Starting African Violets from leaves is an exciting and inexpensive way to grow your collection! It is really quite simple, don't be intimidated if you've never done it before. This tutorial will offer a simple step by step process along with some tips to help you be successful.
If you have never propagated from leaves before, experiment with a few leaves from one of your plants before ordering leaves. Once you have a process that works well for plants in your conditions, then you are ready to try it with purchased leaves!
First you need some healthy leaves, whether purchased or from your own plants.
Fresh Cut Leaves
Prepare cups or pots for the leaves. I set most leaves in a 3 oz plastic bathroom cup (Hefty or Solo). These are available at most grocery stores or through Amazon. I use the same potting mix that I use for plants - a 50/50 mix of Pro-Mix and perlite. The yarn in the picture is because all of my plants are set up for wicking, even leaf cups!
Potting Mix in 3 oz Cups
After selecting leaves, trim the ends. I trim at an angle with the cut side towards the top of the leaf (see picture below). Leave about an inch of stem to plant.
Trimming Leaf Stems
If the leaves are slightly limp from being shipped, put them in a cup with a small amount of room temperature water after you have cut the ends. Allow them to sit for several hours to re-hydrate before planting.
Be very careful to keep the variety name with the leaf to avoid the dreaded NOID (No Identification!).
Soaking Leaves to Re-hydrate
Once the leaves have been re-hydrated (if needed), it's time to plant! If needed, use a pencil or small tongue depressor to make a hole for the leaf stem. Gently firm the soil around the stem so it doesn't fall over. If leaves are small, you can put two leaves in a pot. Standards are generally potted with one leaf per pot. The picture below shows two but I actually switched them to two pots later...
Some growers like to trim the top off of a leaf when planting to keep the leaf from continuing to grow. Personally, I do not do this. I think that it could increase the likelihood of rot in leaves as it is another cut for the leaf to deal with. However, the methods for growing violets are as varied as the growers!
Humidity is very important while the leaf is growing roots. It's always a good idea to give leaves a little extra humidity for the first few weeks. It can be as simple as a sandwich bag placed over the cup (picture below). After several weeks, gradually remove the bag.
Reuse those labels! If your leaves came from Moonlight Nursery, they were packaged with a laser printed label. Peel the label off the bag and stick it to the pot! (Don't try this with ink jet printed labels as the ink will run if water is splashed on it!!)
Reuse those Labels!
Now comes the waiting. Soon those leaves will be pushing up "mouse ears" but try to avoid the urge to pull up the leaf to check on progress. Expect to wait about 2 months, maybe more, maybe less. How long it takes depends on many factors - the health/age of the leaf, the variety, the growing conditions, etc. Keep the pots moist but not waterlogged and once they have rooted or you see the first sign of babies, fertilize as normal.
This is only one method to start leaves. Some growers start leaves in water but it is a matter of finding what works for YOU!
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