Gardening: Keeping and propagating African violets

Species African violets from the Usambara Mountains have been hybridized for more than a century to develop the houseplants of today. Credits Blue African violet – Vladimir2366fa (Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported)


Viable seeds of African violet were first collected in 1892 by Baron Walter von Saint Paul-Illaire, in what was then German East Africa and today is Tanzania.

Named Saintpaulia in his honour, almost all our modern hybrids are derived from these seeds, representing only two species, Saintpaulia ionontha and S. confusa.

As a young woman in the early 1960s, I taught school in Tanzania. I knew the African violet was native to the Usambara Mountains, but had never seen them until I returned to East Africa in 2008. We…

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