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African Violets – Tips for the Care of this Popular Indoor Plant

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.  African violets are one of the few indoor houseplants that will flower year round. They can be a bit finicky to grow but these growing tips will help you.

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 needs

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.

Sunlight needs for African violets

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.

AFrican violets like humidity. The bathroom is a good spot for them.

Humidity requirements

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.

Keep the room temp between 65 and 75 for best results with African violets

Temperature needs

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.

Shopping for African violets

Fertilizing African violets

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 container. Fertilizing either too rarely OR too often can result in a lack of blossoms.

African violets like even moistureMoisture needs

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.

African violets have many colors of flowers and the leaves vary too.

Leaf color and texture

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.)The underside of the leaf of African violets can be a different colorMy 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. 

Propagating African violets

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 to enjoy

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.African violets flower colors

African violet 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.African violets flower budsEven the flower buds are lovely before they open!

Pests & problems for African violets

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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Kay

Saturday 9th of January 2021

I have two 2inch violets in the same vase. One is rapidly outgrowing the other, the leaves are spreading widely. I know these like to be root bound. Should I separate them?

Carol Speake

Sunday 10th of January 2021

I'm afraid I can't diagnose what course of action to take on specific plants without seeing them. Generally, division is when you wish to have two of the same plant. Some plants are put two to a pot for fullness.

Linda Salfia

Saturday 26th of September 2020

How do I rid my African Violets of the "powdery mildew" on the leaves, flowers, and stems?

Carol Speake

Sunday 27th of September 2020

Hi Linda. For best treatment, first remove all the infected leaves, buds and flowers. If you have just a light coating of powdery mildew, it can be treated with a 50% water and rubbing alcohol on a Q tip and wiped on the leaves.

Pat

Tuesday 16th of June 2020

African violet has bloomed in the clay pot for a few years, recently the leaves touch the top of the pot and die, at the point of touching the pot. Re-potted it into a glazed pot , leaves are doing the same thing. Thought there was a salt build up in the clay pot causing the withering of the stem and leaf so changed pots. Can you help me with this concern? Thanks I have a photo but can not attach it to this email

Carol Speake

Wednesday 17th of June 2020

I am afraid I don't have an answer for this question since I have not encountered the problem and my research doesn't have an answer. Perhaps a reader of the blog will reply.

sara dejene

Wednesday 10th of July 2019

Dear Carol, nice to meet in such a way. I have some your types but I need more types. How can I get them, I am living in Ethiopia, East Africa. Hoping to hear from you, Sincerely yours, Sara Dejene

Carol

Thursday 11th of July 2019

HI Sara, I'm afraid I don't know where to suggest buying them but wish you luck on your hunt for African violets.

Susan

Sunday 3rd of February 2019

Hi! Isn’t there a way to propagate additional violets by sitting young plants in pots in a tray filled with water and rocks and using lamp wicks to draw even moisture into the plant from the tray? If this is so, could you expound?

Thank you for your time.

Susan

Carol

Sunday 3rd of February 2019

I have not heard of doing this, nor have I tried it so I can't comment on how it would work.

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