If you go to the big box hardware stores around the holidays and during the winter months, you will most likely find African Violets for sale in a lovely variety of flower colors. Even though African Violets can be somewhat picky about care, they are still one of the most popular indoor plants grown.
If you love to grow flowering indoor plants, Saintpaulia, commonly known as African violets, are one of the few houseplants that will continuously flower throughout the year. This is probably one of the reasons for their popularity. If you like to see flowers coming out in the spring, you will enjoy having an African violet or two as a house plant.
African Violets are pretty and they are also pretty picky about certain things. These tips will help to make sure that your African violet keeps flowering and does not end up with shriveled or waterlogged leaves.
African Violets Growing Tips.
Saintpaulia is the botanical name for African violets. The name came when Baron Walter von Saint Paul-Illaire discovered the plant in Tanzania and brought seeds from it back to his father in Germany in 1892. The plant is part of a genus of 6–20 species that has been hybridized into thousands of varieties. Here are some tips on how to care for these lovely plants.
Soil – African violets like a light, well draining soil. You can buy retail African Violet potting soil, or can make your own with equal parts of vermiculite, peat moss and perlite.
Light – African violets do best in east or west facing windows. They typically like moderate, bright indoor light. Normally, they do not like direct sunlight, but you could move them to a south facing window for the winter months. To bloom best, they will require bright, indirect light for most of the day. Also, don’t forget to rotate the plant so that it gets even light. This will help it to grow well in all directions evenly. If you have lower light in your home, African Violets can still be grown with the help of an indoor grow light.
Humidity – These pretty plants will complain if the air is too dry. Humidity is very important for keeping their leaves in the best condition. If your air is dry, consider growing them sitting on a tray of pebbles with water in the tray. Good air circulation is a must for maintaining the right humidity level. If you have a sunny spot in a bathroom, their humidity levels will be easier to maintain.
Temperature – African violets like temperatures that range from 65 º to 75 º. Below 60 º and they won’t grow and flower well. Below 50 º and they will likely die. They can take temperatures higher than 75 º if their other requirements for water, humidity and fertilizing are met.
Fertilization – Most flowering plants need fertilizing to continue flowering when they are grown in containers and African violets are no exception. There is a debate among growers on which works best. Some say that they like a food with roughly equal amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. A standard mix is 14-12-14 for standard sized pots. Others seem to swear by a special African violet fertilizer with a higher Phosphorus number such as 8-14-9 that are said to promote extra blooms. Whichever you choose, follow the directions on the containter. Fertilizing either too rarely OR too often can result in a lack of blossoms.Moisture – like many indoor plants, African violets want even moisture. I like to test the soil with a finger tip. When it is dry about an inch down, I will water. Both over and under watering can cause all sorts of problems with the plant. Try to use lukewarm water for best results.
Leaves – African violets have a variety of shades of leaf color. The leaves have a velvety feel to them and are slightly hairy. The under side of the leaf is often a different color. African violets with darker green leaves require more sunlight than those with lighter green leaves. (For another house plant with velvety leaves, be sure to check out purple passion plant.)My African violet has dark purple flowers with dark green leaves. The under side of the leaf is a deep purple. Be careful to keep water droplets away from the leaves of the plants When you are watering, or you will end up with splotches on them, just as many hairy leaf plants will do.
Propagation – You can get new plants for free by taking leaf cuttings of your African violets. This is the normal method of propagating them, but African violet seeds are also fairly easy to grow although they are often different from the parent plant if grown this way. African violets can also be propagated by dividing the crown of the original plant. This works well if it has started to outgrow its original pot.
Colors – Many people think of the traditional purple African violet since this is closest to the color of a violet, but they come in many shades from red, white, pink, blue through to purple.
Flowers – African Violet flower color is not the only thing that varies. The type of petal can vary too, from single (rimmed with white, or plain) to all sorts of ruffled and double varieties.Even the flower buds are lovely before they open!
Pests & Problems – African violets can be picky. These are some common problems
- lack of blooms – check your fertilizer and sunlight. Temps too low can also mean no blooms.
- splotched leaves – keep water away from the leaves
- powdery mildew on both blossoms and leaves – remove diseased parts, and check your air circulation and humidity
- crown and root rot – be careful about over watering
- mealy bugs – inspect any new plants, use a cotton swab in alcohol for light infestations.
Even though African violets are a bit picky about conditions and are susceptible to some common problems, the flowers that they produce all year long are good reasons to persevere in growing them.
Have you had luck growing African violets? What problems did you find when you tried to grow them?
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