Can You Say Gesneriaceae?

Last summer while strolling through the Paola Farmer’s Market, I stopped to look at plants for sale. One booth had an interesting plant with pink, cream, and green variegated leaves set in an old-timey aluminum pot. The plant was gorgeous, the pot horrendous, and when I figured out I was looking at an African violet (Saintpaulia ionantha), I had to buy it. The seller told me that the gorgeous foliage made up for the fact that the plant rarely bloomed.

I brought the plant home, put it in an east-facing window, and it bloomed. Immediately and profusely.


Encouraged by my handiness with this one African violet, I decided to purchase a couple more. I found one at the grocery store that I liked. It was in bloom when I bought it and is blooming still.

Branching out, I found some online African violet vendors and bought a few more plants – some standard and some semi-miniature. I received plants with three leaves. They’ve all grown new leaves from a plant stand in a west-facing window.


Next, I learned about self-watering pots, both ceramic and plastic. By using self-watering pots, I never have to touch the leaves with water – great invention (or so I thought)!

Finally, I ventured out to see the Kansas City African Violet Club’s plant show and sale. I came home with a couple more African Violets and a couple flame violets (Episcia).


Yesterday I attended the last of our Extension Master Gardening classes: three hours on houseplants. What did I learn? Never put plants, especially low-light plants like African Violets, in the window. When watering – and this is true of all houseplants – water to saturation and then let the soil dry to allow the plant to breathe. Although the presenter backed off a bit when asked about drip watering. I imagine my self-watering pots are a lot like drip watering.


African and flame violets are from the same family of plants, Gesneriaceae. Quite the mouthful! I visited to learn how to pronounce the word.


I wonder which plants will live and which will bloom. Now that the 2014 growing season is done, this little project will keep me gardening through the fall and early winter. Soon I’ll be thinking about planting veggies from seed again – although didn’t I swear off that process last year?


13 thoughts on “Can You Say Gesneriaceae?

  1. I remember hearing that African violets do not like direct sunlight but I could be wrong because my African violets never lasted very long 🙂

  2. I use self watering pots exclusively, & mine bloom continuously in these pots. I also have a variegated leaf one like your 1 st photo, & it has not bloomed as profusely as solid leaf varieties. Light direction hasn’t affected my plants, however, they do NOT do well in a colder windowsill. My orchids enjoy the cold & need it for bloom spike production! Enjoy!

  3. I always went by the rules until I met up with two, separate, ladies who have gorgeous gesneri-huh? in sunny windows and watered from the top. I still water from the bottom, but let them have their day in the sun. I transplanted 2 into my Wardian case and they’re doing well, too, for now. It’s a crap-shoot, I guess…. Yours look lovely.

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