Here in snowy central Iowa, spring can’t come soon enough. But a cheerful dose of indoor blooming color and vibrant foliage works wonders for boosting the spirits during the long winter months. That’s why I love to grow African violets. To me, they’re more than a seasonal pick-me-up. With proper care, they can bloom almost non-stop and live for decades. I was first introduced to these fuzzy-leaved plants by my grandma, who grew them for as long as I can remember. I marveled at the rainbow of beautiful blooms that filled her big bay window. She gave me my first violet as a housewarming gift when my husband and I bought our first home and I haven’t stopped collecting them since. In fact, that first violet has blossomed into a collection of more than 50 plants!
Violets have come a long way from the varieties that our grandmothers grew. They’re now available in an amazing array of colors and more than 30,000 varieties! No longer just blue and purple, they bloom in nearly every hue, including pink, red, white, green, and even buttery yellow. Double, fringed, and “fantasy” blooms that boast splotches or streaks of multiple hues add even more intrigue to the mix. And variegated varieties prove foliage can be as striking as the bloom. Check out these showy varieties:
If you don’t have a lot of room to grow plants, try semiminiature violets like ‘Streisand’ (see below). They typically grow no more than 6-8 inches in diameter.
Even smaller are miniature violets, which grow less than 6 inches in diameter. The little bloomers shown below happily grow in a container no larger than a Dixie cup.
A close relative of the violet, streptocarpus also showcases eye-catching blooms.
And the best news about growing houseplants is that they’re actually good for our health! A NASA study found that houseplants remove up to 87 percent of indoor air pollutants produced by ordinary household chemicals. For a list of easy-care houseplants, check out on article I recently wrote for Garden Ideas and Outdoor Living magazine. It’s featured in the current issue (Early Spring 2009), now on newsstands. The shots were all taken at my house. I have also written an article on African violets for Country Gardens magazine that will be coming out next year, so stay tuned for that. And for more great growing tips, check out the Garden Ideas blog at: http://www.bhg.com/smartgardening