Selective Propagation: why you should throw out more plants

In the world of African violet cultivation, there’s a silent but crucial practice that sets exceptional growers apart: selective propagation. While it may seem daunting to discard your gorgeous plant babies, seasoned enthusiasts understand its significance in maintaining the purity and essence of named varieties for years of happy healthy growing and for the next generation of growers. In this article I want to encourage you confidently to throw away more of your African Violet plants! 

Named Varieties

Named African violet varieties are not just plants; they are hybrids, the culmination of years of meticulous breeding and selection to achieve specific traits that captivate the hearts of collectors worldwide.

From vibrant flower colors to intricate leaf patterns, each named variety possesses a unique identity that sets it apart.

As custodians of named African violet varieties, growers need to uphold the standards of excellence set by breeders and enthusiasts before them. Selective propagation is an essential part of this.

Hunter's Little Pissah African Violet
Hunter's Little Pisa

Why variations occur

African Violets that do not grow true to variety are often called ‘sports.’ I’ve noticed a tendency on social media for growers to blame the supplier if they receive a plant that sports or demonstrates variation.

However, variation in offspring produced from leaf cuttings of African violets is a natural occurrence influenced by multiple factors specific to these beloved plants.

Firstly, genetic variation plays a significant role, as African violets are often hybrids created through intentional crossbreeding, resulting in a wide range of genetic combinations. Additionally, environmental factors such as light intensity, temperature, humidity levels, and nutrient availability can influence the development of African violet offspring. These environmental variations may manifest in differences in leaf size, color intensity, and growth rate among the propagated plants.

Furthermore, African violets exhibit developmental plasticity, meaning their growth and appearance can be influenced by external conditions, leading to subtle variations even among genetically identical offspring. Occasionally, spontaneous mutations may occur during the propagation process, resulting in unique traits not present in the parent plant. 

We can never be sure at what point of the propagation process variations occurred because there are so many contributing factors. Despite the variations, propagating African violets from leaf cuttings remains a rewarding endeavor, often resulting in the emergence of new and captivating characteristics in the propagated plants.

What is selective propagation?

Selective propagation in African violets involves a methodical approach of initially propagating a wide range of offspring and then narrowing down the selection based on desired traits. 

Growers carefully choose which offspring to propagate, considering factors like strength, health, and adherence to specific attributes such as flower color, form, or leaf shape. 

By initially propagating a diverse range of plants and then selectively narrowing down the selection, growers increase the likelihood of discovering exceptional individuals that possess the desired traits. 

This deliberate process aims to maintain the purity and authenticity of named African violet varieties over time. It requires careful observation, discernment, and a commitment to upholding established standards. Ultimately, selective propagation ensures that each new generation of African violets retains the unique qualities of its parent variety, contributing to the continuity and improvement of these cherished plants.

Practical Tips

So, how can growers embrace selective propagation with confidence? Here are a few practical tips:

  • Trust Your Instincts: As you evaluate the offspring produced from leaf cuttings, trust your instincts and prioritize clones that exhibit vigor and desirable traits.
  • Propagating from leaf cuttings is never 100% assured and that’s why it’s best practice to put down multiple leaves.
  • Keep in mind that although our plants are precious to us, they are plants, not children! Your propagation efforts will always have some element of hit & miss and will always require discarding some babies. 
  • Document and Label: Keep records of the parent plants from which you propagate leaf cuttings, and label offspring plants accordingly. This documentation not only helps track lineage but also ensures accurate identification in the future.
  • Share Your Knowledge: Don’t hesitate to share your experiences and insights with fellow growers. By promoting responsible propagation practices within the community, you contribute to the collective effort to preserve the essence of named African violet varieties.


In conclusion, selective propagation is not just about discarding weaker clones; it’s about safeguarding the legacy of named African violet varieties for generations to come. So, don’t be afraid to embrace selective propagation and let your commitment to preserving the essence of these cherished plants shine through in your collection.

Ceramic African Violet Pot

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