Question: I have one African violet. Some divisions bloom a solid purple and others bloom purple and white. What causes this to happen?
Answer: If divisions means crowns, you may want to separate these and pot them individually. As for the different flower colors, this is the consequence of both genetics and environment. Not knowing the variety, we assume this is a violet that is genetically a multicolor-blossomed variety. Instability, unfortunately, is the price we pay for having varieties in such color combinations. Environment also plays a role, since distressed plants tend to be more unstable. By this we mean excessively war, dry, or toxic conditions.
To limit the instability, propagate from plants that themselves are stable. When selecting leaves to root, here’s a hint: light-colored leaves tend to produce plants with light-colored blooms, darker leaves produce darker blooms. Since heavily multicolored varieties often have leaves with darker mottling, you can make this choice. This mottling will look like a “birthmark” on the leaf. As for the environment, avoid excessive heat or dryness. This is why so many multicolor blooms become solid during the warm summer months. Overuse of fertilizers or insecticides can also cause instability.
Question: Is it true that if you don’t allow an African violet to bloom for a while by clipping the blooms as soon as they appear, that in a few months the plant will explode with blooms? I have noticed that the leaves are getting thicker. The leaves look very healthy.
Answer: Yes. This is what most of the best exhibitors do when growing plants for show. By “disbudding”, the plant is not allowed to bloom and all of its energy goes into producing foliage. The result is a very healty, vigorous, plant. Standards will tend to produce larger leaves. Miniature and semiminiature varieties will remain so, but leaves will become more thick and lush, with better color. When finally allowed to bloom, it can now ustain a much greater amount of bloom. Since the new bloom is generally produced only from the newest growth (usually the first few rows of leaves), there may not be a significant increase in the number of bloom stalks. There will, however, be a greater number of blooms per stalk, and likely larger flowers, than had the plant not been disbudded earlier.
Question: How long do African violets bloom?
Answer: This all depends upon environment, the variety being grown, and your care. Individual blooms can last anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. Varieties producing thicker petals and those with green in the bloom tend to last longer. Blooms will last longer under moderate to high humidity with cooler temperatures (say 60-75f degrees). With cooler temperatures, blooms will also tend to be larger and colors more intense. Once blooms fade or become “spent”, remove them, since their decay would likely shorten the life of adjacent blooms.
As for how long and African violet will have at least some bloom (the length of the blooming “cyle”, so to speak), this will also depend greatly upon the environment, care, and variety. Given a good environmen, and with proper care, most modern hybrids can be kept in almost continual bloom, once they mature. Most importantly, your violet will need good, consistent, light. This is hard to achieve growing in windows, since the amount of natural light the plant receives varies so greatly from season to season and window to window. Under artificial light, which can be controlled, African violets can bloom nearly constantly with proper care.
Question: About a year ago at a show, I bought a beautiful chimera, ‘The Alps’. It has bloomed profusely since then, but now seems to be reverting to solid blue flowers. What can I do now?
Answer: As a commercial grower, this is the type of question we get frequently from growers. Often times a chimera, fantasy, or multicolor blossomed variety will turn a sold (or different) color, even though it was blooming “true” when purchased. Unfortunately, this is the nature of many such unusually-colored varieties. The same genetic nature of these varieties that makes them so unusual also makes them more unstable. In fact, many of the pinwheel-blossomed varieties (chimeras) that are now available, first appeared as sports, or genetic mutations, of a multicolor or fantasy-blossomed variety. Sometimes a chimera will revert to its original form–some of our plants of ‘The Alps’, for example, have also reverted to a solid color (in our case, to white flowers).
The advice is preventative. Blooms are more likely to turn a solid (or different) color when the plant is stressed in some way. Most often this will mean too warm a growing environment and is a common problem during the summer for those growers without air conditioning. Less likely forms of stress include over-fertilization, too much light, improper water or soil pH, or a toxic reaction to an insecticide or other chemicals. If you’ve grown the variety before, and it has a history of being unstable, or you can’t provide a less stressful environment, a little “insurance” might be wise. Put down a few leaves (or crown, if a chimera) of those varieties that are most likely to “sport”, keeping in mind that not all the plantlets produced by those leaves may be true in color. This way, you’re likely to have young plants ready of the variety when the inevitable finally happens