Growing African Violets: Care Guide for Saintpaulia cultivers


Although once seen as Grannie’s favorite, growing African violets is enjoying renewed popularity as people appreciate their manageable size and beautiful colors. Numerous varieties are available with flower colors ranging from violet, through blue to pink.

African violets are not tall plants, growing more in width than height, and sprout beautiful purple flowers. Standard African violets reach a width of eight to sixteen inches.

Native to the mountainous rainforests of eastern Africa, African violets are used to warm temperatures, high humidity, and indirect sunlight as they are the low-growing vegetation of the forest floor.

African violets traditionally symbolize devotion because their flowers bloom all year and if properly cared for, these indoor plants can live for decades.

Below, I’ve outlined a plant care guide to keep your African violet plant thriving.

Light Requirements

African violets thrive in indirect sunlight and grow best if placed in a north or east facing window. Direct sunlight can burn the leaves, so a sheer curtain should be drawn between the plant and the window if the light is too intense. African violets can also be grown under fluorescent or incandescent light in the absence of access to natural sunlight.

These plants should receive ten to twelve hours of light per day and it’s possible to use a grow light during winter months when sunlight is less available.

Temperature Requirements

Since African violets are tropical, they require environmental temperatures between 70 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit (21 and 27 degrees Celsius) during the daytime and slightly lower temperatures between 61 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit (16 and 24 degrees Celsius) at night.

If the temperature falls below 60 degrees Fahrenheit, the growth of your African violet can be stunted so be sure to keep it warm.

Watering Requirements

African violets do not require constant watering; they need enough water to moisten the soil. In order to determine when your African violet needs to be watered again, simply check the soil. If it is bone dry, it should be watered. If it is still moist, wait a few days and then check again.

African violets are one of the plants that prefer watering from below. Do this by placing in a tray of water for 20 minutes and then leaving it to drain.

Soil Requirements

African violets require soil that is loose and drains well – a standard indoor potting soil will provide a good medium for growth. Never use outdoor soil to pot your African violet as this kind of soil retains water and will not allow the thorough drying out in between watering that the African violet needs.

Special Care

Growing African violets is generally easy and they do not need lots of special attention for them to thrive. The most important points to keep in mind include not overwatering them and keeping them warm enough to survive.

You should deadhead the flowers regularly, which allows the plant to put all its energy into producing new blooms and shoots…it also just makes the plant look more attractive.

Propagating

Below are a few simple steps on how to propagate your African violet using leaf cuttings.

  1. Cut off a leaf with one to one and a half inches of stem attached.
  2. Plant leaf cutting at a forty-five degree angle in a pot filled with equal parts coarse sand and vermiculite.
  3. Water the cutting and let the soil drain for a few minutes.
  4. Cover the entire pot with a plastic bag, securing it to the pot with a rubber band or tape, and place it in bright light.
  5. Within three to four weeks, new roots will grow with leaves forming three to four weeks after that.
  6. Several plants will be propagated and can be separated and repotted thereafter.

An alternative way to raise new plants is to grow from seed. Few people realise that you can grow houseplants from seed, but this is certainly a possibility with Africa violets.

Pests & Problems

The most commonly occurring African violet pests include mealybugs and cyclamen mites. Botrytis blight and crown/root rot are also serious fungal diseases to which African violets are susceptible and should be treated right away to prevent total plant death.

The presence of mealybugs can be determined by the appearance of distorted or stunted leaf growth. The leaves may also feel sticky as the mealybugs excrete a sugary material. To get rid of these pests, you can wipe your African violet plant down with a cotton ball soaked in rubbing alcohol. For heavier infestations, the plant may need an application of insecticide.

Cyclamen mites can also cause severe determine to African violet foliage and feed mostly on new growth. They tend to hide in leaf folds and the plant crown away from the light. If infested, a diluted bleach solution can be used to scrub down the plant. If the infestation is too heavy, the plant may be beyond saving.

Botrytis blight is usually introduced at sites where there is mite damage and when plant flowers and leaves are wet. Avoid getting your African violet’s foliage and blooms wet and prune any infected areas.

Crown rot (also called root rot) is a fungal disease that commonly occurs if your African violet is overwatered. Be sure your plant has adequate drainage and only water when the soil feels dry to avoid attracting this often-fatal disease.

Toxicity

African violets are not toxic to dogs, cats, or children and are therefore safe to have in your household or office space. Although not poisonous, it is always a good idea to keep your African violet out of reach of animals and children as ingesting the plant parts could prove a choking hazard.

Common Questions About Growing African Violets

 Q. Why Doesn’t My African Violet Bloom?

A. African violets need ample indirect sunlight in order to bloom. If your plant is not flowering, it may not be receiving enough light. Rotate your plant weekly to even out the light distribution and promote the flower growth.

Q. Why Are the Leaves Curling On My African Violet?

A. If your African violet’s leaves are curling under, your plant’s environment is too cold. Temperatures below 60 degrees Fahrenheit can not only cause the leaves to curl under, but also turn brittle and fall off the plant altogether.

Q. How Do You Fix An Overwatered African Violet?

A. Below are three simple steps to save an overwatered African violet.

  1. Remove the African violet plant from its pot and lay it on layered paper towels.
  2. Thoroughly dry off the roots and remove any decayed leaves and roots.
  3. Repot with fresh soil and just enough water to moisten it.

About the author 

Paul - Better Houseplants

Loves orchids and foliage houseplants. Always trying to be a better plant parent. Let's get growing!

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}

Just getting started? Make sure you see our guide to the 'Best Houseplants for Beginners'