African Violet Leaf Propagation: How to Produce Baby Plantlets?

African Violet Leaf Propagation: How to Produce Baby Plantlets?

How to choose plant leaves to start propagation of African Violets?

  • Choose a mature and healthy African Violet plant to harvest leaves
  • Choose leaves from the middle of the African Violet plant or the third row of leaves from the center of the African Violet plant.
  • Leaves closer to the crown are considered younger/smaller leaves. The leaves towards the outside/edge/larger are older leaves.
  • Younger / smaller leaves are still growing and may not survive through the propagation cycle. They are not suitable for propagation.
  • Older leaves are woody with a tough stem and may take longer to root during the propagation cycle.
  • Choose healthy leaves which are bright green, with no brown patches, no yellowing or limpness.
  • Choose leaves which are at least 0.5 – 3 inches in length depending upon whether they are miniature, semi-miniature or standard African Violet plants.
  • Choose 4-5 leaves from one African Violet plant if possible, otherwise 2 leaves are also fine to start with.
  • Once you have chosen which leaves to harvest for propagation, proceed to snap off the tender leaf stem from the African Violet plant or use a sharp clean knife to cut the tender leaf stem off of the African Violet plant.
  • When removing the leaf from the African Violet plant, make sure to remove the entire leaf stem, closer to the crown or base of the African Violet plant. Below are pictures displaying where to cut the leaf stem from the plant.
  • By removing the leaf stem closer to the plant, you will prevent future root rot from occurring.
  • When choosing leaves from a trailer, pick one of the trailer crowns and select a middle leaf from this crown. Can select a few middle leaves from each crown of the trailer on the same plant. Below are pictures of middle leaves from a trailer plant.

What kind of rooting soil mix to use for propagating African Violet leaves?

  • Use a light porous rooting soil mix consisting of perlite and peat moss to start propagation of African Violet leaves.
  • Rooting Soil Mix Recipe: 2 cups perlite mixed with 1 cup peat moss. Can substitute 1 cup perlite with 1 cup vermiculite. I use only perlite and peat moss in my mix.

Below are examples of commercially available perlite:

Below are examples of commercially available vermiculite:

  • When selecting perlite and peat moss for your rooting soil mix, its best if they don’t have any fertilizer pre-mixed in the package. Use a virgin mix, with no additional fertilizers in it. This way you have control over when to fertilize.
  • The rooting soil mix should be light weight with the ability to retain water, but also provide adequate drainage too.
  • To start propagating, select a suitable container to start African Violet leaves in. It can be a small 3oz. cup, a small 2 inch pot or a medium-sized plastic take out container.
  • Fill up the pot/container with prepared rooting soil mix.
  • Add luke warm (room temperature) water to the rooting soil mix in the pot/container and allow to drain.
  • The rooting soil mix should be moist, not damp or too dry.

How to prepare leaves for propagating African Violets?

  • When choosing leaves to propagate African Violets, the leaf stem should be at least 1 inch in length from the base of the leaf to the end of the stem.
  • If the leaf stem is longer, can use a sharp clean knife/blade to cut down the leaf stem to 1 inch.

Below are commercially available knifes/blades to cut African Violet leaves:

  • Once the leaf is cut to the correct length, place the leaf on a table with the fuzzy/hairy side of the leaf up.
  • Cut the tip of the leaf at a 45°angle. Try to make a long angled cut, at least 0.5 inch in length.
  • Make sure it’s a nice clean cut; remove any hanging bits of plant tissue from the angled tip.
  • Remember to clean the blade with 70% alcohol between each use. Can dilute 100% /99%alcohol to prepare 70% alcohol (Mix 70ml 100% alcohol with 30ml water to prepare 70% alcohol).

Below are commercially available rubbing alcohol to clean instruments:

  • By cutting the leaf tip at an angle, we are creating a larger surface area for root production from the leaf tip compared to a straight cut of the leaf tip.
  • The angled cut end will now produce roots when potted up in rooting soil mix.
  • It is not necessary, but I have found that when I slice off the top of the leaf too, it creates roots and plantlets faster, compared to when I don’t slice off the leaf top.
  • By slicing off the top of the leaf, it also focuses all the leaf’s energy into producing roots from the cut tip instead of continuing to grow the leaf.

Whether to use rooting hormone for propagating African Violets?

  • Personally, I do not use rooting hormone powder on my leaves when I propagate them. I have however, heard of others regularly using rooting hormone powder.
  • Rooting hormone powder assists the leaf in growing stronger roots.
  • Rooting hormone powder artificially increases the amount of auxin plant hormone located at the tip of the African Violet leaf stem.
  • This increased availability of auxin plant hormone in turn stimulates the production of roots from the tip of the African Violet leaf stem.

