Pinwheel Patterned African Violets

A 'pinwheel' African violet
A ‘pinwheel’ African violet. This cultivar is called ‘Petunia’

Perhaps not as exciting as the mythological chimera (a mishmash of snake, lion, and goat) chimeras in the plant kingdom refer to distinct  types of plant cells within the same plant  that have different characteristics. So in the case of African violets, you can end up with the beautiful pinwheel effect displayed here by the miniature variety ‘Petunia.’

These are no harder to grow than other African violets, though you may have to go to a specialty grower to find them. They also will not reproduce by leaf cuttings so you’re out of luck there unless you can get hold of a sucker(young plantlet that forms at the base of the mother plant. Petunia happens to form multiple crowns so could be easily propagated. It also has an attractive semi trailing habit. This plant is growing on a tiny plastic two inch pot that we dropped into this decorative cache pot for display.

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.