FAQ - Propagation


Question: Is misting new leaf cuttings helpful? Are there any tips for rooting new cuttings?

Answer: Misting cuttings is often not as effective as simply enclosing the leaf in a clear plastic bag or container while it is rooting. Please find the directions for propagating leaf cuttings on the AVSA web site for more tips. Happy Growing! Joyce Stork

Question: How do you revive limp leaves that come through the mail? I received leaves through the mail and they were very limp, so I threw them away.. So is there a way?

Answer: Often the limp leaves will revive (depending on how limp they are) if they are misted with slightly warm water and placed inside a zippered plastic bag for a day or two. When a leaf begins to stiffen again, you should recut the stem and put it down. Do watch closely to make sure that mold doesn't begin to form while the outside of the leaf is still damp. If the tip of the leaf remains limp, simply trim it off... it may even make it root and reproduce more quickly. Happy Growing! Joyce Stork

Question: I was just gifted two huge clumps of African violets; one has deeply crusty dried leaves. I think they should be removed? The clump is huge- the size of nearly a lime or small lemon. Is it possible to save the two plants? Please advise, I have been an Orchid fan for years, now I am finding so much joy in the African violets.

Answer: Yes, you should definitely remove the dried leaves. I suspect that they are actually the "mother" leaves for the clumps that were put down to propagate. Since violets are new to you, you may never have tried this technique. You can find more about how to propagate a leaf, as well as an explanation for how to divide the resulting clump of "babies" in the article on putting down leaf cuttings on the AVSA web site. This is fairly intimidating the first time you do it, but if you follow the steps and enclose the divided plantlets in a sealed plastic bag or other container, you will have great success. Happy Growing! Joyce Stork

Question: When starting a new plant, I usually place the leaf in water. Recently, I have potted 6 leaves into African violet soil and covered them with a bag to increase their humidity. I did this about 6 to 8 weeks ago and still don't have any new growths like I do when I place the leaf in water. I was wondering if I should be using a special type of soil.

Answer: The soil method of rooting is usually faster than the water method in the long run, since the roots that develop in water normally die back when the leaf is later planted. When starting the leaves in potting mix, it is best if the potting mix is very light and fluffy... perhaps half vermiculite. Using this mix allows the roots to develop more freely. You also should not set the leaves into the potting mix very deeply, since the plantlets will grow from the cut end of the stem... setting it in shallowly (just enough to keep it in the mix) makes a much shorter trip for the little plants to grow before they reach the light. If your 'mother' leaves continue to be firm and healthy, they are almost certainly rooting and will ultimately produce offspring. You can also speed up the process of propagation by trimming about an inch off the tip of each 'mother' leaf (using a knife to slice it off). This seems to stimulate the production of plantlets and also increases the amount of light that reaches the soil where they are forming. For more details about soil propagation see the article on propagation on this web site. Happy Growing! Joyce Stork 

Question: I'm having great difficulty getting my mini's and semi-mini African violet leaves to root. Some have been placed in water and some have been placed in rooting mix. It has been 3 months and still nothing? The leaves are not dead they still look fine. At first some were placed in potting mix in a tray and the clear plastic cover on top. After awhile there was mildew growing, so I lifted the lid for ventilation. Still nothing. Oh! I'm growing indoors on shelves with lights. Do you think the house temp. is not warm enough? What to do. Or is it a lot more difficult to root mini's? Do you need more information to make a diagnosis?

Answer: We do not see much difference between minis and standard violets when propagating them. If you took the leaves yourself, I wonder if you might have selected leaves that were older? Usually I find that leaves from the middle rows are more quick to root and produce offspring. If the leaves still look fine, something is happening below the soil surface. The temperature can make a difference. Rooting leaves do best if the soil temperature is in the mid to high 70's. If your home is cooler than that, it can slow them down. Here's another trick-- gently tug on the leaves that are in soil just enough to surprise them a little bit. That should trigger the survival of the species response and they should put on a growth spurt. Yet another trick we often use with standard violets is to trim off the tip of the leaf with a sharp blade. It's the same thing, trying to trigger a growth spurt with a gentle threat. A little patience and you should see results! Happy Growing! Joyce Stork

Question: October 1st I received ten (10) African violet leafs by mail. I planted each leaf in small pots and waited. Each leaf have developed good root systems but zero babies. Two (2) weeks ago I noticed that the leafs were starting to grow. I then cut the tops of the leafs. Still zero babies. As a side note I was given a leaf September 27th by a dear friend. This leaf has developed baby plants that are about 1/2 inch tall. Using the same soil, light, and water.

