Adventures in African violet propagation.

Apparently it is very “easy” to propagate African violets from leaf cuttings.  Well, I’m here to tell you that I can turn “easy” into “not so easy” with very little effort!  Way back in June of last year I obtained a leaf cutting from a beautiful pink and white flowered adult violet that we have growing in a sunny window at my workplace and I was bound and determined to root it.  I trimmed the end of the stem with a diagonal cut, and dipped it into a tiny amount of rooting hormone powder, then stuck it in some potting soil in a 4″ pot.  I spritzed the soil (being careful not to moisten the leaf) every single day with a light liquid fertilizer application (8-14-9) and water.  My project sat in the sun, next to my adult African violets.  A month later, I started two other leaves in the same manner.

Roughly three months after planting and diligent daily watering and feeding, I was thrilled to see that baby plantlets had emerged from the base of all my leaves.  Success was mine!

But then I got excited and cut off the “mother” leaves and well, let’s just say that, over the next eight weeks or so, as I checked on them daily with increasing dismay, all of my tiny plantlets officially bit the dust.  There is a lesson in this:  even baby plants need their mommies.

Soooo…I’m starting over again.  This time I’m going to try it this way:

I’m going to make sure I have a short stem on the mother leaf.  The whole process takes more time if the stem is over one inch in length.  I’m going to also ensure that I don’t use older leaves as cuttings – even though it is recommended to regularly trim the bottom ring of leaves from adult plants to encourage new growth and create a more pleasing shape, I’m just going to throw those leaves away instead of trying to use them as cuttings.  Old leaves take longer to root, and I’m going into Year Two of this.  No need to drag it out further.   I’m going to use soilless mix, or go solo with perlite or vermiculite.  Potting soil will work, but it should be sterilized first.  I’m also going to be very conscientious about watering – I have to keep the soil around the mother leaf moist, but not soaking wet.  It won’t do to let it dry out in between waterings, either, which is what I was doing with my old method.  I’m actually supposed to cover the pot with a plastic bag, careful not to touch the leaf with any part of the plastic.  A dowel can be used to “prop” up the bag so it sits properly over the pot, and I should keep the bag open at the bottom, with a fairly large air gap.  Completely encasing the leaf may promote rotting.  I think my light conditions were appropriate, and I don’t think  very light feedings with fertilizer could be harmful.  Perhaps not every watering, however.  But the most crucial thing I have to remember is not to separate the emerging plantlets from the mother leaf so quickly!   I can sort that all out later, once the plantlets are bigger.

So…I’m off to practice patience.   If anyone out there has any other tips for me, please feel free to share.  I’m all eyes.

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