Violets — By Jennifer Miller

Violets
I grew up out in the country. My daddy’s land was bordered on one side by a creek and on the back side by a slough that shortly meets with the Altamaha River. As a kid, I spent countless hours rambling in the woods with my siblings. There were two interesting flowers that grew in the wet shady areas of our swamp. Both plants are unique in their own way. I will save my favorite for another day. However, today I would like to talk a little about violets; one of my mamma’s favorite wild flowers. There are over 24 species of Viola native to Georgia that grow in varying environments. I am not sure exactly what species is on our land, but it is very much like other wild varieties in that it reproduces and forms clumps pretty quickly. My dad brought a few of the violets from the woods and put them in the flower beds around the front porch. Now there are violets all through the beds.
The love of wild violets also made its way inside our home. The window in the kitchen was filled with several round pots holding African violets. These beauties make great indoor plants. African violets are available in a wide range of colors and hundreds of varieties. Blooms can be found in blue, violet, pink, red-violet, lavender-pink and white. Flowers may be single or double and have varying shapes. The leaves look similar in shape to their outdoor kin but are often puffed and more hairy. Most African violets grow to be 6-8 inches.
Sufficient light is important for growing indoor violets. They need 6 to 8 hours of light a day. You can achieve this by placing it in a sunny east or west window or with 4 fluorescent shop lights. In winter moving the violet to a sunny southern or western window is best. Temperatures of 70 to 90 degrees are best. Bleached or crumbled leaves mean that your light or temperature is off. When watering African violets, apply water until it drains out of the bottom of the pot then pour the excess off after 20 minutes. Make sure roots do not sit in water and allow it to dry out between watering’s. Repot crowded plants to keep healthy roots. Soil for violets needs to be well aerated and contain a high amount of organic matter. They sell artificial mixes for growing violets. When potting, be careful, these plants are tender and easily broken. Place some soil in the bottom of the pot and fill in so the crown is slightly above the soil line. Use a water-soluble fertilizer like 20-20-20 every four to six weeks while the plant is actively growing or producing flowers. During the dormant season cut back on fertilization. They make African violet pots that are like a pot within a pot. I have found that they work well to keep you from overwatering so you may want to purchase one of those.
Violets in the wild are a great contrast to the surrounding landscape. There are numerous varieties that can adapt and thrive in most any situation. For the indoor gardener, African violets make a wealth of flowers for those with limited space. If you have questions about violets or need more information on agriculture or natural resources please contact me, Jennifer Miller, at the Jeff Davis County Extension Office: 912-375-6648. Visit us online at: http://extension.uga.edu/county-offices/jeffdavis.html or at the Plow Points Ag Blog: http://blog.extension.uga.edu/plowpoints/

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