For the novice, the word “prop­a­ga­tion” can seem a bit inti­mat­ing. After all, it sounds so scientific.

But the fact is, prop­a­ga­tion is just a fancy way of say­ing “make more.”

If you’re inter­ested in dip­ping your toe into the world of plant prop­a­ga­tion (and we are talk­ing plants here), there is no eas­ier plant to start with than the lovely African Violet.


Although she’s been gone for many years, I always asso­ciate African Vio­lets with my grand­mother. She always had pots of bloom­ing vio­lets on her win­dowsills. Now, I almost always have some vio­lets grow­ing in my light gar­den or the win­dowsills. I con­tin­u­ally prop­a­gate them and have some ready for giv­ing away for spe­cial occa­sions. I will also group them on the din­ing table for a live flower arrange­ment that doesn’t cost a for­tune or require loads of chem­i­cals at the flower farm.

Recently, I took one of the pret­ti­est of my vio­lets to my Great Aunt Max­ine for her 90th birth­day cel­e­bra­tion. While I was at her house I noticed she had some vio­lets of her own. What bet­ter oppor­tu­nity to add to my col­lec­tion in a mean­ing­ful way? She sup­plied a bag­gie and I loaded up with new cuttings.

To prop­a­gate your African Vio­let, select a leaf that is not too big and not too small. You don’t want an old gnarly leaf or one that is too tiny. Select a medium-sized, vig­or­ous leaf and cleanly slice it off the plant, leav­ing about 1” of stem.

Now, here’s the hard part. It seems counter-intuitive, but you’re going to have to cut the leaf in half, leav­ing about 1” of leaf on the stem.

My grand­mother used to root her cut­tings in plain water, sus­pend­ing them through a hole in some alu­minum foil. This works just fine. But a bet­ter, and faster, way is to root the cut­ting directly in some soil­less medium. This is typ­i­cally avail­able as African Vio­let soil in nurs­eries. I can find it in my local gro­cery store.


Give your cut­tings a head start by using a root­ing hor­mone, such as Rootone. Just dip the stem end into the root­ing hor­mone pow­der before plant­ing the stem in some soil­less medium.

Since the plants don’t have roots, it’s impor­tant to keep the cut­ting moist. I just pop a plas­tic bag over the top of the pot to retain mois­ture and make sure I water reg­u­larly. In your zeal for mois­ture, don’t overly seal the plant in or you’ll be cre­at­ing an envi­ron­ment where dis­eases can flourish.

Plants need light to grow, so make sure you pro­vide ade­quate light. A sunny win­dowsill in the win­ter will do the trick. In the sum­mer, you’ll need to make sure the sun isn’t too intense or the leaves will burn and the soil medium will dry out too quickly. I find that my light gar­den pro­vides the per­fect envi­ron­ment for prop­a­gat­ing and keep­ing live plants.

Some other use­ful tips for grow­ing African Violets:

–When prop­a­gat­ing or repot­ting, use African Vio­let pot­ting soil. It’s soil­less, so it’s lighter, doesn’t com­pact and gives the aer­a­tion and drainage that the African Vio­lets need. Vio­lets do just fine in the tem­per­a­tures of the aver­age household—65 to 73 degrees.

–Make sure you pro­tect cut­tings and grown plants from drafts. Vio­let leaves are cov­ered with tiny lit­tle “hairs.”

–Avoid get­ting leaves wet when water­ing to pre­vent dis­col­oration. Are you vio­lets dusty? Just use a soft-bristled paint­brush to brush off dust or accu­mu­lated dirt.

–Nurs­eries sell spe­cial­ized African Vio­let pots with an inner and outer layer for indi­rect water­ing. I have never had as much suc­cess with this method as with tra­di­tional terra cotta pots. My favorite pots are by Guy Wolff. Large Guy Wolff pots can be expen­sive, but the tiny ones are very reasonable—and just the right thing to give your African Vio­lets a good start in life.

Inter­ested in the African Vio­let lifestyle? There is a whole soci­ety devoted to the pro­mot­ing African Vio­lets, the African Vio­let Soci­ety. I remem­ber when we used to live in Florida there was a local African Vio­let club that got together monthly to talk about their vio­lets. They also had annual com­pe­ti­tions at the local fair. Next to the chicken dis­plays, this was always my favorite part of the fair.

Isn’t it amaz­ing that there is a spe­cial inter­est group for everything?


Garden and food writer Robin Ripley is co-author of Grocery Gardening. Her new book, Wisdom for Home Preservers, will be released later in 2014 from Taunton Press.

Bumblebee is about her life in rural Maryland, her garden, cooking, dogs and pet chickens. She also blogs about food and chickens at Eggs & Chickens. Follow her on Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook. Thank you for visiting.


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