An African violet chimera’s flowers appear in a pinwheel stripe design which is usually a combination of two different colors. The different-colored stripes are the result of two different genetic makeups, so these different sections of color have cells with different genetic components. These differences are very apparent when they appear side by side on the plant’s petals.
The chimeras started out as genetic mutations, but they are now bred deliberately because of the beautiful color patterns that result.
In this article, we will discuss how African violet chimeras come about, and how to propagate them.
What are African violet chimera flowers?
African violet chimera flowers are the result of a genetic mutation that causes two different colors to appear in a radial or pinwheel design on the petals of the plant’s flowers. The bi-color pattern repeats itself on each lobe of the petal.
Every flower will have alternating stripes of these two colors, resulting in a design that is coveted by many plant owners.
What causes chimera flowers?
As we mentioned above, chimeras occur naturally due to a genetic mutation resulting in bi-colored, color-edged or fantasy flowers.
These colors result from different genetic materials in the plant’s actual tissue. In chimera flowers, the tissue has two cell layers. The first layer of cells is responsible for the color of the flower, while the second layer of cells is responsible for the color of the stripes. The color difference between the bloom and the stripe can be very noticeable, or they can just be different hues of the same color.
A cross section of the stem from a chimera bloom displays the cells of the mother plant on the outer layer, and the mutated cells on the inner, second layer.
How to propagate African violet chimera plants?
African violets are very easily propagated through leaf cuttings, resulting in plants that have a genetic makeup identical to that of the parent plant. This is because the genetic makeup of the cells in the leaf cutting is identical to that found throughout the plant.
Chimeras are different, however, because not all of their individual cells are genetically identical. This means that the plants that will grow from the cutting will not be the same as the parent plant.
‘Chimera’ is a term used to describe those varieties whose blooms have a pinwheel design. These plants cannot be replicated by leaf cuttings. If you want to propagate actual chimera African violets, use the following method instead.
First, take the crown from the middle of the plant. Do this by using a sterilized razor or knife to cut the crown away from the plant. Do this carefully, because if it is done correctly the crown can be re-rooted. Make sure there are still leaves remaining on the parent plant.
You now have a parent plant with the crown removed, but some leaves still attached. Care for it as you would any African violet, and remove any bloom stalk should one appear. Soon enough, suckers should start to appear in the decrowned plant. This will take somewhere between two to three months. The suckers will look like small plantlets on top of and around the stump left after removing the crown. When these suckers get big enough, they can be removed to make new plants of their own.
To remove a sucker from the stump, use a sterilized razor blade or knife and slice off a sucker that you think is big enough to plant on its own. Remove as many viable suckers as you can.
Do not throw away the stump, because it can still grow more suckers to be harvested after a few more weeks. These suckers have a higher chance of growing a plant that is genetically identical to the parent chimera plant, especially compared with those grown from a leaf or the suckers that grow from beneath the leaves or soil.
Next, it is time to root the sucker. To do this, place soil mix in a small pot, spray a little water onto the soil and make a tiny hole in the soil using the tip of a pencil. Push the sucker into the hole gently and press on the soil around the base of the sucker.
Place the pot with the sucker inside a Ziploc bag or in a clear covered container. This is to help increase the humidity around the plant as well as to protect it from pests and insects. Place the bag or container in a spot where the light is bright but will not hit the plant directly.
After three to four weeks, the sucker should have developed and established roots. You may then remove the plant from the container or plastic bag. Care for it as you would any African violet plantlet and, if you are lucky and did everything correctly, you will have properly reproduced an African violet chimera plant.
Just remember that not all of these suckers will produce a chimera plant identical to the parent plant, so temper your expectations. In case none of the suckers results in a chimera plant, make sure you root the crown from the parent plant, because that will definitely become a chimera true to the parent.
This method of producing suckers can be used on any African violet variety, but it is definitely much more time consuming than growing from leaf cuttings or using the suckers from the soil or under the leaves. In short, there is no reason to use this technique on non-chimera African violets unless you are just curious to give it a try.
African violet chimera flowers are the result of a genetic mutation. Their petals and stems have outer layers that are true to the color of the parent plant’s bloom, and a second, inner layer that is genetically different from the mother plant, resulting in the chimera’s signature pinwheel striped pattern.
These plants can be propagated through leaf cuttings, but this will result in a plant with a single colored bloom because it will only be identical to half of the parent plant’s genetic makeup. In order to grow identical chimera plants, you will have to remove the crown of the plant and wait for suckers to grow on the stump of the crown. Do not forget to plant the crown you removed, because this is guaranteed to produce an identical chimera.
When the suckers have grown out, you can remove them from the stump and grow them in individual pots. There is no guarantee that all the suckers will grow into chimeras, but this is the method that is most likely to produce chimeras, besides planting the crown itself.
Image: istockphoto.com / Natalia Terenteva