African Violets (Saintpaulia) traditionally came with dark fuzzy green leaves and five blue-petal flowers.
Plant breeders have enjoyed creating fuzzy green leaves that are edged with white, green and white splashed leaves and leaves that start out pink and green that mature to white and green.
Most of the leaves are flat, but now there are some leaves that are wavy or even curly on the edges.
These African Violets are always lovely to have in the home because they provide color and texture contrast even if the plants are not in bloom.
The flowers that started out solid blue have also changed to lavender, purple, pink and shades of red.
Some flowers are often a solid color, others are edged with pure white while others can come in blue and pinky-lavender colors swirled together or pure white with a splash of color in each petal.
There are even some flowers that are white with a pink, blue or green edging.
The petals that started out flat now have curly or crimped edges, and some have more than the five petals, making the flowers appear larger.
The flowers are almost always held above the fuzzy green leaves in small clusters, with one to several clusters on each plant when in bloom.
African Violets also come in standard size, up to 10-12 inches across, and miniature size plants that only grow two to three inches or six to eight inches across.
Finding the right size depends on how much room is available to grow and display the plants.
All the colors and textures of leaves and flowers make the African Violet a favorite for many plant lovers.
They may look hard to grow but like many indoor tropical plants, they are fairly easy to grow and have blooms from time after time.
The plants need to have a good potting mix and they need to be placed where they will get bright but indirect light.
That means that they need to be near a window, not right in front of a south or west facing window.
They will thrive in east and north facing windows without much chance of the leaves burning.
It is a great idea to turn the plants a quarter of a turn each week when the plants are watered to keep them growing evenly and not allowing them to grow only to one side.
The water should be room temperature, so fill up the watering pot and let it sit overnight to let the temperature come to the desired amount.
Water from the bottom — directly into the saucers that the African Violets sit in or water from the top without getting the leaves wet.
Once the plants are watered, wait about 10 minutes and empty out the saucer or tray the pots sit in so the plants are never sitting water, which could lead to root rot.
Water with ½ strength balanced fertilizer once a month to keep the foliage and flowers looking their best.
African Violets like to live in the same home temperatures people do, between 65 and 75 degrees.
Now the only problem is which ones to purchase and how many should you have?
(Editor’s Note: Ginny Rosenkranz is a commercial horticulture specialist with the University of Maryland Extension.)