In our increasingly digital world, we often find ourselves spending long periods of time indoors trapped in front of a screen. Much as we might prefer to be wandering through the bush or splashing in the ocean, duty calls us to spend long hours gazing at a screen and tapping away on a keyboard. It is no wonder then, that we try to find ways of bringing the outdoors into the office. One obvious way to bring nature inside is the growing of indoor plants.
African Violets (Streptocarpus sect. Saintpaulia) are one of my favourite indoor plants. I have had quite a few African Violets over the years and I have always found them easy to grow and reasonably hardy. Plants need to be hardy if they are going to survive in my house. Currently I have just one plant, but it has proved to be quite resilient, surviving life with Paul out west before finally making the move to Toowoomba.
Originating from Eastern Africa, African Violets are not technically violets at all, but coming from a tropical area they can be a bit picky about light. They don’t like too much and they don’t like too little. If the light is not quite right, they will still grow, but they won’t flower. However, I did come across an interesting suggestion for encouraging stubborn African Violets to flower. It sounded a bit like blackmail to me, but if you put the plant in a paper bag for 3 or 4 days, it will be so grateful when it comes back out into the light that it will reward you with flowers. Fortunately I didn’t have to resort to that with my plant, although it did take a little while to find the right spot. But once I found it, it didn’t take long for the plant to start pushing up flower buds.
African Violets can also be a bit finicky about water. I came across some growing notes that suggested using tepid water that had stood for 48 hours, but I’ve never done that and mine have always thrived. It is true that they don’t like water on their leaves, so I just lift the leaves gently and water underneath. Not too much, not too little, just right. Despite what some advice suggests, I’ve not found African Violets to be too fussy – I haven’t killed one yet!
Sadly, some species of African Violet in the wild are being threatened due to clearing, but in the plant nursery African Violets come in a range of colours. I particularly like the varieties with the contrasting edging. I once had an African Violet that had white petals with purple edging. I’d love to find one like that again. Or perhaps some with layers of frilly petals. They are easily propagated. All you need is a fresh leaf. Gardening experts will probably tell you to dip the leaf in hormone powder but I’m not an expert so I just put the leaf in some water or straight into some potting mix. It’s always worked for me. If you would like to give African Violets a go you can check out some advice from some experts here.