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Propagation of the African violet

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Saintpaulia sp.
Photo: Jardin botanique de Montréal (Josée Bouthot)

African violets are propagated from seed or, more frequently, from cuttings.

With seeds, you can obtain a large number of new plants, but they may not resemble the parent very closely. Some amateur growers pollinate their plants themselves to produce new hybrids, while others buy their seed from specialized nurseries.

Propagation from cuttings is more common. The advantage of this method is that the new plants will all be identical to the parent and will bloom more quickly.

Taking leaf cuttings is a common technique, among both commercial and private growers.

  • Select a strong, healthy stem that is neither too young nor too old. First water the plant, and then remove a stem from the second-last row of leaves.
  • Cut the stem to 3 to 5 cm on the diagonal with a sharp knife.
  • Insert the stem at a 45° angle into a rooting medium such as vermiculite, ensuring that the leaf does not touch the surface. You may wish to put a small stick or piece of plastic under the leaf to hold it in place.
  • Rootlets will form quickly if the pot is placed in a bright spot out of direct sunlight; keep it warm from underneath, the rooting medium evenly damp and the humidity in the air constant. A plastic bag or glass may be placed over the cutting, provided that it doesn’t touch the leaf.
  • Tiny plantlets will appear at the base of the stem in about 5 to 12 weeks.
  • As soon as the leaves reach 2 cm in diameter, separate them and pot them up separately.
  • Avoid overwatering the new plants, which will rot easily.

An African violet may also be propagated by dividing the offshoots that form on the crown of an older plant.

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