Answer: The speed at which offspring develop can vary widely according to variety and the vigor of the individual leaf. I find that, on average, you should expect that it takes two weeks to a month for the leaf to establish a root system. Normally babies will begin to appear at six to eight weeks although it can be faster on rare occasions and it can be far longer with variegated leaves and older leaves. If the petioles were set deep into the potting mix, it can also take longer. Trimming the leaves was a good choice and should encourage a faster response. I think your purchased leaves are doing fine and appear to be right on a normal schedule. You might find a few useful tips here in the article on propagation on this web site. Happy Growing! Joyce Stork

Question: Thanks for posting directions on rooting leaves. When one is advised not to set the leaf into the soil very deeply, I wonder exactly how deep that is. Does the stem edge of the leaf touch the soil? or is it, rather, a little bit away from the soil, so just the stem is in? I am trying to save a plant of which the whole center is rotting, and some of the stems are not very long; only one was 1-2", and the rest are more like three-quarters of an inch. I wonder what "not very deeply" means in these circumstances.

Answer: The idea behind 'not very deeply' is that the new plants will form at the cut end of the stem and will have to grow from there to the surface of the soil to reach light. If the leaf is deep (to the bottom of a pot) that might be two or three inches, which results in a very spindly plant. When the leaf is just perched at the very top, perhaps a half inch below the soil line, the offspring reach light very quickly and are sturdier. To save leaves from a violet with crown rot, the most important thing is to be certain that there is no trace of the rot in the leaf you have taken. The petiole (the correct name for the stem attached to the leaf) can be very very short or even non-existent. Some growers routinely slice across the bottom section of the leaf and set the top of the leaf with the cut edge just barely into the potting mix (just enough to keep the leaf upright). You will tend to get more baby plants (all along the cut edge) and they will often be further apart and easier to harvest when the time comes to pot them separately. Happy Growing! Joyce Stork

Question: I have a new plantlet that I propagated from my violet. This new one has about six leaves, but two of them are slowly turning brown around the edges and shriveling. Is this normal? What could be the cause of this? How do I keep my new baby violet growing strong?

Answer: New leaves on plantlets are very tender and vulnerable to dry air or dry air drafts, especially if the soil moisture is not kept evenly moist. Direct sunlight can be too harsh as well. At this stage many growers find that the young plants do best if kept in a terrarium-like environment where the humidity is high. Clear plastic food containers (like a hot-fudge-sundae cup with a lid) or zip-lock bags are both good choices. Water the plant and allow it to stop dripping before putting it inside the clear container. Seal it closed and set it out of direct sunlight but in a bright location. It will not need additional watering as long as it is closed up in this fashion. In a month or so you will begin to see more mature growth developing; the leaves will be broader, flatter, and sturdier. When you believe the plant is strong enough to leave confinement (or when the plant is too big to remain there), open the container a little bit the first day and a little more the next. This allows the humidity to change gradually and will prevent wilting from the shock of sudden dry air. By the third day, the young violet will be ready to handle a more normal growing environment. Happy Growing! Joyce Stork



Propagation -  Seeds


Question: Where are the seeds on an African violet? Are they in the flower after it dries? I looked at all the questions on propagation and they all involve starting form a leaf.

Answer: Seeds don't often develop on African violets because a pollinator (human or insect) is usually required. They usually don't shed pollen very easily. All seed develops in the center of the flower. When pollen from the yellow stamen reaches the upper tip of the pistil (which is the white tube that is growing between the yellow pollen sacs in the center of the flower), it grows down the tube into the ovary at the very center of the flower and seed will begin to form. The ovary will swell up to about the size of a popcorn seed and look bright green in the center of the flower. Usually the flower will fade rather quickly after pollination, but the stem of the flower will remain green until the seed pod is fully ripe.... about four months later. There is no guarantee as to what color the plants produced from seed will be (just as children do not look exactly like their mothers). For this reason, we generally produce African violets from leaf cuttings so that we can obtain clones of the parent plant that have the exact characteristics we want. Happy Growing! Joyce Stork 

Question: If I plant African violet(s) from seed, how long should it take to start flowering/blooming?

Answer: It always depends on your conditions, but if the potting medium is evenly moist, if there is adequate light, if the temperatures remain near 72 degrees Fahrenheit, etc., then flowering might be expected to occur about 6 to 9 months after sowing the seed. Happy Growing! Joyce Stork


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