I did something last weekend that I have not done for 25 years. I bought an African violet. In a weak moment Nancy has given me full responsibility for whatever I want to grow on the long table sitting by large south-facing windows.
My first acquisition was a Boston fern that sits high on a cabinet beside the window — good indirect light but no sun. The African violet is the second plant to go into what I envision as a virtual jungle of houseplants on that table. Yeah, right.
I was into African violets in a big way 25 years ago when I was doing research for a one-hour video about houseplants. I put violets in windows all over the first floor so there were plants facing east, south, west and north, some close to the window and some back a foot or two from the window.
Over the year, I would have lost most of those plants.
The one by the front door facing south couldn’t handle the cold drafts when the front door was opened during the winter. The violet facing west almost died because it was sitting too far from the window, so it had insufficient light. The north-facing plant was close to the window but still did not get enough light.
The winners were the violets in the dining room with an east-facing window and a south-facing window. The east-facing plant got morning sun, and the south-facing violet did not get direct sun because of a tree in the front yard that blocked the sun in summer but let it in during the winter.
As I remember, I had four plants in those two dining room windows and they did nothing but grow large and bloom their little heads off all year long.
If you get an African violet in the right place in terms of light, heat, humidity and no breezes, all that is needed for success is a modest amount of fertilizer and knowing how to water that species properly.
I put a very diluted liquid fertilizer in the watering can, so I was feeding every time I watered. Each plant sat in a ceramic tray that I filled with a 1/2 -inch of water every five or six days. I left the water there for 30 minutes and then poured out what was left in the tray. Watering violets from below avoids getting water on the leaves. I always used water that was at room temperature.
I really didn’t let those other violets in my experiment die. I let them go long enough in their unsatisfactory environment, so I knew if I left them any longer, they would die. Then I took those unhappy plants to the basement where I placed them under a fluorescent light with one cool bulb and one warm bulb six inches above the plants. They recovered in a month or two.