What to Plant in December

Today is the first day of summer and this is the first planting guide of the season.

The following is a list of vegetables and herbs you can plant in December in Sydney, a temperate zone. Just click on the name for the growing guide for each vegetable or herb:

Plant of the Month -African violet-Optimaro Chico- (Saintpaulia)

IMG_20201130_160855-African violet 'optimara chico'

The herbaceous perennials commonly known as African violets, are classified as Streptocarpus sec. Santipaulia and are a section of the Streptocarpus genus and native to Tanzania and adjacent southeastern Kenya in eastern tropical Africa.

In the wild, several of the species and subspecies are endangered and many more are threatened, as their native cloud forest habitats are cleared for agriculture.

They have become popular the world over as an popular indoor plant that gives people great joy to grow and propagate. They have hairy leaves arranged in a rosette pattern. Flowers may have a single or double row of petals that are white, pink, blue, lavender, purple, magenta and bicolors.

The stunning African violet, ‘Optimaro chico’ has petals that have a frill and are lightly edged in purple.

African violets like bright, filtered sun light from spring until autumn.

An ideal location is near a bright east or north-facing window. Adequate light is most important for abundant bloom. Any window with bright light, but not direct sunlight is good, where it will receive 10 to 14 hours of light a day.

IMG_20191207_094410-African violets in the bathroom
African violets growing in a well lit, east facing bathroom.

African violets have very fine roots and require a light, airy potting mix that will provide good drainage and permit the roots to grow. The potting mix should be slightly acidic (pH of 6.5­6.7). Using a good quality, specialised African violet potting mix is very important.  A secret is to use a mix that has perlite or vermiculite to keep the mixture airy so that the roots are able to spread easily.

These plants also like high humidity levels but do not spray the leaves with water. Use specialised water wicking pots or place the plants on a saucer that is filled with pebbles and water.

Saintpaulias are highly sensitive to temperature changes, especially rapid leaf cooling and do not like drafts and water on thier leaves will leave a discolouration that is partly due to the temperature change felt by the leaf.

It is important for African violets to be kept evenly moist but not soaking wet. For best results use rain water for your plants rather than town water that has flouride and chlorine.

To water African violets place the pot in a saucer of water and allow the plant to soak up as much as it can in 20 minutes. Then drain the excess water out of the saucer. Using a specialised water wicking pot that has a resevoir with water available to the plant at all times is an excellent way to address the water needs of these plants.

IMG_20201130_212530-Water wicking pot
This African violet is growing in a self watering pot that deleivers water as the plant requires.

You should remove wilted flower stems and leaves at the base to keep mould at bay.

An excellent resource for information on growing African violets can be found from the African Violet Society of America at this site:    http://www.avsa.org/learning

They outline the secrets to successful blooming on this page: http://avsa.org/sites/default/files/files/Secrets%20to%20Blooming.pdf

African violets are easy to propagate from individual leaves that are placed in water to develop roots then potted into a small pot with African violet potting mix and perlite.

IMG_20140926_160928-Propagating african violet
The large leaf on the right has actuall sprouted a new plant on the opposite side of the pot

African violets can live for 50 years if repotted regularly. The older leaves are removed and the new potting mix replaced and the plant set well into the mix. Here is a plant that was repotted 3 weeks ago and is now happy and displaying its first flower

IMG_20201129_182706-Newly repotted African violet
Newly repotted African violet

African violets are so beautiful and here is a selection of images of various species:

IMG_20191207_094420-Pink African violet

IMG_20170811_104553- double African violet

IMG_20130812_121526- African violet-light pink

and finally another image of the beautiful African violet ‘Optimaro chico’

IMG_20201130_160855-African violet purple frill2





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