium cooperi