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Gardening : African Violets Are Really Gesneriads

April 23, 1989

You probably remember African violets as the plants your grandmother raised years ago. African violets are as popular today as they were back then, and now there are dozens of new varieties to choose from.

The name African violet is somewhat of a misnomer. The plants aren't violets at all, but gesneriads, close cousins to achimenes, episcia, columnea and gloxinia. African vilets are named after the Dutch baron who discovered them in the mountains of East Africa.

African violets are fairly easy to care for and may bloom several times a year if conditions are right.

They need high humidity and strong, diffused light; east or west exposure is best. The plants will flower most if the soil is just slightly moist at all times. Don't let it get soggy, however, because the roots are susceptible to rotting. Use water that is warmed to room temperature. Water that's too cold can cause the leaves to turn rusty brown. Water spilled on the leaves also can cause splotches. To remove dust from the leaves, use a soft toothbrush or pipe cleaner.

Feed African violets with African violet food or blooming plant food.

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