Why don't African violets propagate "true"?
April 19, 2012 6:15 PM   Subscribe

Why do African violets not propagate "true," in regards to color patterns?

I love African violets and have grown them for years. They're the only plant I seem to be able to keep alive. I have recently had success rooting both the suckers from established violets and the crowns cut off of old, leggy ones.

What I don't really understand is why, if I take the sucker or crown off a plant, when the newly rooted one flowers it will have a different color pattern. For example: I took a pretty large sucker off my geneva violet (purple flowers with white edges) and now that sucker's flowering, and they're white with purple edges.

I have found many, many websites about propagating violets, and about all I can understand from these is that yes, this is the way it works. But why? Are suckers chimeras? I've never gotten a leaf cutting to root, but do THOSE propagate true? Seeds would, right, if they ever made seeds?

Assume that I have very, very little knowledge of plants (I kill everything else!), and only a little of genetics. Pea plants and dominant/recessive, yes; cat coat colors, not really. What I need is an explanation for someone who knows nothing about gardening but loves her violets.
posted by fiercecupcake to Home & Garden (1 answer total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Yeah, it turns out that chimeras are involved, but it's not the suckers that are chimeras, it's the mother plant. Here's more information than you needed, probably but it's interesting to note that on that page, they say that propagating from "suckers" is the best way to get high fidelity propagation of the chimeric flowers. At any rate, what's going on is that the way you're propagating is giving you new buds from only genotype (or, it sounds like, maybe cells from the two genotypes end up in different layers in the growing flowers?), rather than getting you new buds that have both of the two different genotypes that make up your pretty variegated colored flowers. Here's a YouTube of a guy showing how to get suckers to grow, but I think that what he's doing is not actually getting suckers; I think he's getting new leaf cuttings this way.

Finally, here's a website that appears to be devoted to chimera African Violets, which probably has all the information you need: The Chimera African Violet Blog.

This is so interesting, and I had no idea that violets worked this way. Congratulations on having awesome gene monster flowers as a hobby!
posted by Made of Star Stuff at 6:51 PM on April 19, 2012 [5 favorites]

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