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Grow African Violets

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by Courtney Symes (subscribe)
Courtney is a freelance fashion, art and design writer and content creator for www.mrgift.com.au - an online boutique specialising in quality gifts for men. Read more of Courtney’s work at www.alittlepinkbook.blogspot.com.au
Published December 10th 2010
Whilst apartment living has its advantages, there are sometimes restrictions. Lack of garden space is one such challenge, so house plants can be a great way of getting your green-thumb-fix whilst making the best of limited space. There are numerous varieties of space-saving plants (and pots) available these days specifically designed for those leading a compact lifestyle. African violets are one such plant variety that require minimum space and reward your efforts with delightful floral displays.

My first encounter with African violets was as a child when I took piano lessons with a lovely lady who had an African violet addiction. Not a skerrick of windowsill was visible under her myriad of Violets lining every window. Whilst many plants yielded flowers of the same colour (products of her obsessive propagation), there was a still broad assortment of colours throughout the room. Like fairytale princesses in their finest gowns, ruffled petals in white, powder-pink and soft lilac through to deep indigo were always in bloom. Since this first enchanting experience I have remained a devoted African violet fan for many years.

Unseasoned African violet owners sometimes face the risk of over-watering their new plant, which can lead to waterlogging and eventually rot when the plant can't dry out quick enough. African violet grower and expert, Annette from Bass Valley Violet Group says her top tip for caring for African violets is to "not over water them, most people water them every few days whether they need it or not, and in doing so kill them with kindness. They are better to be a bit dry than too wet."

Fortunately, growing African violets has become a cinch these days thanks to the availability of Potwells (self-watering pots with a wick system). This type of pot allows the plant to draw as much or as little water required from the well beneath. The simplicity of the wick watering system was one of the reasons Annette first started growing African violets, explaining "the wick watering system makes it so easy; also they are an indoor plant so I can garden day or night, and it doesn't matter about the weather."
Annette also suggests using a light, open potting mix that is free-draining. "Most specialist growers use a soil-less mix (no dirt or compost) which is really just a growing medium and often contains perlite and vermiculite."

African violets are also incredibly easy to propagate. A single leaf cutting is all that is required, so once you're hooked watch out – your house can easily become over-run with these pretty little plants!

By following a few simple rules, African violets can actually be a low maintenance plant, despite any previous misgivings experienced. They are even suitable for people who travel frequently if they are planted in a Potwell and topped up with water before departure.

Experience the beauty of African violets first-hand (or feed your addiction further) at the African violet Annual Show on 20th-21st November at Mount Waverly Community Centre.
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Why? African Violets are surprisingly easy to grow so give one a go!
When: You need a little pick-me-up
Where: Any home with a bright indoor spot
Cost: Plants available from Bass Valley African Violet Group from around $15ea
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