My white-flowered, no-name African violet is going under the knife today. Why? Because it no longer looks attractive. It has produced — as all saintpaulias eventually do — multiple crowns and a series of little offshoots, or “suckers.” These two things wreck the parent plant’s symmetry. They also interfer with flowering. A little surgery, artfully performed, will restore the plant back to its original, single-crowned glory. And the surplus crowns and suckers? These can have lives of their own.
A saintpaulia with more than one crown can be separated into a number of smaller, individual plants. Let the soil dry out a little before the operation. Dry roots are easier to cope with than wet ones. First, remove the plant from the pot. Then spread the plant out on a newspaper and gently but firmly pull the sections apart. If roots are stubbornly entwined, use a pen-knife to sever them. In the photo above, I was able to get two divisions without any trouble at all. Later, a third division was cut away with the aid of a pen knife.
When a division is removed with at least some roots attached, the next step is to plant it in a 2- or 3-inch pot (above). With plenty of surface room, it will soon develop large, handsome leaves and maintain an open crown from which a constant parade of flowers will spring forth. Use any light, porous soil.
If, however, all roots are lost, additional surgery will be required. Reduce foliage until the division is nothing more than a tiny rosette of leaves (above). Then plant into a 2-inch pot, using the same soil as before.
Suckers growing out at the sides of the crown are another source of new plants. Let them attain enough size to get hold of (and make sure you are removing a sucker, not an oncoming flower), before cutting them away with a pen-knife. Roots attached or not, plant them in 2-inch pots.
When you have a great number of rootless suckers and divisions, it pays to create a little nursery for their convalescence. I find the hinged, plastic container that hydroponically-grown Boston lettuce comes in makes an ideal hospital (above). I fill the container’s shallow, bottom portion with slightly damp soil, insert the rootless plants, and then close the lid. Divisions and suckers revel in the humidity this container affords, and soon produce roots. When new foliage is evident, the plants are withdrawn for separate potting.
Such is the surgical procedure that turns one plant into many. And each one of these, with good care, will exhibit the kind of “show-quality” we all want: a symmetrical rosette of leaves, topped with a full, and continuous, bouquet of blooms.
Incidentally, the surgery on my one African violet returned a total of 8 plants. Where will they go? Why, on my list of gift-plants for unsuspecting friends!
Don’t miss a beat at A Garden for the House…sign up for Kevin’s weekly newsletter!