African Violet Care: How To Grow African Violet Plants [GUIDE]

Do you remember the African Violet care your grandma gave the plants sitting on her kitchen windowsill? Don’t feel bad I don’t either.

flowering african violets

I do remember they always had flowers and Grandma never seemed to spend any time caring for her African violets.

Though miniature African violet varieties exist, Grandma didn’t grow any. Read more below about growing African violets, these beautiful flowering houseplants grandma loved!

African Violets Not A Violet At All

Where do African violets originate from? Originating in East Africa the “Saintpaulia” actually isn’t a violet at all but belongs to the family of Gesneriaceae like the Episcia plant.

The common name comes from the primary flower color – violet.

The botanical name “Saintpaulia” honors Baron Walter von Saint Paul who first discovered them and brought the plants back to Europe in 1893.

They adapt almost perfectly to indoor life as houseplants and they bloom almost continually. And we all know you cannot have too many houseplants!

This low-growing, hairy-leafed plant holds dark green leaves roughly oval in shape.

Today the quantity of Saintpaulia varieties number into the thousands. Flower colors range from pink to mauve to blue to violet.

The flowers produced sometimes get as large as an inch and a half across but usually smaller, some miniature varieties also exist.

How To Care For African Violets Indoors

Overall African violets like zamioculcas zamiifolia adapt very well to growing indoors but african violet plant care is still important.

They will thrive in an environment of 70° to 75° temperatures during the day and nighttime temperatures not below 60°. T

They prefer a high humidity environment so low humidity conditions can cause the plant some issues.

During winter if temperatures get down much below 60° move plants away from windows for the night.

In nature, they live in a moist, African jungle with high humidity, and need even more humidifying than most plants.

pebbles in saucer with water below pot to create humidity
source: gardening-forums.com

“Create” this humid growing condition by setting plants in a deep pan or saucer on an inch layer of pebbles filled with water to just below the pot.

How To Water African Violets

Part of the care of African Violets involves watering. One “best practice” many follow in watering their violets incorporates the use of self-watering African violet pots that “waters” from below.

However, many indoor growers water from above with a watering can and a long spout.

blooming-african-violet

The long spout lets you reach inside the foliage and wet the soil without splashing the leaves.

One of the major troubles the home gardener runs into with Saintpaulia is the problem of white spots forming on the leaves.

The white leaf spots usually come from cold water splashing on the leaves.

Always use room temperature water or warmer. Using a wick-type watering system helps solve the problem.

What Is The Best Light For African Violets Care

Their low requirements of sun are one reason these little plants have enjoyed so many decades of success indoors.

An east or west window is best, although many beautiful plants grow well in a northern exposure but usually only in the summer time.

Keep the leaves free of dust by cleaning them with a soft brush – a small soft paint brush will do the trick.

Africa Violet Soil

Most garden centers offer specially designed and formulated African violet soil mixes like this one at Amazon. These commercially packaged soil or potting mixes are scientifically prepared to exact specifications for maximum growth.

Make your own special African violet potting soil mix using equal parts peat moss, vermiculite and perlite.

When potting or transplanting, do not pack the soil too tightly as African violets like a well-aerated soil and thrive in a more roomy pot.

African Violet Fertilizer

Just like soil mixes created specifically for African violets suppliers also make specialty African violet plant food like this – usually in liquid form.

Look for names like:

  • Miracle-gro
  • Schultz
  • Dyna-gro
  • Granny’s bloomers
  • Scott’s

… to name a few

Apply the African violet food periodically in amounts specified on the label and when repotting, transplanting or starting new plants from cuttings.

Propagating African Violets

The most common way to propagate African violets is from leaf cuttings, preferably in the spring.

This way new plants can benefit from summer weather to grow.

It will generally take about ten or twelve weeks for the first new leaves to appear.

A successful new plant will flower after four to six months.

That’s why you start the propagating process early in the spring and should have a grown and flowering plant by fall.

Read The Complete Article on Propagating African Violets From Leaf Cuttings and Divisions

Saintpaulia Pests and Diseases

African Violets are subject to attacks of mealy bugs and red spider mite.

If you have an epidemic of these little creatures, use only insecticides labeled to control them. We like to use organic insecticidal soap or natural Neem oil for controlling pests.

Look for a natural insecticide for controlling pest on your plants as an option.

Leaf Edges Yellowing and Scorching

During the summer months, the leaf edges can turn yellow and become scorched when plants grow overexposed to too much direct sunlight.

Move the plant to an indirect light location or filter the light with a curtain or sheer.

Yellowing Foliage

Foliage on African violets can yellow for a variety of reasons.

