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How to grow highly variegated African violets like Watermelon Snow and Rose Bouquet?

Updated: Jul 10



Among hundreds of varieties of variegated African violets, Watermelon Snow and Rose Bouquet are the popular ones that draw a lot of attention.

A majority of variegated African violets (AVs) are temperature and season sensitive. In my observation over the decade, variegated AVs tend to grow mostly variegated leaves in a cool winter and mostly green leaves in a warm summer. Newer AV collectors prefer highly variegated ones; however, these highly variegated AVs can be a challenge. The lack of chlorophyll limits the plant's ability to photosynthesize; therefore, highly variegated AVs grow a lot slower than non-variegated ones. If the center of the crown turns 100% white, the plant will slowly rot, and it's almost impossible to turn green again. If there is still some green left in the center growth point, there is hope to bring it back to life, but it will take a few months and some work.






This picture of Rose Bouquet was taken in April 2022. The center of the crown developed over the winter appears more variegated compared to the older, bigger leaves. This plant will be fine because it has lots of green left in the center.









Milk's Ten Cats (a leaf chimera) in the right picture has turned completely white in the center of the crown. It will never turn green and will die eventually. However, if a crown variegated AV turns 100% white in the center, it may revert to green in the summer.





So here is the secret to greening up a highly variegated African violet:


  1. Remove at least half of the root ball and rinse off as much old soil as possible. Old soil will slowly turn acidic and prevent the plant from absorbing nutrients. That's why AVs need to be repotted every year.

  2. Remove extra old leaves and only keep 1-2 rows of leaves. The limited roots left can no longer support the previous amount of leaves. Ensure that the leaves have some green left; otherwise, they will slowly die from starvation.

  3. Pot the plant in fresh potting mix. Rinse the potting mix at a kitchen sprayer faucet at room temperature and let the excess water drain. Hot or cold water can permanently damage the delicate leaves, so beginners need to be careful when rinsing the violet.


4. After the leaves are dry, place the plant in a humidity dome and keep it on the highest tier of your plant shelf with artificial lighting or dappled sunlight for 3 months. Higher humidity and temperatures (but no higher than 85°F / 30°C) will help variegated African violets grow flatter and greener leaves. Leave the ventilation holes open, as mature plants with some roots prefer humidity around 60-70%.



This photo of Watermelon Snow was taken on 09/18/2021. The center shows greener growth during the summer months. To promote new leaf growth, I suggest removing at least one row of old leaves to provide more space. Additionally, to reduce the light intensity, you can either move the plant further away from the LED light or place a piece of tissue over the plant. The crown looks tight and seems to be receiving too much light.



If you don't want to bother saving a highly variegated AV, simply toss it and purchase another one. A bouquet of cut flowers costs $10 and lasts for a week, while Watermelon Snow can keep blooming for 3 months!


Tips:

The best time to purchase Watermelon Snow and Rose Bouquet is in Summer and Fall because you will more likely receive a greener plant. If you prefer a highly variegated one, they will be available in Winter and Spring. I personally prefer to purchase a greener variegated AV because it is easier to acclimate it to my own growing environments.


(I've spent an entire day creating this article, and everything I wrote is backed by my 15 years of experience and experimentation. Please like and share it with your friends. Thank you!)


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Thank you very much for this post as I have several rose bouquets and watermelon snows that have all white centers and now I know how to 'fix' them.. Your article was extremely timely.

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Thank you very much for this post. I have recently acquired Champagne pink Sport from a reputable nursery. It was poorly packed and came with a lot of damaged leaves and is now struggling. Your article will help me to care for it.

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