Question: All I am getting are new leaves. How often do violets bloom?
Answer: Given the proper care and conditions, African violets can bloom nearly constantly. If your plant is producing new, healthy, leaves, but no blooms, the likely causes are either insufficient light and/or excess crowns or suckeres. Properly grown, unless this is a species or trailing variety, your violet should have only one “crown” or growing point–the place from which new leaves are formed. It should also not have any “suckers”. These are the beginning of small crowns, new growth that will appear as small pairs of leaves, along the stem in the leaf axils. This is where flower buds could be forming, but won’t if your plant is busy producing suckers at those points. You don’t need a lot of leaves to produce bloom. Like most plants, African violets produce bloom from the new growth, generally the first (youngest) three rows of leaves. This means that more than 4 or 5 rows, or 12-15 leaves, is unnecessary. Limiting foliage grown will encourage blossom production (the plant will have no choice). If you’ve done this, ask yourself if there is enough light. You want to provide as much bright light as possible without exposing the plant to hot, or intense, sunlight. If growing under artificial lights, try moving the plant closer to the bulbs or leaving them under the lights for an hour or two more.
Question: The blooms on a few of my varieties, ‘Irish Flirt’ and ‘Rob’s Denim Demon’, to name two, don’t want to open fully. Any reason why?
Answer: This was a phone call that we received from a customer. Since the plants were being grown during the summer months, we asked whether she considered her growing conditions to be very warm–she said they were. This is the most likely explanation for the small flowers. Many kinds of stress, high temperatures (say, above 80f degrees for a prolonged period) in particular, can cause blooms to be small or not fully open. This can be more of a problem for some varieties, too. Varieties with very double, frilled, or green flowers often have this trait. Though both of the varieties mentioned are among our favorites, they do, sometimes, behave this way.
Question: Chirita ‘Vietnam’ (usbrg #98-083) grows very well for me, but I’ve never been able to get it to bloom. Perhaps it’s just a poor bloomer. Is that true?
Answer: This was a comment overheard in a showroom last fall. We’ve seen this particular plant more than once in shows, and it always looks terrific, with perfectly symmetrical rows of pointed, fuzzy, leaves and, usually, attractive stolons displayed around the main plant bearing those same leaves. Like this exhibitor, we’ve never seen one shown in bloom. From personal experience, however, we know much differently–it’s a very easy and free bloomer. Most all of the chiritas are.
The secret, as it is for any gesneriad that produces stolons, is to remove the stolons! We’ve grown this particular plant both with, and without, stolons. Those grown without stolons are almost always in bud or bloom. Those allowed to produce stolons almost never flower. Episcias are another gesneriad that usually are not seen exhibited in bloom, and many growers have difficulty getting them to bloom heavily. Because they have such beautiful leaves, and are such vigorous plants, most growers don’t bother to groom them properly. Most swill bloom heavily, and regularly, if their growth is controlled properly. This is what we do. First, remove all stolons until the main crown fully matures and begins to produce flower buds. Then, allow the first set of stolons to mature and produce buds before allowing those stolons to produces stolons, and so on. By doing this, you will have a full plant with many large, fully developed, crowns, each producing bloom.