Below are a few examples of commercially available rooting hormone powders:

  • To use rooting hormone powder, work in a well-ventilated area, wear gloves and if possible eye googles and face mask for precaution.
  • Gently dip the freshly cut tip of the African Violet leaf stem into rooting hormone powder.
  • The rooting hormone powder should lightly dust/coat the tip of the leaf.
  • Shake off any excess powder from the tip of the African Violet leaf and proceed to the next step of putting down leaves in rooting soil mix.

How to put down leaves in rooting soil mix for propagating African Violets?

  • Prepare the pots/containers filled with rooting soil mix and watered.
  • Remember to label the pots and prepare plant labels for the containers.
  • Using a pencil, chopstick or knitting needle, make a thin small hole in the rooting soil mix, just wide enough for the leaf stem to fit and around half an inch deep.
  • Insert the angled cut end of the leaf stem into the hole and fill in with soil mix, in such a way that the leaf stem sits just below the soil.
  • If the leaf stem seems unstable/wobbly  or is not staying upright, can place two small toothpicks behind the stem to keep it upright or can gently push the leaf stem slightly deeper into the rooting soil mix.
  • When inserting the leaf stem into the soil, don’t place it straight down into the soil, but at a slight angle.
  • Now, the leaf cutting pots need to have their own humid mini-greenhouse environment, to encourage root production.
  • You can place the pots in a sealed Ziploc bag to increase humidity. Can open up the bags a little if the soil seems too damp and if the humidity becomes too high (water droplets are forming inside of the bag and start creating a pool of water in the base of the bag).
  • The pots can also be covered with plastic cups inverted over the top. If the humidity is too high (water droplets start covering the inside of the inverted cups and the soil routinely stays damp), you can poke holes in the plastic cup cover.
  • If using a plastic take out container, poke a few holes in the take out lid and cover the container with the lid.

How to propagate African Violet leaf cuttings in water?

  • African Violet leaves can also be propagated in water.
  • The leaf is similarly prepared as mentioned above.
  • For the container, you can use a glass canning jar / baby food jar, a plastic cup or a small bottle with a narrow opening.
  • First fill the container with lukewarm (room temperature) water.
  • If using a glass jar or plastic cup, cover the open top of the jar with saran wrap, aluminum foil or parchment paper.
  • If using parchment paper, you can secure it over the top of the jar with an elastic band or wire tie.
  • Then poke a small hole in the middle of the saran wrap, foil or parchment paper. The size of the hole, should be enough for the leaf stem to go all the way in the container and the leaf to stay on top.
  • The leaf stem should be submerged in water and the leaf top should be above water.
  • Place the container in a bright location receiving indirect light. If using fluorescent lights, can place on a light stand receiving minimum 12 hrs. of light each day.
  • After 3-5 weeks, roots from the tip of the leaf stem will become visible. This is when you can pot-up the leaves in rooting soil mix as described above.

How much light do African Violet leaf cuttings need?

  • The leaf cutting pots need minimum 12hrs. of light each day. This can be fluorescent lights or indirect natural light (east facing window).
  • The pots should be in a warm area away from any cold drafts.
  • The leaf cutting pots should be kept under consistent light with no major changes until new baby plantlets are seen.

How to water African Violet leaf cuttings?

  • Leaf cutting pots in Ziploc baggies or closed containers, do not need to be frequently watered, as long as the humidity is 60-70% inside the bags/cups.
  • If water droplets are seen inside the bags/cups, then the humidity level is ok and the soil will be damp from this humidity.
  • If the humidity levels increase and the inside of the Ziploc bags become wet, the soil is consistently wet and water starts to pool at the base of the bag, then it’s time to remove the pot from the bag. Place the pot on a newspaper and allow to sit for 2-3hrs, till excess water is absorbed. The clean out the Ziploc bag, remove the water, wipe the interior dry. Place the pot back into the bag.
  • If the humidity levels increase and the inside of the cup/container lid becomes wet, the soil is consistently wet and water starts to pool on the inside, then prop open the lid with a plant label or on the edge of the container.
  • If the soil appears dry to touch and the pot /container is light weight, it is time to water the leaves. Always use lukewarm (room temperature) water.
  • Below are commercially available humidity – temperature meters. I use the AcuRite meter to measure humidity/temperature.

When can you start to see new growth from African Violet leaf cuttings?

  • After 3 months you can start to see green growth emerging from the base of the leaf.
  • As soon as you notice green growth, you can open up the Ziploc bag, still continuing with the same light and watering schedule. The same can be done for leaf cuttings in containers, the lid can be propped up open.
  • The reason to do this is to gently acclimatize the baby plantlets to the outside environment.
  • You can also start to fertilize the baby plantlets with a mild fertilizer (dilute 1/4tsp 7-7-7 fertilizer in 1 gallon of water).
    • Once the baby plantlets start to grow and become an inch in height, you can remove the pots from the Ziploc bags. Similarly, for leaf cuttings in containers, you can remove the lid and keep the containers open.
    • This should help the baby plantlets to harden off and become comfortable at the temperature and humidity levels in your plant area.
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