  • Too much fertilizer can cause yellow foliage – reduce fertilizing can cut the application rate.
  • Plants growing in clay pots can experience a soluble salt build up in the pots – flush the pots and soil thoroughly before resuming fertilizing.
  • Underwatering – Slowly water and saturate the soil surface until the excess water runs out the pots drainage holes. Allow soil to dry before thoroughly watering again.

Crown Rot And Root Rot

Allowing water to collect in the crown of the plant may also turn leaves brown. Water directly and avoid getting water on the leaves.

Be sure not to overwater. This causes roots to suffocate and die to introduce crown rot and/or root-rot.

Always apply fertilizer to well-moistened soil. Applying fertilizer to dry soil may burn the feeder roots, causing the leaves to droop suggesting crown rot.

Powdery Mildew

Gray or White Coating on Foliage, Leaves shrivel and Curl – The cause Powdery Mildew

Plants growing in areas with very high humidity allow powdery mildew to form which blocks the light resulting in leaves shriveling up and curling.

Provide good ventilation for control. Remove leaves on plants severely affected.

How To Care For An African Violet & Get It To Bloom

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The suggestions below were sent in by BG Butterfield. Enjoy!

If your African violet care grows good plants and you still have trouble getting your plants to bloom, try these suggestions.

Move them to where they will get lots of light. Two or three hours of bright or filtered sunlight through a curtain will not hurt them. No direct sunlight! Reflected sunlight is also good.

Mix 1/2 teaspoon of a good all purpose plant food like this one in one-half gallon of water – rain water when possible or use distilled.

Cut a piece of plastic or wax paper larger than the top of the flower pot; cut a hole in the center and slit from side to center.

Put the plastic over the pot, under the leaves and around the stem and hold in place to keep the soil from falling out.

Using a large bowl with the water and plant food mixture. Dip the leaves in the water, dousing it over them, washing the leaves and at the same time giving them a foliar feeding.

Set the plants in a shady spot to dry. Repeat once a week for three or four weeks. The reward will not only be flowers, but more beautiful foliage and young plants will flower much earlier.

Thanks BG for sharing… It’s always great when users share their experiences!

More on other types of indoor plants for your home.

Other African Violet Relatives you may like:

Miniature African Violets Little Plants With Huge Appeal

minature-african-violet-08312015

Among African violet fanciers, a miniature does not grow larger than six inches across, from leaf tip to leaf tip.

Flowers also vary considerably in size and may be small or normal.

Another class, difficult to distinguish from miniatures, is the semi-miniature.

Although a miniature must measure less than six inches across, if it grows larger to eight inches, it is classed as a semi-miniature. Culturally, both are treated as a single group.

Good Blooming Miniatures

Miniatures are good bloomers that compete with regular kinds (like your grandma grew).

Because of their size, several can grow in place of one large specimen. On a few glass shelves, a dozen or more can grow in one window.

Producing large flowers, or small ones if you prefer, colors include royal purples, deep blues, rosy pinks, pastel lavenders and orchids and vivid plum red. White brings out the intensity of the other colors.

The “Girlie” Miniatures

The leaves of miniatures vary in shape and color.

  • “Plain” leaves may be pointed, round or wavy.
  • “Girl” leaves often scalloped and waved, with a deep cream or white splotch where the leaf blade attaches to the stem.

The first “girl leaf” found years ago, was named Blue Girl. Now varieties with leaves of this type are often referred to as simply girl leaves.

The leaves, whether plain, or girl, vary in color from chartreuse through medium greens to deep greens.

The undersides of some leaves are ruby red, and on others all degrees of red appear. Often the leaves are as attractive as the flowers.

Miniature Blooms

Some miniatures display frilled and fringed flowers, cupped like a sweet-pea or doubled like a gardenia or rose.

You’ll find solid colors or combinations of purple and white, blue and white and tints of lavender or orchid.

Origins of Miniature African Violets

Part of learning African violet care, is discovering where the miniatures come from?

The “miniatures” originate from two sources. When propagating standard varieties, some small plants refuse to grow. If sick, plants are destroyed.

If they refuse to grow and not bloom the dwarf plants are usually discarded. The remaining few are normal in all respects, except for miniature size.

The second source is from seedlings. With seedlings the same occurs.

Some healthy plants grow more slowly than others, and when they bloom they are replicas, in miniature, of larger varieties.

These are then named and sold as miniatures. Since miniatures in one area will grow larger than in another, we are always searching for plants that remain small.

Types of Easy To Grow Miniatures

What types of miniatures are easiest to grow?

Miniatures grow as easily as the larger kinds. However, smaller pots and tools, everything scaled down. Plants require less water but use the same soil as the larger types. I prefer the bagged African violet mixes.

