African violets: Propagating chimeras
Most African violets can be successfully propagated from leaf cuttings to vegetatively reproduce plants that will be identical to the plant from which the leaf cutting was taken. This is because the genetic make-up of any cell in the leaf cutting is the same as any other cell. This is not true with “chimeras”. These are plants that have developed plant tissues where the individual cells are genetically different. Because of this, plants produced from leaf cuttings frequently are not identical to the plant from which the cutting was taken
Though a chimera is any plant having this genetic characteristic, in African violets, this term is typically used to describe the “pinwheel” blossomed varieties, which frequently don’t propagate “true” to description from leaf cuttings. Examples of these can be seen in our catalog (go to the “African violets” section via the links in this web-site).
Step 1: Remove crown from plant center. Using a sharp knife or razor, carefully cut away the crown. If this is done carefully, this crown can be re-rooted (see step #5). Leave a few leaves on the plant that remains.
Step 2: The violet with center removed. Basically, just a “stump” with a few leaves attached. Continue to care for this as you would your other violets. If a bloom stalk should happen to appear, it can be removed.
Step 3: Suckers appear from the decrowned plant. In time, perhaps 2-3 months, you should see little plantlets growing atop and around the “stump” that was left after decrowning. These “suckers”, when large enough, will then be removed to produce new plants.
Step 4: Remove sucker from stump. Using a sharp knife or razor, carefully remove any sucker that appears big enough for you to comfortably handle. After removing these, you need not discard the “stump”–it may produce more suckers that can be “harvested” later. Suckers growing from the stump are more likely to produce plants identical to original plant than are those growing from beneath leaves or soil.
Step 5: Root the sucker. Fill a small pot with your normal soil mix (or your rooting mix, but this will necessitate a subsequent potting into your regular mix). Moisten the soil (again, moist but not soggy), and make a small “divot” or hole in the surface with a pencil tip (our favorite tool). Then, push the sucker into this small hole and firm-in soil around its base. Place the potted sucker into a clear, covered container or plastic “baggie” (e.g. a sandwich bag), and set aside in a bright place in moderate temperature. Don’t put in an overly warm place, or into bright or hot sunlight, since this may cause sucker to rot. In 3-4 weeks, the sucker should be rooted, and can be removed from its protective container.
Though not all suckers will produce blooms identical to the original plant, most of them will. As insurance, be sure that you’ve rooted the original crown that you removed from the plant in step #1, since this will continue to bloom true to variety.
Keep in mind that any violet can be propagated in this manner, but because it is more time consuming and produced fewer plantlets (that’s why chimeras cost more), there’s little reason to do so for nonchimeral varieties that will reproduce true from leaf cuttings.