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Growing Green: Take it easy with African violets

African violets are one of the most popular houseplants.

Despite what many people think, African violets are very easy to care for.

The plants “can tell you what they need” if you watch for their signs.

Bright green foliage but no flowers is an indication that the plant needs more light.

If the foliage is pale green and yellowing, and you have been fertilizing and watering properly, the plant is receiving too much light.

East-facing windows with a sheer curtain in place are good for year-round growing. South or west facing windows have too much light in summer.

Provide light-filtering shade for plants grown in these windows or move them back away from windows so that they will not receive full sun. North windows usually provide adequate light in summer, but not during the shorter days of winter.

African violets like an environment that is humid. During the winter months when the air is dryer in homes, the plants appreciate being put on a humidity tray.

These are simple to make. Any type of pan, saucer or tray will work. Fill the bottom of the saucer with small pebbles. Pea gravel or something like it works well.

Then put some water in the saucer. You don’t want to completely submerge the pebbles. Set the potted African violet on top of the pebbles.

If you have too much water in the saucer, the soil in the pot will stay too wet and it will cause root rot, which will kill the plant. As the water evaporates from the saucer, it will create a mini humid environment around the plant.

There are many manufacturers of African violet fertilizers. Each has instructions on how much fertilizer to use and how often to use it.

Watering African violets has always been a controversial subject. Some experts recommend only bottom water. Some recommend watering from the top.

Be careful not to get the foliage or the crown (the center of the plant) wet. If you get the leaves wet, don’t put the plant back at the window in direct sunlight because sunlight will burn the wet leaves. Let the plant dry completely before returning it to the windowsill.

It is best to grow African violets in a lightweight potting mix. There are mixes available specifically for growing African violets. Seed starting mix is also a good alternative. Many potting mixes also have built-in fertilizer, which help to get your transplant off to a good start.

There are pests that will show up once in a while. Thrips, mealybugs and aphids are the usual culprits. These are controlled and killed by using a registered houseplant insecticide.

Make sure that the insecticide that you have chosen lists the insect that you are trying to get rid of. Then check all of your houseplants and isolate infected ones until you are positive that they are pest-free before moving them back to their original location.

Spotted Lanternfly Update:

Be on the lookout for spotted lanternfly egg masses. For information on what to look for and how to destroy the eggs: extension.psu.edu/spotted-lanternfly.

If you see egg masses, scrape them off, double bag them and throw them away. You can also place the eggs into alcohol or hand sanitizer to kill them.

In order to kill the eggs, it is critical that you “pop” the eggs if you are not double-bagging them or putting them in alcohol or hand sanitizer.

“Growing Green” is contributed by Lehigh County Extension Office Staff and Master Gardeners. Information: Lehigh County Extension Office, 610-391-9840; Northampton County Extension Office, 610-813-6613.

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY DIANE DORN African violets are available in several colors.