Blossom Not as Described

Question:  Several months ago I ordered several plants.  One of the violets was supposed to be ‘Cherries ‘n Cream’.  As I’ve grown this plant, it has bloomed well and is very healthy, but the blooms are single to semidouble reddish stars with “no edge at all”.  The foliage is as described.  What can this particular plant be, if it’s not ‘Cherries ‘n Cream’?

Answer:  This is a question received by one of our mail-order customers, since we guarantee all plants to be true to description.  Since the plant was true in every way except for the absence of the white edge on its bloom, we guessed that cultural conditions, the summer heat in particular, might be to blame.  Many edged varieties, particularly those with blossoms thinly edged white, tend to lose this edge when grown in very warm conditions.

It seems that her growing conditions, particularly the heat were, indeed, the problem.  This is the reply we received from her. “I’m relieved to know that it is just a matter of growing conditions.  What you said makes sense because I have been growing this plant in my kitchen (much warmer) with natural lighting versus in my basement (much cooler) under florescent lights.  ‘Cherries ‘n Cream’ doesn’t seem to appreciate a lot of direct light like some of the other violets.  I’ve also noticed that my variegated varieties have turned more green with the warmer weather.  I wonder if this affects all bicolor blooms as well?”

All of these symptoms are consistent with growing in a very warm environment.  Much, sometimes all, of the of the variegation can be lost in foliage, and many multicolor blooms can turn solid.  Fortunately, the variegation on most varieties will return with the cooler weather.  Unfortunately, this may not be the case with those having multicolor blooms, such as “fantasy” (i.e. spotted or splashed) and edged blooms, that have turned a single, solid, color.

Yellow Blooms Not Yellow

Question:  I ordered two violets this spring, one of which is supposed to have yellow blooms.  I have my first flower, and it is white.  Can you advise me on this?

Answer:  Be patient.  It will likely show more yellow in the bloom at a later time.  This is a frequent complaint from growers of “yellow” varieties, and we make a point of warning them beforehand.  To begin with, “yellow” violets is an often misleading term used by hobbyists, since no variety that we know of looks quite like a daffodil.  Most varieties are a mottling of yellow–yellow on white or yellow on pink, usually.  The yellow that is there IS yellow, but it appears in varying amounts.  How much appears depends upon variety, maturity, and environment, particularly temperature.  For example, “Golden Eye”, at least for us, shows more yellow when grown cooler.  There are other varieties, however, that can show more when grown warmer, or “in between”.  Under the best of condtions, many can appear very, almost completely, yellow.  At other times, these same plants can show very little yellow, or none at all.  This may change, as hybridizers improve upon the currently available varieties, and is likely to, given that this color is relatively new to African violets.

Do African Violets Go Dormant?

Question:  Do African violets go dormant?

Answer:  No. Unlike some other members of the gesneriad family, particularly those that are rhizomatous or tuberous, violets (which are fibrous rooted) won’t go dormant, if good culture is provided.  If a good, consistent, growing environment is provided, a violet will grow and bloom nearly continually.

Most people visiting our shop (any many of you perhaps) grow their plants in windows.  Keep in mind that a window environment is not constant, so that growth of a plant in that environment is not constant.  Here in the northeast U.S., for example, we may not see sunshine for weeks during the middle of winter.  In addition, the day length can be as much as 6 hours less than in the middle of summer.  Less light, of course, means slower growth and fewer blooms–what appears to be dormancy.  This is why many hobbyists grow under florescent lighting, since the light provided is constant, day after day, which encourages constant growth and bloom.  If you do grow in a window, you may want to move plants to a brighter exposure for the winter months, or supplement the natural light with artificial light.

Another problem is that all houseplants tend to get the same care, if only for the grower’s convenience.  Though plants like Philodendron or Sansevaria will grow and survive in even the worst conditions, violets require, and deserve, better treatment.  They’re not “fussy”, but deserve more because we expect them to do more.  Sanseveria is expected merely to survive (though it does bloom), but violets are expected to provide a display–of foliage and blooms.  Though grown in the same window, each has different needs.

Geneva Edged Blooms

Question:  I’ve seen some varieties described as “Geneva” edged.  What does this mean?

Answer:  This simply means having a blossom with petals edged in white.  The term originates from ‘Lady Geneva’, the first variety having blooms with this distinctive white edge.  It was a sport (i.e. deviation from its parent) of ‘Blue Boy’, one of the earliest hybrid violets.  The thickness of geneva edging is variable, and is easily influenced by cultural conditions, particularly temperature.  Varieties described as having a “pencilled” (or thin) edge often lose the edging in very warm conditions

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