The African violet has been without a doubt a favorite houseplant of indoor plant lovers across the country for decades.
They vary greatly in leaf and flower, some range in size from huge specimens that will fit into a bushel basket to tiny gems that grow in a tiny tea cup. These little fellows are called miniatures.
The Miniature African Violet
Among African violet fanciers, a miniature does not grow larger than six inches across, from leaf tip to leaf tip. Flowers also vary considerably in size and may be small or normal.
Another class, difficult to distinguish from miniatures, is the semi-miniature. Although a miniature must measure less than six inches across, if it grows larger to eight inches, it is classed as a semi-miniature. Culturally, both are treated as a single group.
Good Blooming Miniatures
Miniatures are good bloomers that compete with regular kinds (like your grandma grew). Because of their size, several can be grown in place of one large specimen. On a few glass shelves, a dozen or more can be grown in one window.
Producing large flowers, or small ones if you prefer, colors include royal purples, deep blues, rosy pinks, pastel lavenders and orchids and vivid plum red. White brings out the intensity of the other colors.
The “Girlie” Miniatures
The leaves of miniatures vary in shape and color. “Plain” leaves may be pointed, round or wavy. “Girl” leaves are often scalloped and waved, with a deep cream or white splotch where the leaf blade is attached to the stem.
When the first “girl leaf” was found years ago, the variety was named Blue Girl. Now varieties with leaves of this type are often referred to as simply girl leaves.
The leaves, whether plain, or girl, vary in color from chartreuse through medium greens to deep greens. The undersides of some leaves are ruby red, and on others all degrees of red appear. Often the leaves are as attractive as the flowers.
Some miniatures have blossoms that are frilled and fringed, cupped like a sweet-pea or doubled like a gardenia or rose. Colors may be solid or combinations of purple and white, blue and white and tints of lavender or orchid.
Origins of Miniature African Violets
Part of learning how to care for African violets, is discovering where the miniatures come from?
The “miniatures” originate from two sources. When standard varieties are propagated, some small plants refuse to grow. If sick, they are destroyed. If they refuse to grow and do not bloom they are called dwarf plants and usually discarded. The remaining few are normal in all respects, except for miniature size.
The second source is from seedlings. With seedlings the same occurs. Some healthy plants grow more slowly than others, and when they bloom they are replicas, in miniature, of larger varieties.
These then are named and sold as miniatures. Since miniatures in one area will grow larger than in another, we are always searching for plants that remain small.
Types of Easy To Grow Miniatures
What types of miniatures are easiest to grow?
Any can be grown as easily as the larger kinds, except that all operations must be carried out on a small scale, using smaller pots and tools. Plants also require less water. Use the same soil as the larger types. I prefer the bagged African violet mixes.
Miniatures also require the same amount of light. Perhaps they need more light, and we feel that sunlight will produce better plants, and more flowers, than under a fluorescent grow light.
East or north windows are best, and sometimes a thin curtain is needed to protect plants during the summer months. Though south and west windows may be used, curtains are needed to regulate amounts of sunlight.
Although many grow miniatures under we natural “sunlight”, many plants are grown with good results under grow light systems setup in a basement.
The 40-watt fluorescent fixture is the easiest to obtain. Using a single tube fixture and place the fluorescent tube six to 12 inches above the leaves. Nine to 12 inches seems to suit more plants than the six inch distance. Lights burn from breakfast until bedtime.
It is not recommended that lights be kept on 24 hours a day.
Watering Miniature African Violets
To water miniature African violets properly is an art, though an easily learned one. Remember that the smaller plants and pots do not require as much water as larger African violets.
Although less water is used, it is necessary to water more often. Environments vary, and each grower must learn by trial and error how much to water. Any method that produces desirable results is correct for you!
The sizes of pots, and the types, are both important. Most prefer to start young plants in 2 1/4-inch and then shift to 2 1/2-inch pots. A Inge, mature plant requires a 3-inch pot. In the past, clay pots were primarily used, today most are grown in plastic pots.
Since plastic pots are water-proof, they do not lose water as rapidly as clay pots. Thus African violets need not be watered as often, or as much.
Soil also remains moist longer, and plants grow more uniformity. However, plants in plastic pots can be over-watered easily! Reduce watering even more with miniatures in plastic containers.
Tea cups and demitasse cups are also often used. Drainage holes in the bottom are not necessary, but extra care must be taken not to overwater.
Growing Minis From Leaves
African violet propagation is not different on “minis” than on the larger types. However, the small leaves sometimes require toothpicks to support and hold the leaf upright until rooted.
There are many “miniature” African violets available to grow and enjoy. What are you waiting for? It’s time to go mini!