Violets over time

aseedisapromiseJuly 8, 2013

So I have lurked here occasionally, but not really posted much as my AV approach is so different than the showing, collecting, large-scale hobby approach. I just grow AV's because my mother and her neighbor did when I was growing up. I don't have to have the latest and greatest new best thing. Like anyone who has plants for a while and thinks about them, questions come up. You have all been generous with your time and expertise, and I appreciate that.

About ten years ago I bought a package of "Fantasy African Violet" seed and planted it on a lark. I was ordering my veg seeds for the year, and these were also offered, and I thought of my mom and thought "why not?". I couldn't believe it when I ended up with about forty violets from what seemed to be a bit of dust. Most of them were plain blue pansies, and as I am limited to natural light, I winnowed them down to twelve. Through various means of propagation I still have eleven of them today. So this leads to my questions.

First, does anyone keep violets for a long time? I mean it seems like folks toss plants right and left, and I guess if I had more than my time and a three dollar package of seed invested I might be more callous myself.

Secondly, do violets change through many propagations? If so, do growers for sale then toss anything that seems not quite like the original, to keep the named variety the same? I did have one violet, a pretty much plain red-violet pansy go rogue and after about seven years get a white streak down its blossom. I can't remember how many propagations I did on it before or since. I don't think I did anything differently when I propagated it that time. I have kept the plain and the streaked one. What I am noticing now is that there is variegation also in the foliage. I recently removed a sucker from the varigated plant and rooted it, and the new plant isn't showing the varigation or so much puckering. Is this a culture issue then? I know that my culture is not the best, as AV's aren't my main focus, and therefore get less time spent on them than other things. The mother plant is on the right, with the open blossom, and the sucker plant is on the left with the bud. Through time the leaves on this violet have looked like the plain ones on the sucker on the left. I was about to toss the mother plant when I noticed the lighter centers to the leaves and thought I would ask. I am guessing it is a salts build up issue, but just wanted to check with others and see what you think. Thanks.

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I've had violets for 7 or more years.

Some violets are particularly suited for long life/endurance.

Although I've tossed any number of violets since then, I likely still have one of the first violets I acquired when I restated growing in 2006.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2013 at 11:01AM
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Some violets can attain great age, and yes, people do keep them for a long time. I read somewhere on this forum that someone had a violet that was over fifty years old. A lot depends on why one is growing them. If they are show plants, usually after being forced into a large bloom, the plant will be given away or discarded so the grower can start fresh. Plants are like people: the younger ones are more vigorous and the older ones, not so much. Plants also have a natural life-span: some live for years and some just a short time. Think annuals vs. California Redwoods. I'm not much of a tosser; I keep mine for years. But, I have the room and the time to accommodate a lot of plants.
Yes, violets can change over time. This is called 'sporting'. Violets have been hybridized extensively and sometimes this results in genetic instability. Some will revert back to something that is closer to the original parentage and some will go off in totally unexpected directions. Some flower colors/types are less stable than others and will sport more readily. I have found 'fantasy' types to be the most unstable for me. The streaks and variegation you discussed are just a genetic trait that is starting to express itself.
Growers will not automatically toss a sport. It will be judged the same as any other violet. Growth pattern, flower color and shape, vigor and other characteristics will be taken into consideration. If it's a good violet, it will be further propagated to see if it is stable enough to continue to grow as its own variety. The sport will not have any effect on the named variety as it is a separate plant and usually will get a separate name-So-and-so-sport.
Sometimes culture can change the look of a plant. This is why a sport will be propagated several times to see if it is a true sport or just a culture issue. I have found culture will affect the entire plant making it grow poorly over all. A sport will usually grow as well as any other violet in your collection. I have a sport of 'Playful Spectrum'. PS has white blossoms with a lavender overlay and blue streaks. It is also very unstable. Mine is now pink and I keep it because it's a blooming fool. It has not been out of heavy bloom since November.
So... keep your mother plant and your sport and enjoy! They both look fine!