Miniatures also require the same amount of light. Perhaps they need more light, and we feel that sunlight will produce better plants, and more flowers, than under a fluorescent grow light.

They grow best in an east or north windows. Sometimes a thin curtain helps protect plants during the summer months. When placing plants in west or south-facing windows, use curtains to regulate the amounts of indirect sunlight.

Although many grow miniatures under we natural “sunlight”, plants grown under a grow light system setup in a basement deliver good results.

The 40-watt fluorescent grow lights fixture is the easiest to obtain.

Using a single tube fixture and place the fluorescent tube 6″ to 12″ inches above the leaves.

Nine to 12″ inches seems to suit more plants than the 6″ inch distance.

Lights burn from breakfast until bedtime. Do not keep lights on 24 hours a day.

Watering Miniature African Violets

Anyone can easily learn the art of watering miniature African violets properly. Remember, smaller plants and small pot sizes do not require as much water as larger African violets.

Although you’ll use less water, you’ll need to water more often. Environments vary, and each grower must learn by trial and error how much to water. Any method that produces desirable results is correct for you!

The sizes of pots, and the types, are both important. Most prefer to start planting young plants in 2 1/4″-inch and then shift to 2 1/2″-inch pots.

A mature plant requires a 3-inch pot. In the past, everything grew in clay pots, today most grow in plastic pots. However, I still love the look of the simple terra cotta clay pot.

Waterproof plastic pots do not lose water as rapidly as clay pots. Thus African violets will not require watering as often, or as much.

Soil also remains moist longer, and plants grow more uniformity. However, beware of excess water. You can easily over plants growing plastic pots!

Reduce watering even more with miniatures in plastic containers.

Some growers love to plant their miniatures in teacups and demitasse cups. Take extra care not to overwater since these “cups” have no drainage holes.

Growing A Mini African Violet From Leaves

African violet propagation is no different on “minis” or the larger types. However, the small leaves sometimes require toothpicks to support and hold the leaf upright until rooted.

With so many “miniature” African violets available to grow and enjoy. Why wait? It’s time to go mini!

african-violet-close-550

African Violet Problems

Question: Does an African violet bloom more if kept root-bound?

Answer: Though many common houseplants, such as geraniums (Pelargonium), bloom more freely if kept root-bound, African violets bloom better if somewhat overpotted. Young flowering plants do well in 3, 4, or 5-inch pots.

Question: Although I’ve had success in starting African violet plants, this winter many of the leaves developed light markings like those on columbine leaves caused by leaf miner. Nothing else appears wrong with them. Is the condition caused by pests, too much light or too little light? SJH, New Hampshire

Answer: I have seen African violets with leaves as you describe. The cause? My guess – too much sun or sun striking leaves when wet. Perhaps a shift in position will solve your problem as the plants seem healthy otherwise.

african-violet-end-table

Question: I have several African violets which are thriving beautifully but never bloom. I have followed all directions carefully but get only an abundance of healthy leaves. Any Ideas? LV, New York

Answer: There are many variations of the African violet plant. I have observed several vigorous plants that were slow to bloom but did eventually. A different window might help.

Question To my dismay I find some whitish spots on the petals of my lovely African violets. What causes them? OW, Ontario

Answer I am not familiar with anything that attacks the flowers of African violets. The damage you describe makes me think of thrips as a possible cause. Examine a flower under a magnifying glass to see if the tissue has been rasped. Try standing plants in saucers with naphthalene flakes spread over the bottom.

Question: What causes African violets to die in the heart of the plant? The new growth is big, distorted, twisted, and stems hard and brittle. LL, Illinois

Answer: Cyclamen mite is probably the culprit. Mites are too small to be seen by the naked eye. One drenching of the soil with a systemic miticide, will give several month’s protection from cyclamen mites.

There are two other possible causes for the condition of your African violets. Fertilizer burn is sometimes confused with damage caused by cyclamen mites. If you think you might have over fertilized, drench the well-drained soil with plain water.

africanviolet-022814

Withhold fertilizer until the plant appears normal, then liquid feed at half-strength not more often than once a month.

If you grow African violets under grow lights and sometimes forget to turn off the lights at night, repeated forgetfulness may induce bunched up center growth.

Since you know the care your violets receive, you will be able to diagnose which of these is your problem.

Question: Are plastic pots good for African violets? SW, Pennsylvania.

Answer: Yes – they are good for all potted plants. Contrasted with clay pots, those made of plastic do not absorb moisture from the soil in them.

Therefore, plants growing in plastic pots do not require as frequent watering as do those growing in clay pots under the same conditions.