The Q&A Archives: Two questions.....

Question: I had recently purchased a Persian Violet for my mother. Unfortunately, within a week after I brought it home it started to whither and die. At first the outer stalks started to whither at the branch joints, now I see that the center stalk has shrunk at soil-level and as a result the whole plant is now withering. Is there anything I can do to save it, or prevent it from happening again when I get another one? I would really like to know how to keep these lovely plants alive. My mother believes I over-watered it, which is possible, but would over-watering cause the damage to the stalk?

Second, if possible, can you tell me why I have fruit on my potato plants? I planted tomatoes and potatoes next to each other in my garden and they both bloomed at the same time. Shortly thereafter, small green fruit appeared on the potato branches. Should I cut these off or is there something else I am supposed to do with them? Will they affect the potatoes?

Thank you for your time and consideration in answering my email. I look forward to any advice you can give me.

Answer: Persian violets (Exacum affine) are very difficult to grow at home, so they are usually treated as florist gift plants and discarded when they begin to fade. They need cool room temperatures (55 degrees daytime, a bit cooler at night), high humidity and good air circulation along with bright but indirect light. Understandably, very few home gardeners can keep them alive for any length of time because of the temperature requirement. If you would like to grow indoor flowering plant, the many different types of African violet tend to be easier to grow and have lovely flowers. I'm sorry I can't be more encouraging about the Persian violet.

Based on your description of your potato, I think you may be seeing seed balls forming at the sites where the blooms were earlier. This is fairly unusual but possible, depending on the variety of potato you are growing. Their development would detract from the tuber formation by diverting energy so you can cut them off. Or, you could allow them to mature and plant them later -- although your resulting potatoes would be unpredictable.

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