African violet is perhaps the only full-blown paradox that can survive on a windowsill. On one hand, it is a celebrated show plant, with new cultivars eagerly sought after by collectors and enthusiasts. It has its own organization, the African Violet Society of America, and its own magazine, African Violet. A quick Internet search reveals that there are almost as many African violet sites as there are pages for sex and dieting. And yet, these plants are mass-produced by the hundreds of thousands and are readily available for a minuscule price from mom and pop garden centers, enormous mega-merchandisers, and a host of medium-size vendors.
At mid-winter African violets take a starring role at the front of displays in retail establishments; the rest of the time they languish under lights, ready to be plucked up by desperate souls who just need a little color in the kitchen window. Judging by the place of origin on the plant tags, African violet culture may well be responsible for a large share of Canada’s export revenues. Thanks to the plant wizards who produce Optimara® violets, these plants may also support a hefty portion of Germany’s economy. If African violets could only power automobiles, the growers could take over the world.
As almost everyone knows, African violets (Saintpaulia ionantha) have shallow roots, fuzzy leaves, and five-petaled flowers (except for double varieties), often with an “eye” in the middle. They seem to perform best as houseplants in a bright spot away from direct sunlight. When placed outside, they should be positioned in a shaded location to avoid burning the leaves.
As cultivated plants go, African violets are a fairly recent innovation. Discovered in East Africa about 100 years ago, they wereRead more on backyardgardener.com