African Violets: To Fuss, or Not to Fuss?

By: Julie Day

I’m a little embarrassed to show you this photo, but here it is. This is an African violet, one of a trio of violets that I’ve grown rather unsuccessfully for years.

African Violets are known to be a little fussy, but I thought I was doing everything right. I put them in my guest bedroom, which has a north-east exposure and plenty of indirect light.

I let them dry out between waterings, and watered very carefully from the bottom, to avoid wetting the leaves. I used a large drainage saucer that increased humidity but had ridges to sit the plants on, which kept the roots from sitting in water.

They had light, well-aerated soil, steady temperatures, and regular fertilizer, all the things African Violets are supposed to like. These plants had it made, yet they sat there stubbornly, season after season, refusing to bloom.

Finally, this past spring, I went on a cleaning rampage, and the African Violets didn’t make the cut. I can’t bring myself to throw away a living plant, so instead I stuck them outside in a plastic tray and commenced neglecting them.

I was figuring that in a few more weeks, I could throw away a dead plant, which is a lot easier on my conscience. They’ve been hidden behind a shrub, rarely watered, in the North Carolina heat, for about three months. More recently, they’ve been subjected to masonry mortar, paint, bleach, and misplaced ladders, as I’ve done some work to the outside of my house.

After all that, you can imagine my surprise when I saw these blooms! As you can see, the plants are covered in mortar dust, yet they are eagerly sending up purple flowers as though they’ve been babied in a greenhouse. For this, they may get a reprieve.

It just goes to show, sometimes in gardening, no amount of fussing can duplicate the conditions of Mother Nature, and sometimes even needy plants can fend for themselves.

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