It is said that “familiarity breeds contempt.” I think contempt is a strong word. We do crave things that are new. But most of us dine on the familiar or “comfort food” most of the time. It’s the same with plants.
Once upon a time when I was a newbie to Behnke Nurseries, Behnke’s grew our own African violets, Gloxinias, Boston Ferns and Streptocarpus. I remember getting in plug tray after plug tray of each of these items (“plugs” are what we horticulturists often call little plants for repotting).
The violets were my favorites. African violets can be cloned from an individual leaf, and when the plugs came in, we would grow them to size and then we would frequently take leaf cuttings from both new and old varieties. I used to laugh at how the leaves in the propagation flats looked like chairs in a movie theater.
Several months later we would harvest the “babies” from the leaf cutting and plant them up for later sales. Even though the violets will forever be my favorite I also love the new varieties of Streptocarpus (cape primrose) that have come out in the last few years. If you haven’t tried them before you are really missing out on an exceptional plant.
Streptocarpus may be treated just as you would your violets as far as light and water and the fact that you should never water with cold water as it will spot the leaves. For many of the Gesneriads, members of the African Violet Family, water that is about 10 degrees warmer or colder than the air temperature will kill cells on the leaves if it lands on them, and cause permanent spots.
The flowers and leaves are very different than the violet, the leaves are long, dark green and strap like. They do not have the same symmetry as a violet but the flowers are simply outstanding with their larger size, tubular shape and unique colors and markings. Some have one color on the outside of the flower, and a contrasting color inside the throat, which is quite dramatic. (This could be, but isn’t, called “strep throat.”) A beautiful plant to drive away those winter blues.
by Marian Parsley, Behnke’s Annual Buyer