FAQ - General Culture
Question: What is meant when African violet growers talk about a crown? What is an African violet wasp?
Answer: A crown is a center of growth with all the leaves originating from that center radiating out like spokes on a wheel. When a violet is grown as a 'single-crown', all of the leaves on the plant will radiate from a center where small new leaves are just developing. This is considered the ideal form for a standard African violet. Sometimes suckers (side shoot growth) will form on the main stem of a violet between the leaves- this is also a crown since it is a center of growth. If the sucker is allowed to grow and develop, it will soon become very similar in size to the original crown. This is not very desirable, as violets rarely bloom well and cannot grow neatly when there are two or more crowns in the pot. The exception to this is a type of violets known as trailers. Trailers naturally have multiple crowns that bloom freely, and they have longer leaf axils (the space between leaves) that allow trailers to develop a lovely mounded form. A 'wasp' is a rare blossom form in which the lobes of the flowers are narrowed into what look like separate petals, each with a narrow base that broadens at the tip. The effect is like that of a wasp's body shape. Two breeders, Jimmy Dates and David Senk, have worked extensively to develop this unusual blossom trait. More examples of violets with wasp blossoms can be found in the AVSA software program called First Class, available for sale at or by calling the AVSA office. This searchable data base lists all of the African violets in the AVSA registry and is a great tool. Happy Growing! Joyce Stork
Question: What is a sticktite pansy?
Answer: It is a five-lobed flower which appears to be a single blossom but does not have the habit of dropping off the calyx. Happy Growing, Jim Owens, Webmaster
General Culture - Greenhouse
Question: I am looking for some information about making a greenhouse for African violets, can I help with that? For example, in general which material I should choose, glass or wood,.. or what kind of insulation is appropriate.
Answer: I usually do not recommend greenhouse growing of African violets. First of all, one of the prime pests that bother African violets is thrips and it is virtually impossible to keep thrips out of greenhouses. Also, violets grow better when the temperatures are maintained rather rigidly between 65 and 80 degrees (F) and best when it is kept within 5 degrees of 72. This is very difficult to do in a greenhouse setting. When the temperatures vary more than that, the violets will get a rougher look. All violets grown for competition are done under fluorescent lights where air temperatures can be better controlled. There are reasons why greenhouse growing might be your choice.... if you plan to grow a tremendous number (1000's) of violets and want to be able to diversify and grow other crops too.... if economy of production is more important than the perfection of growth. If you are a hobbyist, you might be surprised to learn that nearly all of our members grow either at the windows inside their homes, or under fluorescent lights. If you wish to proceed with a greenhouse, I would suggest that you search out professional greenhouse suppliers. You are going to need more than just the basic frame-and-cover if you are going to grow violets successfully this way. Generally this means that you will not use wood (which would tend to rot), you need to provide ventilation that limits insect invasions, you will need to shade the house during the hottest times of the year to prevent sunburn, and you need to provide temperature control to avoid temperatures below 65 or above 80. You will also need to consider how you would water in the greenhouse to avoid excessive water on the leaves. All of this requires a lot of study before you invest any money and we are probably not the best source of information. Hopefully, I've given you enough information to guide you a bit! Happy Growing! Joyce Stork
General Culture - pH
Question: I tested the pH of my water - from the tap is about an 8.4; however, the water with fertilizer added (Jack's Classic 12-36-14) is close to 6.2. Does the fertilizer change the pH? I tested with aquarium test strips. What should PH be for happy African violets?
Answer: You are probably pretty close to where you should be with pH which should ideally be at 6.8. Fertilizer definitely changes the pH. The more important test than the one you've already done is to test what the pH is in the root system. To do that, choose a plant that has been moist for several days. Water it gently from the top with your usual water and catch the first run-off water that comes through. This should be water that has been sitting in the roots which is forced out when additional water is added at the top. Test that for pH. Hopefully it will be between 6 and 7. If it is considerably higher or lower, you are probably noticing that your plants are not as healthy-looking as they once were. If the root pH is high, you might want to go back to the aquarium department to get a product called pH Down. If it is low, often the easiest solution is to repot the plants into fresh potting mix. Moist potting mix has a tendency to become acid over time, and repotting once a year is the best cure. Happy Growing! Joyce Stork
General Culture - Flowers
Question: I'm a first time African violet owner reading up on care for my plant. After I brought the plant home from the store, the blooms started dying. Mostly, they were in the center of the bloom; new blooms have come up around the old ones, which I just removed. The leaves appear healthy; they are dark green and velvety-looking. The plant has grown quite a bit since I bought it, both the diameter of the leaves and the height of the remaining blooms. Should I be worried that some sort of malady caused the blooms to die, or is that fairly normal? Thanks so much for your help. You have a really great site here!
Answer: Thanks for your good words! The blossoms only last about two to three weeks in the very best conditions. Being in a store and then moving to a new growing area is definitely not the best conditions for flowers to last. The changes in humidity and soil moisture, as well as the changes in temperature, all contributed to the blossoms dying off too quickly. All growers get used to the weekly (if not daily) task of removing spent flowers. There are two other causes for rapidly failing blossoms that are more serious problems. One, if you should happen to note that the blossoms appeared to have white powdery stuff on them as they died, you may instead have a fungus disease (powdery mildew) that is causing them to die too quickly. Two, if you should happen to note that there are tiny insects crawling on the petals (sometimes you have to flick the yellow pollen sacs where they feed to get them to crawl out), these are thrips and they will definitely cause blossoms to fade too quickly. Either of those problems requires treatment, but I'm not going to give you all of that now, unless you actually need it. We don't want to overwhelm you with too much! Happy Growing! Joyce Stork