January 16, 2022
African violets are very easy to propagate, but there are a few important steps to follow.
Have fun growing new African violet plants to expand your collection or to share with friends. Using leaves to start new plants produces exact copies, or clones, of the mother plants.
Some mail-order nurseries sell African violet leaves at less cost than mature plants. This can be a good way to increase the number of plants you have at lower costs if you're willing to give it some time.
If you start soon, you can donate to the upcoming plant sales.
Tools & Materials
Choose a sharp knife, razor blade, or Exacto knife. Between cuts, disinfect the blade by wiping it with 70% isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol).
Choose a light, fluffy, well-draining but moisture-retentive potting mix. Specialty mixes, like "African violet soil" are ideal. Other media include half sand and half peat, sand, vermiculite, or perlite. Some growers even place their leaf stems directly into water; change the water every other day if you choose this method.
Choose the best leaf. Start with a healthy mother plant. Choose vigorous leaves from the middle rows of leaves. Young leaves are not mature enough, and the larger leaves are too old for propagation. Pinch or cut each leaf from the main stem of the plant. Instead of a leaf, you can use the flower stem to start new plants. Before the flowers begin to fade, remove all the flowers from the stem. It works best if tiny leaves remain. Cut the flower stem to ½ to 1 inch below the leaves at a 45-degree angle. Proceed as above.
Trim the stem. Lay the leaf, top side up, onto a hard surface. Cut the stem at a 45-degree angle, one-half inch to one inch from the leaf. Let the cut stem dry for about 10 minutes. Using rooting hormone is optional. Studies have shown little difference. Some growers trim off the top one-third to one-half of the leaf to encourage root development; again, there is little difference.
Pot the cuttings. Fill the container with potting soil; fill loosely without compacting the soil. Two to three once plastic cups, with drainage holes punched or cut into the bottoms, are ideal. Add water so that the soil is moist, but not wet. Insert the stem of the cutting into the soil at an angle. Gently firm the soil over the stem; keep the leaf itself out of the soil. Label the container with date and variety.
Caring for Cuttings
It is important that the humidity remain high until the baby plants are well-rooted. Place the prepared pots of cuttings into zip-lock plastic bags, clear clam-shell food containers, or clear plastic storage containers. You can even cover a single pot with a clear glass jar.
Check the cuttings a few times a week for moisture and add a small amount of water if necessary. Some growers fertilize regularly with dilute (1/4 strength) liquid fertilizer. Do not wet the leaves, as this can cause harm to the plant.
Place the container in indirect light, preferably in an East-facing window or under grow lights. Direct or excess light can burn the leaves. Provide light for 10-12 hours daily but don't leave the lights on all of the time. The plants need a dark, downtime each day to grow.
Upshifting to Larger Pots
After 8 weeks, young plantlets with leaves should appear at the cut surface of the stem. (Some varieties can take up to 6 months to produce babies so keep watching if you don't see anything after 2 months.) When the baby leaves grow to dime-size (miniature varieties) or to quarter-size (standard varieties), the plants can be moved to their final pots.
Squeeze the sides of the original container to loosen the soil.
Slide out the soil and gently pull and tease away the baby plants from the mother leaf. Take care not to injure the delicate roots of the new plants.
Discard the mother leaf; the mother leaf is no longer needed and will only rot away.
Plant the babies into suitably sized pots of African violet mix.
Congratulations! You are now an African Violet propagator!
Enjoy your new gardening skill!
Ramsey County Master Gardener Volunteer