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Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Friday - January 08, 2010

From: Des Moines, IA
Region: Midwest
Topic: Non-Natives
Title: Problems with non-native African violets in Des Moines
Answered by: Barbara Medford


My violets have stopped blooming after years and have developed a growth in the middle of the plant. Can I save these plants and how can I revive them. Thank you, I am desperate to salvage them as they are gifts.


There are 27 violets, members of the Viola genus, native to Iowa. However, they are all summer-blooming plants. We just checked your weather, it is 5 deg. there, with heavy snow on the ground. Any violets are peacefully sleeping under all that, waiting for Spring.

So, we are pretty sure you are referring to the African violet, not a true violet but Saintpaulia ionantha, which is a popular houseplant that grows and flowers under light conditions found in the average home or under artificial light. 

At the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center we are all about plants that are native not only to North America but to the area in which they are being grown. One of the most heavily hybridized plants around, Saintpaulia ionantha originated in (where else?) Africa, specifically Tanzania.  Both its nativity and the hybridization put those plants out of our realm of expertise. The University of Florida Extension has a website on the culture of African Violets that should give you some leads to the solution of your problem. Also, the African Violet Society has a Des Moines chapter. Your best bet is to find someone who has specific experience with these plants and has grown them over a period of time.


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