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by Pernell Gerver

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"Unique African Violets: Part II - Miniatures and 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

"Jade Plant Blooms under the Right Conditions"

Q. You've helped me previously with gardening problems and now I have this question. I have a very large (I've never trimmed it) jade plant. It has flowered for only the third time in 15 years. Why does it blossom so seldom and can I do something to make it flower more frequently? The fragrance is wonderful. Thanks.

A. Jade plant (Crassula argentea) is a succulent house plant with thick, fleshy green leaves an inch to two inches long. Some varieties have variegated foliage with pink, white, red, purple, and green colors on the leaves. In the wild, jade plant can reach ten feet tall. When grown as a potted house plant, it attains a shape like a miniature tree, even when grown in a small pot. I have a 20-year-old jade plant in a 14-inch pot that is easily four feet tall with a trunk diameter over three inches.

Jade plant does best in bright light, although it will grow in filtered sunlight and indirect light as well. Like most succulents, it prefers cool night temperatures between 50 and 55 degrees and day temperatures of 68 to 72 degrees. While it is actively growing in spring and summer water frequently to keep the soil moist at all times. Fertilize it every week with a water soluble fertilizer at quarter strength. During winter allow the soil to become dry between waterings, stop fertilizing, and grow it in the coolest-possible location you can. It can be repotted any time of year, although it does best if it is a little crowded in its pot.

When grown outdoors in warm climates, jade plant bears white or pink fragrant flowers. Unfortunately, it does not bloom very well indoors. My jade plant is growing in my greenhouse where it receives cool nights in winter and warm days during summer and it has blossomed occasionally, although not regularly every year. To encourage flowering, next spring after all danger of frost has passed set the plant outside in a sheltered location, out of direct sunlight, for the summer and early autumn. The warm summer days and the cool night temperatures of early autumn may trigger it to flower. Be sure to bring it back in before frost.

Click here to read more about jade plant and order it from Pernell Gerver's Online Store.

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