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How to Grow and Care for African Violets

Saintpaulia ionantha

This plant requires or will tolerate shade during the heat of the day This plant will tolerate some drought, but benefits from periodic watering This can be grown as a House PlantWhite flowering plantRed flowering plantPink flowering plantblue flowering plantPurple flowering plantA photograph of a Saintpaulia ionantha is availableHow to Use the Plant Care Icons at The Garden Helper

October 31, 2010
African Violets were first collected from eastern Africa and Tasmania in the late nineteenth century.
Their attractive, velvety foliage, compact growing habit and wide variety of long blooming flower colors
have made the African Violet the most popular flowering house plant in the world.
There are twenty species and thousands of hybrid African Violets in cultivation today.

Unfortunately African Violets are only hardy in USDA zones 11-12 where
they should be planted in moderately moist, rich, well draining soil in partial shade.

Growing Requirements of the African Violet

African violets need about fourteen hours of bright, indirect light each day for the best flowering.
It may be necessary to provide supplemental light for them by using a Gro-Light, especially during the winter months.
They should be planted in the smallest possible container because they need to be somewhat root bound to bloom.
Grow them in a rich soil mix containing 1 part potting soil, 1 part peat moss and 1 part perlite or coarse sand. If you prefer, there are also many specialty mix African Violet soils also available.
They should be fed monthly when in growth, but it must be with a fertilizer
formulated specifically for African Violets because they require a soil acidifier
and certain trace elements that aren't available with an all purpose food.
The A V food will take care of these specific needs.
The chlorine used in public water systems can be deadly to many houseplants.
This is especially true with African Violets.
Tiny the Garden Gnome
I always recommend that you fill your watering container, and let it sit for a minimum of 24 hours.
The chlorine will have dissipated by then, making it somewhat more safe for your plants.
The water will also be at room temperature, which is much less of a shock to the plant. When watering African Violets, take care to keep water off of the foliage, flowers and crown of the plant.
Bottom watering is the best method, but never leave your plants sitting in water for more than an hour or so.
This can quickly cause crown rot which is fatal.
African Violets like a great deal of humidity (40-60%) but not wet leaves and stems, so misting is not an option.
Setting the pots onto water splashed, pebble filled trays will often solve this problem, as will having an aquarium in the near proximity.
Spent flowers should be removed as soon as they begin to fade.
This will allow the plants energy to be used to produce new blossoms rather than seeds.
If you have a chance, try growing violets under fluorescent Gro-Lights.
The colors of both the flowers and foliage will become more intense and bright.
Repot your African Violet plants annually with fresh soil. It is best to only increase the pot size by an inch or so.
When you are working with African Violets use care not to touch the stems more than necessary,
because they are by far more succeptable to damage than either the leaves or roots.

Propagating African Violets

African Violets are easy to propagate by division or by using leaf cuttings.
Leaf cuttings can be struck during any season of the year,
but the winter months when the plant is less inclined to bloom seemed to work the best for me.
Prepare a cutting tray or pot by filling it with a loose mixture of peat moss and vermiculite.
Allow about 4 square inches of surface area for each cutting you intend to take.
Water the soil well to be sure that it is settled and moist.
Using a nail or small stick, make evenly spaced, slightly angled cutting holes (the same depth as the length of your stems)
Select a good healthy leaf and remove it (with stem) from the plant by reaching in as close to the crown of the plant as possible,
grasping the stem and gently twisting it until it pulls free.
With a sharp, sterile knife or razor blade, cut the stem at an slight angle (matching the angle of the leaf), 1-1 ½" from the leaf.
Insert your cutting into your rooting media deep enough that about ¼-½" of the base of the leaf is covered by the soil mix.
Gently press the soil around the cutting.Keep the rooting media evenly moist, but never soggy.
Place the tray in a warm (70°-75°), brightly lit area (not full sun).
The cuttings should begin to produce roots in about two weeks, you should have a new plantlet in about eight weeks!
Bottom heat and a grow light will speed up the process considerably.

Growing African Violets from Seed

Growing African Violets from seed is not as fast as growing them from leaf cuttings but it is a great way to add to your A V collection.
Seed packets will usually contain many different varieties and colors of flowers.
Do not cover the tiny African Violet seeds with soil because they require light for germination.
Sow the seeds on a bed of well draining, finely screened growing medium, then cover the tray with a pane of glass.
Maintain a temperature of 70°-75° within the growing medium.
Germination takes 20-25 days but can be sped up with the use of fluorescent lighting.
Blooming takes up to eight months.

Starting African Violets from Leaves
Growing African Violets started from Leaves

African Violet
Saintpaulia ionantha
Blue Flowers on an African Violet White African Violet Flowers with Frilled Purple Edges An African Violet in Bloom, Saintpaulia ionantha