Issue: July 20, 2002

African violets


Can you direct me to a good source for information on raising African violets?


Perhaps the best source of information regarding raising African violets would be a local gardener who grows them. In many cities there are garden clubs devoted to African violets, or orchids, or bonsai. Such a garden club is not only a good source of information but also a good source for healthy plants.

I learned how to grow African violets and many other plants from books borrowed from a library. Libraries or bookstores are often the next best sources of information on something as specific as African violets. There are many books to choose from, but choosing a book is something best for you to determine. Look for a book that is written in a manner that is easy for you to understand. If pictures are helpful, look for that; if you don't need pictures, then choose one without pictures.

Finally, African violets are very easy to grow, just don't overwater them or let them get too dry. Give them enough bright light, but not direct sunlight. Choose several varieties to grow because some grow better in different environments. Each home environment is different, so by trying several varieties you may select those that grow best for you. They are really great plants.

Tree stumps


I have a few tree stumps in my yard that are in the way. How would I go about getting rid of them? I don't want to dig them out of the ground.


For immediate effect, you can hire a company with a "stump grinder" to turn the stumps into sawdust that can then be used as mulch. You will need some soil to fill the holes left by the stump grinding process.

Another idea is to enhance natural decomposition by drilling many narrow holes in the stumps and filling them with high nitrogen fertilizer. If the stumps are kept moist, the nitrogen will feed the fungi that naturally decompose wood, speeding the process. To keep them moist, you can water them frequently or build a flower bed around the stumps. You can speed things even more by building compost piles over the stumps. If this is a front yard location, use more attractive compost bins which may be covered with vines or other ornamentals planted around the perimeter. Watering the compost or the flower beds will provide the needed moisture. Using drip irrigation will provide needed moisture in a water efficient manner. It does not take a lot of water.

Some people have turned stumps into pots. If you wish, you can hollow the stumps, fill them with potting soil, and use them as planters. They will last only a few years. When you water and fertilize the plants growing in them, you will hasten their decomposition.

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Marisa Y. Thompson, PhD, is the Extension Horticulture Specialist, in the Department of Extension Plant Sciences at the New Mexico State University Los Lunas Agricultural Science Center, email:, office: 505-865-7340, ext. 113.


For more gardening information, visit the NMSU Extension Horticulture page at Desert Blooms and the NMSU Horticulture Publications page.

Send gardening questions to Southwest Yard and Garden - Attn: Dr. Marisa Thompson at, or at the Desert Blooms Facebook.

Please copy your County Extension Agent and indicate your county of residence when you submit your question!