When I first started growing violets I was enchanted by their romantic
names. I lusted after plants called Rite of Spring and Moonbeams
Silver Glow. (I made those names up but, in the wild world of violet
naming there could be plants with those very names.)
I have matured in violet growing. Instead of collecting every darned
violet in sight I now stick to preferred performers. I would have called
this heresy in my early days but now, if a plant doesnt perform,
I throw it out. No, I dont take a leaf and try again.
I just flip it into the trash. Heartless of me, I know, but my collection
is better for it. My plant stand is not a nursery for invalids and there
are always more African Violets out there.
I do not look for special blooms but I like the flowers to have more
than one colour, unless they are miniatures. Here are some of my preferred
If it seems that I have a preference for Optimaras, its because
they have the reputation, sometimes deserved, of flowering freely and
being tough as an old boot. As you may have guessed Im not growing
plants for show but for my own enjoyment. If you can grown a bed of
pink petunias, you can also grow violets.
I wick my plants into the water in individual little tubs. Some violets
dont like to get their feet wet this way. Fine. Trash them! I
look for sturdy plants that bloom freely and give me good leaves. Since
my method of growing doesnt lead to long-lived plants, I am always
re-cultivating new plants from leaves or from seed. Ive had considerable
success growing from seed. It takes a while but eventually you have
a forest of little plants from which you can choose the best growers
and, you guessed it, throw it out the rest.
Like most of you I grow a few other plants, outside or inside. Sweet
100 Tomatoes, Dahlias & and, most recently, Cacti and Succulents
from seed (If I live long enough I may see these cacti mature). My first
love remains, however, the tenacious, free blooming and infinitely varied
There are various ways of growing African violets but I prefer the method
called wick watering. In a wick watering, a wick made of synthetic material
such as nylon baby yarn or a thin strip of nylon stocking is used to
bring water into the soil from a small plastic or ceramic reservoir
below the plant pot. There are commercial reservoirs but I use Ziploc
containers and cut a strip in their blue plastic lids so I can place
the wick through and, later, fill the containers with water without
removing their lids. Margarine containers or other plastics food containers
from the supermarket can be used instead. The wick is inserted in the
pot before earth is added, taped at the top to the outside rim, then
the wick put through the hole in the bottom of the pot to dangle into
the water-holding container below. Some people complain that the water
in the containers turns green from algae growth. These containers are
easily scrubbed out and there is a commercial product called Physan
that prevents the algae from growing. Popular knowledge says that adding
a copper coin to the water will stop algae but I consider that myth
to be busted. Doesnt work for me.
Not all violets thrive on a with watering but those that do like it
very much. The plants have a continuous source of moisture but do not
become overly wet. One thing you will notice if you start wick watering
is that when plants are preparing to bloom theyll draw much more
water and the reservoir will quickly become dry.
Wick watering is ideal for invalids or busy folks who may not have
time or energy to individually water their plants on a regular basis.
If you have to go away on vacation or for business you can rest assured
that your plants will be well watered in your absence. If, like myself,
you dont take to scheduled watering then wicks take out all the
All the Best and Good Growing!