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No Need to Stop at One

Propagate a jungle of African violets using my foolproof method

Beyond their good looks and winter bloom, African violets have another charm. They’re so easy to propagate in the home that they raise your self-esteem. Here’s my foolproof method:
    Start with a clay pot. If the pot has been used, soak and brush it clean, removing all rooting media, algae and fertilizer salts from the walls. Fill the dry pot to the rim with a sterile potting medium or seed-starter blend. Do not compress. Next, cover the top of the flowerpot with a piece of wax paper and on top of that a single layer of plastic wrap held in place with an elastic band.
    Using a sharp pencil, poke holes approximately one inch apart through the wrap and wax paper. Using a clean sharp knife dipped in alcohol, select the most recently expanded leaves from a healthy African violet, cutting the petiole, or stem, about one inch below the leaf. Insert the cut petiole through one of the holes and into the rooting medium. Give each leaf you insert plenty of room so all get uniform light.
    After all of the cuttings have been added, secure the pot and leaves inside a clear plastic bag. Sprinkle the inside of the bag with water to create a moist environment before placing the plastic bag over the foliage. Hold the bag on the pot with another elastic band. Most plastic bags are impervious to carbon dioxide, which is essential for plant growth. Use a straight pin to poke 10 holes through the bag to allow gas exchange. 
    African violet cuttings root best at about 80 degrees in defused light. The top of the refrigerator is ideal for maintaining 80 degrees. If light is insufficient on the refrigerator, select an area near a window facing north. Keep it no closer than five feet from the window to minimize fluctuating temperatures.
    The rooting of African violet leaves requires three to five weeks, depending on maintaining temperatures near 80 degrees. Check for moisture daily inside the plastic bag covering the foliage. To maintain proper rooting media moisture, immerse the bottom of the pot weekly in about one inch of water for about 10 minutes before allowing it to drain.
    For tending your growing African violet collection, read last week’s column:

Ask Dr. Gouin your questions at [email protected]. Please include your name and address.