What is an African Violet Chimera?

Prized by some and hated by others, African Violet chimeras are dazzling, unique, rare, and sometimes the ugly ducklings of the African Violet world.

Chimeras characterised by a distinctive pinwheel or candy stripe effect on their flowers. The term chimera does not actually mean a certain type of flower, but it refers to a genetic problem that exists in these very special plants where the genes of two completely different varieties are found inside the one plant.

Chimeras can be found among many types of African violet, including:

  • Different growth habits – standard, semi-miniature, and trailing
  • Flower types
    – double, semi-double, single, fantasy.
  • Foliage types – plain, variegated, longifolia, clackamas 
African Violet Yukako
Yukako (Japanese Chimera)

Chimera Gallery

Modern hybridisers have produced a dazzling assortment of African Violet chimeras including standards, semi-miniatures and trailing varieties, some with bold stripes and others with more subtle markings.  Click on the images below to see some beautiful chimera examples. 

African Violet - Harmony's Little Stinker

Leaf Chimera

Chimeras are generally prized for their flowers. However, chimerism can show up in other ways. 

For example, leaf chimeras are a type of variegated leaf where a genetic fault causes two types of leaves on the same plant. 

In the same way as a flower chimera, this cannot be propagated by leaf cutting. Pictured here, Harmony’s Little Stinker.

Propagating Chimera

If you love your chimeras, you will probably want to propagate them so you have a backup plant or a plant to share with your friends. When it comes to propagating chimeras, things are a little more challenging.

Regardless of the method you use, it’s not guaranteed that every baby plant you produce will flower true as a chimera.  All chimeras have a dominant or base petal colour and a contrasting colour that forms the radiating stripes.  Chimeras can revert back to their dominant colour, which is especially true when propagating them.

If you tried to propagate a blue and white chimera by leaf cutting, the genetic fault would not carry over into the baby plants. The new plant would revert, likely giving you different shades of a solid blue. The only reliable methods for propagating chimeras are:

  1. Via suckers or side shoots
  2. Bloom stalks
  3. Tissue Culture

Chimera FAQ

Here are some answers to common questions about African Violet chimeras

Chimeras occur by accident. They are genetic mutations that occur spontaneously when a known variety “sports”. Some hybridisers try to artificially induce a chimera, but it takes a lot of trial and error. 

Chimeras grow in the same conditions as any other African Violet plant. Chimerism does not make a plant more challenging. However, the genetic mutation that causes the chimera can be unstable meaning that plants will sometimes “revert” to a solid flower colour.

Rarely sold in stores, African Violet chimeras are generally traded and sold amongst serious hobbyists and from speciality African Violet nurseries. Their slow rate of propagation and expensive price tag makes them unsuitable for mass-production. 

Chimeras are expensive because they are so rare. They are difficult to source, slow and uncertain to propagate. It can take a grower 8 to 12 months to produce reliable chimera babies for sale.

Despite good intentions, not every plant that is propagated from a chimera will flower true.  Chimeras are sold in several forms. The key to understanding your risk is to know what you’re buying. 

  • Is it an adult plant that is flowering correctly for several cycles of blooms? If so, it will be a large plant, expensive, and will require the seller to have spent 12 or 18 months growing it. 
  • Alternatively, is it a sucker grown from a reliable mother plant? If so, it will be a smaller plant, easier to post, less expensive. A juvenile plant may not have flowered for the first time and so carries some risk that it may not flower correctly. 

Some growers will promise to replace plants. Others, have a “buyer beware” type disclaimer.  Sometimes, a chimera that doesn’t flower true is not the fault of the seller, but rather due to the sudden change of growing conditions. 

I believe some risks are worth taking and that if you persist and buy several chimeras, you will succeed in having a few interesting plants. 

Chimera Trivia

In ancient Greek mythology, a chimera is a monstrous creature composed of multiple different animals.

Ancient Greek Chimera
Ceramic African Violet Pot

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