Growing African Violets From Cuttings or Starts

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Photo By Fotolia/Kiya Grafica
Learn about growing African violets from cuttings or starts.

Growing African violets from cuttings or starts is easy using these helpful growing tips.

Starter African Violet Plants

Did you know that a plant can be patented? Well it can, and the very best African violets sold by firms such as George J. Ball, Inc. (P.O. Box 335, West Chicago, Illinois 60185, telephone 312-231-3500), are all patented. This means that before one of these companies will sell you any of its patented e starts, you will be required to sign an agreement which states that you will not propagate any new plants from the starters in sends you.

It’s all right — in other words — for you to buy these patented starts, raise them up, and then sell them . . . but it’s definitely not all right for you to buy the patented starts, raise them, start more plants from leaf cuttings taken from the original starts, and then sell the propagated plants.

If this restriction cramps your style too much, you’ll be better off dealing with commercial suppliers of unpatented African violets. There are several — including Fisher Greenhouses, Linwood, N.J. 08371 and Tinarl Greenhouses, 2325 Valley Rd., Box 190, Huntington Valley, PA 19006 — and you should have no trouble finding a source of unpatented starts that you enjoy dealing with.

And if you’re launching your new business on real shoestring, there’s a lot to be said for growing your original “mother” plants from leaf cuttings taken from a friend’s favorite unpatented African violet . . . cultivating the parent stock . . . and then propagating a regular supply of starts from their leaves. You’ll spend a little more time getting your enterprise rolling this way . . . but a lot less money. And, once you are underway, you’ll always make more profit on any plant you sell that you propagated yourself (for free) instead of bought from a supplier.

But let’s say that you can afford to buy your first starts and you want to get into the African violet business as quickly and as easily as possible. Contact the supplier of your choice for current availability and prices of starts (the going price, by the way — at least for patented varieties — includes a colorful plastic name tag for each little plant). You will usually have to cover any shipping charges yourself, too, so make sure you know what it’s going to cost to get the starts to you. (Air Express is the most expensive way to transport the plants. Truck and/or rail delivery is less costly and generally quite satisfactory.)

When to Order Your African Violet Starts

FACT ONE: The best time to sell blooming African violets is just before a holiday. (A fall, winter, or spring holiday. A certain number of the flowers can be sold during the summer too, of course, but not as many as will move during the other three seasons.) The best holidays of all for violet sales, I’ve found, are Christmas (red and white blooms), Valentine’s Day (red, white, and pink)

Mother’s Day (all colors), and Memorial Day (all colors). The heaviest buying of plants usually begins about one to two weeks before the actual holiday, and continues right up to the last possible moment. Some forgetful people even make their purchases after the Big Event.

FACT TWO: If your illuminated indoor garden’s nighttime temperature drops no lower than 68 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit, your little starts should mature and develop blooms about ten to twelve weeks after you receive them. And if you don’t sell them all the first time you put them on the market, you can just keep the leftovers going and they should bloom again within another four to eight weeks.

Put these two facts together and it’s easy to see that you should order your starts so you’ll receive them 12 to 14 weeks before Christmas, Valentine’s Day, etc. And, since such days (and the immediate periods leading up to them) are the best but certainly not the only times that folks buy blooming African violets, it’s also obvious that any plants you have left over from a holiday should be put back on the market when they bloom again a month or two later.

Transplanting Your Violet Starts

As soon as the starter plants arrive you should take them right into the basement, open the box, and transplant them as soon as possible. Fill as many four inch pots as necessary each two-thirds full of your prepared soil mix. Then — using a spoon, small trowel, or knife — gently transfer one start from the shipping tray into each of the containers.

Try not to disturb the roots or break any of the leaves off the little plants as you pot them. Then pour some of the soil mixture around each of the starts until its crown (the place where the leaves come out) is just covered. Gently firm the growing medium by pressing it down again, gently around the tiny plant’s base. Then give the little violet a drink and add more soil if necessary.

How to Grow African Violets From Cuttings

Although you’ll find yourself in deep trouble if you try to propagate your own African violets from a Patented strain of the plants, it’s entirely acceptable for you to propagate the flowers from any of the unpatented varieties. You’ll also increase the profitability of your operation if you “grow yery own” starts, instead of purchase them.

It’s not difficult to propagate violets from cuttings. Simply cut a leaf-stem and all-from one of the plants with a sharp knife, place it in a dish, and cover the stem with water. Then keep the stem covered with water and in dim light (on, say, a side bench next to your illuminated main bench). Roots should begin to form within a month.

Once there are several roots on the developing plant, place it in a two-inch pot filled with the same mixture of soil that’s described in the accompanying article. Keep the medium slightly moist at all times. It may even be desirable to cover the container holding the soil and starter plant with clear plastic to “hold” the humidity and reduce the need for frequent watering.

Within three months, new little leaves will appear at the base of the “mother” leaf. When about four of the baby leaves have popped out, it’s time to transplant the start into one of your larger pots. Gently knock and pry the little plant and its ball of soil loose, set them into one of the bigger containers that’s been half-filled with growing medium, and fill in around the transplant (as described in the accompanying article) with more of the soil mix. Water, and keep the start slightly moist — but not wet — at all times.

It does take longer to propagate your own African violets from cuttings and raise them for market than it take$ to grow the plants from purchased starts. But, by “bringing the whole operation under your own roof”, you can add another $460.80 per year to your profit picture for every 4 by 10-foot main bench of growing space In your nursery. It’s up to you to decide if the extra money is worth the time and effort.

Read more about how to make money growing African violets: Raising African Violets for Profit.