African Violet Care: How To Grow African Violet Plants

african violet care

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.

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 these beautiful houseplants grandma loved!

African Violets Not A Violet At All

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

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.

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

Today the number of Saintpaulia varieties number into the thousands. Flower colors range from pink to mauve to blue to violet. The flowers, sometimes as large as an inch and a half across but usually smaller, some miniature varieties also exist.

African Violet Care Indoors

Overall African violets adapt very well to growing indoors. They will thrive in an environment of 70° to 75° temperatures during the day and not below 60° at night. Low humidity can be an issue.

During winter if temperatures get down much below 60° move plants away from windows for the night. In nature, they live in a moist, humid African jungle, 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 any houseplant care program 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, 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.

Usually the cause comes 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

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. These commercially packaged soil mixes are scientifically prepared to exact specifications for maximum growth.

Make your own 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 plant fertilizer periodically in amounts specified on the label and when repotting, transplanting or starting new plants from cuttings.

Propagating African Violets

The most common way of propagation 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 weeks. That’s why you start the process in the early spring and should have a grown and flowering plant by fall.

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

Pests and Diseases

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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.

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

How To Get African Violets 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!

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 south and west windows, use curtains to regulate the amounts of 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 fixture is the easiest to obtain. Using a single tube fixture and place the fluorescent tube six to 12 inches above the leaves. Nine to 12 inches seems to suit more plants than the six 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 pots 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 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, 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 tea cups and demitasse cups. Take extra care not to overwater since these “cups” have no drainage holes.

Growing Minis 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 house plants, such as geraniums, 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.

Question: I have a Christ Thorn and 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: Christ Thorn (Paliurus spina-christi) is a shrub which might not flower as a small house plant. I am wondering if your plant is not Euphorbia splendens which is usually known as Crown-of-Thorns and a common house plant. It is a sun-lover and needs plenty of water when growth is active but should be in a well-drained container so the soil does not get sodden.

african-violet-end-table

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.

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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 soil with plain water.

Withhold fertilizer until the plant appears normal, then africanviolet-022814 liquid feed at half-strength not more often than once a month.

If you grow African violets under fluorescent 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.

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