My preferred method of propagating African violets from leaf cuttings is to plant them in 100% pure perlite on wicking reservoirs. This method is easy to master, requires a little more preparation than using plugs or soil trays but results in the least amount of care and maintenance afterward.
For wick watering you will need:
- a small plastic flower pot or other planter with a hole in the bottom (shown: 3oz Solo® bathroom cup)
- a nylon wick about 7 in. in length (we use fine gauge nylon cord – similar to the cord used in mini blinds – which can be purchased by the yard from any hardware store)
- medium-grade perlite
- a reservoir to hold water and nutrients (shown: small Ziploc® container with hole in lid)
Some considerations in choosing your materials: A nylon or acrylic wick won’t rot in water as will wool yarn or cotton cord; Opaque containers inhibit the growth of algae which, although unsightly, is essentially harmless but can prevent the wicking action over time if not removed.
Propagating African Violets in Perlite
Prepare your leaves the same way you would if you were about to plant leaves in potting soil. Pull the wick through the bottom of the plastic cup to just above the rim (leaving about 4 inches of wick trailing out from the bottom of the cup). Fill the cup with a layer of perlite about an inch to 1-1/2″ deep and curl the wick around the surface. Place the leaf in the cup resting against the rim and fill the cup with perlite to just below the bottom of the leaf. Top-water thoroughly and check that the water drains completely and flows down the wick. Label the cup with the leaf variety and date, if desired, and place on the wicking container with the wick inserted into the reservoir.
Place the leaves under lights or in bright indirect light and check periodically to make sure that the wicks are working (keeping the perlite moist) and that the water in the reservoir hasn’t evaporated. You should see new plantlets in anywhere from 4 to 8 weeks or longer. Transplant when the plantlets are large enough to handle comfortably – I usually wait until the new plantlets have leaves the size nickels or larger.
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