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"Unique African Violets: Part II - Miniatures & Trailing"

If there was ever a popularity contest held for flowering houseplants, the gesneriad family of plants would win hands down. This family includes the all-time, most-popular house plant, the African violet.

African violet is an indoor plant prized for its clusters of colorful flowers held atop soft, felty leaves. It blooms nearly all year long, providing colorful flowers even during the bleak days of winter. Many also have attractive foliage that is as showy as its flowers. I grow dozens of different African violets, many quite unique, and am amazed at the wide range of colorful flowers and foliage there are. Click on a plant photo below to order it from Pernell Gerver's Online Store.

Within African violets, hybridizers have developed hundreds of different types with a large range of flower color, shape, and size as well as leaf color. Flower color is extensive and includes just about every color of the rainbow, including green, with many variations and shades of colors.

Along with a wide variety of flower colors and markings, there are also many different types of foliage within African violets. Various shades of green are common, but it is not the only color. Variegated forms are abundant and within the variegation, there is a lot of variation.


Semi-miniature, miniature, and microminiature types are smaller plants with tiny leaves. The smallest types often have leaves less than a half inch long and grow well in pots the size of a thimble. These diminutive plants are topped with clusters of brightly-colored, miniature flowers. As with the standard types, semi-miniature, miniature, and microminiature African violets have a wide range of flower colors and shapes. There are single, semi-double, and double flowers. Many also have attractive variegated leaves with a variety of markings.

Trailing African violet types have stems that cascade over the side of the pot, making them good candidates for a hanging basket. Many are semi-miniature types with small leaves and clusters of small flowers, but what they lack in size they more than make up for in the abundance of leaves and flowers. One of my favorite trailing types bears pure-white, double flowers held above small, bright-green leaves.

Pernell Gerver's Gardening Q & Aby Pernell Gerver

"Primrose Provides Colorful Blooms"

Q. How does one care for primroses that are now appearing in the stores? Over the years, on four different occasions, I have purchased them and each time they are wilted and dead the next morning. One was given as a gift each year and that too was dead the next day. Are they the same primroses that grow in the garden? I used to have good luck with them. Thank you!

A. There are several species of primrose commonly available in winter as a flowering house plant. The most widely-available species is Primula acaulis. It has dark green, wrinkled leaves up to 10 inches long and grows only six inches tall. It bears clusters of vibrant-colored flowers in blue, purple, pink, white, red, and yellow, orange, many with a bright yellow eye. Often the yellow-flowered varieties are fragrant. The flower clusters contain up to a dozen flowers that appear to hug the foliage. These cheery flowers do much to brighten up a gray winter day.

Red primroses

Primula elatior 'Red'

This primrose is the same one that is grown in the garden. It is actually a hardy perennial and can be planted out in the garden once the ground has thawed. I've planted many primroses in my garden that I've initially purchased to enjoy their colorful flowers indoors during winter. They do well in a shady location with adequate moisture. Not only have I enjoyed their flowers indoors in winter, some have rebloomed in autumn as the temperatures begin to cool.

Indoors, primroses do best in bright, indirect or curtain-filtered sunlight. They prefer cool temperatures, both during the day and overnight. Give them the coolest room in the home. Night temperatures of 50 degrees and day temperatures below 68 degrees suit them just fine. Keep them slightly moist at all times - primroses will severely wilt if the soil is allowed to dry out. If this happens, submerge the pot in lukewarm water until the soil is thoroughly saturated.

While primroses are hardy perennials, the plants you purchase during winter have been grown in a greenhouse and should be protected from the cold when transporting them. Always wrap them in a protective sleeve and get them indoors as soon as possible. Don't leave them in an unheated car for any length of time.

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