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Saving the Salvia and Optimara Dali Babies

Optimara Dali and Babies

When there’s ice and snow outside, you have a little more time to poke around and investigate the goings on of your houseplants, don’t you? What’s that new bump, and why did that leaf yellow, etc. Today it was spider mites on Salvia elegans ‘Frieda Dixon’ first thing. It didn’t surprise me too much since I had noticed them before. I’ve taken her to the sink a few times and sprayed the leaves off, then soaped and rinsed them again. It seems to set the mites back, but apparently it’s not enough to keep them away for good. Frieda Dixon, by they way, is a salmon-flowered pineapple sage. I bought it at the end of the season (just because I happened to find one) and brought it inside to over-winter. It smells so good, and the flowers are such an interesting shade — I hope it blooms inside for me, but we’ll see. Meanwhile, I’ll keep spraying the insects off and taking advantage of the sweet scent as I do. Fragrant plants make winter bearable.

But the find of the morning, and a much more fun one at that, was this: African violet babies! I had bought Optimara Dali a few months ago, and as soon as it reached full bloom for the first time, I knew I needed more of them. The particular shade of orchid-violet is unusual, and it looks smudged on. How did I make it through life before this plant? So, I broke off a leaf and put it in water on the windowsill for a few weeks. When it had roots, I punched a little hole in the bottom of a 3-oz. solo cup, filled it with potting soil, and tucked the rooted leaf in there. Looking back, I should’ve taken the time to mix in some vermiculite, because the peat mixture is a little too wet. But I don’t water it until it is quite dry, and fortunately Dali is tolerant and forgiving — the best kind of plant for me!


African Violet IsaBelle

This is IsaBelle, one of two African violets in Optimara’s Southern Belle series. IsaBelle’s pink flowers are bell-shaped — did you know African violets could have blooms like that? I didn’t! Her leaves are dark green with a lightly serrated edge and red underside. Flower stems are dark, almost black, with white buds that turn pink as they age and open. She’s prettier than your average African violet!

IsaBelle African Violet

At my house, IsaBelle sits in a south-facing window with deciduous trees that block the direct sun in the summer. She loves the extra light she gets when the leaves fall in November — her heaviest bloom for me is in late fall/early winter — but she blooms sporadically all year long.

Do you find these dainty bells irresistible? Try this: Sign up for Optimara’s Violet Alerts at, and they will send you emails letting you know when a shipment of random varieties will arrive at retailers in your area. I’ve collected several pretty African violets by following those leads. Word to the wise, though, you have to get there quick because the special ones — and that includes the Southern Belles — sell out fast!

If you’ve never grown African violets, but would like to, the African Violet Society of America has the information you want.

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