What to Look For in Your First African Violet

Question:  I’d like to give growing African violets a go, but I’m very cautious about purchasing plants that aren’t mature.  Would you recommend these as “starter plants” for the newbie?  Are African violets good for people with little or no experience, like me, and which varieties are easier to care for?

Answer:  Our observations are that African violets are one of the easiest plants to grow, yet one of the most difficult to grow well (to perfection).  This is one of the reasons we choose to grow them, and why they are a good choice for both the novice to enjoy as a “house” plant, and for the grower that wants to be challenged, as a “show” plant.  Though we all like instant gratification, thre are advantages to starting with an immature, “starter” plant.  A larger, mature plant purchased in bloom, in the long run, is not necessarily easier to grow.  Those blooms won’t last long, especially after the sress of packaging and travel.  Further, both the starter and mature plants will need repotting, but the latter will need this done sooner, and may be more likely to suffer from the change in soil and environment.

It is important that you start with a healthy plant, form a responsible seller/grower.  We’ll often get calls asking for help from people who’ve purchased less than healthy plants at a discounted price from a local garden center, supermarket, or department store.  Usually, these retailers don’t actually grow these plants, just resell them.  They may have received them in less than perfect health, and those responsible for their short-term care often know little about African violets.  Their only interest is to keep them alive long enought to sell them.  Like anything else, be a smart shopper, and get your plants from those that know African violets, and grow their own plants.  Want a really good deal?  Join a local society!  Most will have leaf exchanges, club sales, or shows, as well as lots of other members who wouldn’t mind sharing leaves, plants, or advice, at little or no cost.

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