African violets are easy to propagate from leaf cuttings. Rooting leaves in potting soil, soilless mix or inorganic media such as perlite or vermiculite will produce new plantlets reliably and with very little care and attention.
African violets are generally very easy to grow from leaf regardless of the method used. We say “generally” because different methods work better for different people depending upon many variables. Additionally, certain varieties, and some individual plants, are slower to produce plantlets or “babies” than others. Outlined here are a couple of methods that have worked quickly and easily for us in varying environments and should work well for most people.
First, regardless of the planting method, you’ll want to choose a healthy leaf from the parent, or donor, plant. Ideally, the leaf should be firm, undamaged, and have a long enough petiole (leaf stem) for planting. Older leaves are slower to produce plantlets so it’s best to avoid taking a leaf from the outer rows. A good guideline is to choose a leaf from about the third row from the center (crown) of the African violet plant.
Cut the leaf stem at an angle with a razor blade or similarly sharp blade leaving at least one inch of stem from leaf base to end. (A longer stem is easier to work with if you will be planting in plugs or on wicks.) The angled cut allows for greater surface area (and greater number of plant cells) exposed to the growing medium. Using very sharp blade decreases the amount of damage done to cells when slicing through the stem.
Planting Leaves in Soil, Peat or other Soilless Mix
If planting leaves in potting soil or soiless mix make sure the mix is well-moistened and drains easily. Add perlite to potting mix to lighten it since most commercially available potting mixes are too heavy for African violets (even those claiming to be for African violets.) Place the cut leaf or leaves into the mix about an inch down and cover the stem. It’s best not to let the leaf itself touch the surface of the medium as this can lead to rot. You can rest the leaf in an upright position against the side of the propagation tray or prop the leaf up with a plastic plant tag.
If planting several leaves in a tray space them a couple of inches apart and be sure to label them. If you have a humid growing environment you don’t need to cover the leaves or use a dome, but you may find it helpful if your environment is very dry and your mix dries out too quickly. Place the tray under fluorescent lights (8 to 12 inches from the tubes for 8 to 14 hours a day, depending upon your lighting and your growing environment) or in a brightly lit window but not in direct sunlight. Check the medium daily to make sure it doesn’t dry out and water from the bottom when necessary.
Plantlets will begin to show from as early as 4 weeks but usually take 8 weeks or longer. Transplant when the plantlets are large enough to handle comfortably.
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Planting Leaf Cuttings in Peat Plugs
Peat plugs are great for planting African violet leaves. Moisten and drain the plugs and prepare your leaves as above. If you are propagating large varieties with thick stems you can place your cut leaves directly into the pre-drilled holes in the plugs as long as the cut in the stem is in constant contact with the peat. If the pre-drilled holes are too large you can simply create a new hole right next to the pre-drilled hole using a pencil. If you are propagating regular standard sized African violets, or semi-miniatures or miniatures, small peat plugs are a better choice as the leaf stems will fit well in the pre-drilled holes.