When African violets first hit the United States market in the mid-1930s, there weren’t many flower colors or foliage to choose from, but that has changed. My grandma Eldred always had African violets on her east kitchen windowsill and she only had a few colors and no amazing foliage. 

African violets on windowsill

My grandma’s violets on her East windowsill

It’s a new world

With much hybridizing, that has changed. I love the flowers, but there is also some crazy weird foliage on some of these violets. I recently attended an African violet show and couldn’t resist some of the violets with the unique foliage. 

violet foliage

The pink variegated foliage on this standard sized (exceeds 8″ in diameter) is stunning!

‘Girl Foliage’

The foliage below on this ‘Maid in Japan’ African violet is known as ‘girl foliage’, most likely a moniker that came about from the 40s and 50s. It is usually ruffled and always has a light spot of color at the base of the leaf. That is obvious on this plant. Isn’t it adorable? This is considered a semi-miniature African violet and so won’t grow larger than 8″ around. 

Girl African violet leaf

You can obviously see the large white area on the base of the leaf and the scallops making this a ‘girl leaf’.

‘Persian Prince’ miniature violet

The violet below, called ‘Persian Prince’ is a miniature African violet with scalloped ‘girl foliage’ and so won’t grow more than 6″ around. This violet is in a small bathroom cup and is only about 2″ wide and maybe 3″ tall. It is so cute!

Purple African violet

You can see the lighter spot at the base of the leaf, making this a girl leaf

‘Toronto Belle’ African violet

The ‘Toronto Belle’ below is a miniature violet with variegated, serrated, oak leaf shaped foliage. I had never seen one like this and if it never flowered, I wouldn’t care. 

‘Mac’s Just Jeff’ African violet

I wouldn’t have chosen this violet for its flowers, because I am not a red flower girl, as a rule, but this foliage hooked me. It is a miniature violet with plain leaves (called boy leaves) with a scalloped edge and the variegation is called mosaic. The variegation isn’t in any pattern, but randomly splashed on the leaves.

'Alpine Mist' African violet

‘Pink Mist’ African violet

Bustle Back Leaves

Bustle back leaves are leaves with smaller “leaves” attached to their backs. If you look up the definition of a “bustle”, it was a cushion worn on the back below the waist, giving fullness to women’s skirts in the mid-late 19th century. Big behinds were important….? Anyway, they are very cool leaves! (These pictures were provided by Phil and Jean Mancos.)

Foliage First

If you are a strictly foliage person, don’t overlook flowering plants with crazy weird foliage. Cut the flowers off if you don’t appreciate them and it will put its energy into making more gorgeous foliage! Did you know African violets had foliage like this? 

Have a great week, plant friends!

 

 

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