Hamid Asim’s Albino African Violet Is Beautiful but Doomed  Brandmark for Violets 101

By Joyce Stork, Henderson, NV

Published in the African Violet Magazine, September/October 2021  

Without green, the world as we know it would not exist. In plants, green pigment is chlorophyll, an amazing compound that allows photosynthesis to use energy from the sun to convert carbon dioxide and water into sugars. Variegated hybrids have leaf patterns with some cells lacking chlorophyll. What happens if none of the cells have chlorophyll — if the plant is an albino? It is a rare occurrence.

Hamid Asims Unhappy Harold June 2021

Hamid Asims Unhappy Harold June 2021

In June of this year, Hamid Asim of Turkey shared a photo in the Facebook group African Violet Nerds showing an albino plant that had formed on a propagated leaf of ‘Happy Harold’. He captioned the photo “Unhappy Harold — we are heading towards the inevitable end.”

Asim is a lecturer at Sakarya University working on a doctorate degree in management information systems. He has formed a group called the African Violet Academy “to ensure that the right information reaches the people who grow African violets.” He personally grows about 400 hybrids and more than 1,500 plants. His albino plant has attracted a lot of attention in his group in Turkey as well as on Facebook.

Asim planted cuttings of ‘Happy Harold’ in June 2020. “This is the first time I’ve seen this anomaly,” he says. “I saw the same problem in both leaves that I got from the same mother plant. For one year, this plant has lived attached to its mother.

Cousins of Unhappy Harold

Cousins of Unhappy Harold

“Unfortunately, the cousins of this plant did not survive. I accidentally dropped my phone on the other cutting and the mother leaf broke. After that, I separated the plantlets and planted them alone. Unfortunately, they died within two days. They cannot photosynthesize without chlorophyll.”

The surviving plant was transplanted (with the mother leaf) to a larger pot. “In fact, the longer the
mother survives, the longer the plantlet will live. Even though she doesn’t live alone, I want to grow
this beauty for a long time.”

After a year of growing, Asim is certain that the albino condition is genetic and not the result of a
lack of nutrients or cold temperature. He explains his culture: “My basic growing principle is that the
growing mix must be sterile and free of foreign matter. Most importantly, I use the best quality of growing mix and nutrients. I use white sphagnum, coarse perlite and small amounts of vermiculite in my growing mixes. At the bottom of the pots, I always have hydroton-like materials (clay pebbles)
for good drainage. My water is good quality. I constantly measure the amount of nutrients in it. Since African violets are sensitive to pH, I change the mix every six months and replant them in fresh mix.

“My plants are generally very healthy because I pay attention to these basic rules. I also take light measurements constantly and try not to skip irrigation times … If I have made a change in any variable about growing inputs, I make a note of it and observe the changes in the plant. In my opinion, working with this method, constantly following the light and nutritional needs of plants and their development, is the most important criteria for success.”