    Bookmark   July 8, 2013 at 12:56PM
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I'm glad to hear that some violets are kept around a while. I guess I am sentimental. Thanks for the long explanatory response, Linda. I think what I am going to do is repot the mother and keep her a while. In a bit I'll take a leaf and see what the new daughter's leaves look like. I looked it up and it seems there are a lot of different incarnations of your PS violet. I wonder how many of those blue pansies would have sported like the red violet one did. No way to know now.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2013 at 2:55PM
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irina_co(z5 CO)

I think Linda covered your questions. Your lighter green variegation on the leaves - probably can go into leaf chimera - when every leaf has this central splotch - is a sign of instability - and you can get sports - but i do not believe you are going to get anything better than original one - solid colors just do not have a lot of play in them. While fantasies - do.
It would be nice to get a sport that is distinctive and worth naming. Otherwise the counting of how many substandard mutations this plant can produce...time to move on.

I do not believe in tossing healthy plants even if you are tired of them. You have friends or elderly relatives that probably will kill it in a month - but for a month - this plant will make them happy. My Mom lives in senior apartments - and her friends love to get a AV in bloom.

The issue of tossing old violets or keeping them indefinitely - I side with Linda - some of the way better to restart, and some do OK with a regular repotting or rerooting the crown.

Good luck - and the fact that you keep the same plants for all these years - means you know what you are doing.
But I would like you to get at least one new and different one for fun.


    Bookmark   July 9, 2013 at 2:46PM
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It is interesting to wonder what could have become of your blue pansy, but, like Irina said, that color/flower type is very stable. If I remember my violet genetics correctly, both are dominant traits and violets will tend to express these traits over other recessive ones. Though it is fascinating when you think that most all of the cultivars ever bred trace their lineage back to S. ionantha. What genetic diversity in one species!


I think that as we get further and further away from the original species, instability and the resulting sports will become more and more common. I am seeing many more sports that I did when I first started growing. What do you think?


    Bookmark   July 9, 2013 at 5:11PM
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irina_co(z5 CO)


I think you are correct... we all come from "Eve" that lived in Africa 200 000 years ago - according to DNA - but I am sure we do not look like her at all...

We keep rocking the DNA of Saintpaulia - and more and more interesting features comes up = but stability suffers.


    Bookmark   July 9, 2013 at 7:40PM
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Well, no one who grows AV's will ever be bored, that is for sure. I am happy the hybridizers do the heavy lifting that keeps us interested. I did actually buy a new violet last spring, a white with a red violet thumbprint on each petal. Different than anything I have grown before. I did watch a couple of the "All About African Violets" videos last week when DH was gone, and there sure were some beautiful ones at the shows she went to.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2013 at 4:08PM
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I have sev plants that show similar leaf variegation, but the flowers are single tone. it's a very healthy 12" plant that I've had for 4 years at least. it's in 3.5" pot in cachepot.
I don't think it harms it in any way, it flowers very well. but I do keep it in strong dappled western window light, may be it's why it develops mottled leaves?
you can see the bottom center and bottom right corner , but there are a few more like this. but only a few.
it's totally fine, I think.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2013 at 5:38PM
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irina_co(z5 CO)

I do not believe that so called leaf birthmarking is connected to sun damage - it is a genetic mutation. It can probably be at some point stimulated by excessive sun - but even with change of the growing condition it stays put.

Otherwise - you have a healthy happy plant without any sun damage.


    Bookmark   July 26, 2013 at 6:13PM
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good to know, Irina.
I keep all my violets in western dappled light - pretty strong, i'd say. but it develops very nice deep color. soon as I xfer them for viewing to less light they fade a little. I started swapping them every week back and forth, to see if it helps maintain better color. not sure yet, if it is helping...
aseed, that's a very pretty 'thumb-print' violet!

    Bookmark   July 27, 2013 at 12:37PM
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