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Caring for African Violets-Tips and Ideas

Been gardening for more years than I can count. Here are some of my favorite plants and tips to help you get the most out of your gardening.

My African violet in bloom

My African violet in bloom

African Violet Basics

African violets are delightful houseplants with fuzzy leaves that produce small flowers in clusters of white, blue or purple flowers.

In 1894 Baron Walter von Saint Paul-Illaire found the first African violets in what is known now as Tanzania in East Africa. He brought the first specimen of what would become a beloved house plant to his home in Germany.

They are for the most part considered an indoor perennial houseplant.

The first variegated-leaf African violet occurred in 1957. It has a white on the outside of the leaf and green in the center. There is another variegation called the mosiac. This one has green on the outside of the leaf and white on the inside.

There are also holly shaped leaved and riffled leaves too. There are heart shaped leaves, pointed leaves and oval ones.

All in all, there are some 6,000 different types of African violets.

A Few African Violet Examples


There are so many variations and colors of African violets

There are so many variations and colors of African violets


Potting Mix For African Violets

If you are planning on growing African violets, the easiest way to get the right potting mix is to purchase the African violet mix from your local gardening location. That way there is no question that you have the right mix from day one.

You can create a universal potting mix for all your container plants.

  • One bucket of peat moss (10 quarts)
  • 1/2 bucket (5 quarts) of perlite
  • 1/2 bucket (5 quarts) vermiculite
  • 1.2 bucket (5 quarts) screened compost or composted cow manure
  • 2 cups fine sand
  • 2 cups pelleted time-release fertilizer
  • ½ cup lime (to counter the acid of peat and keep the pH level near neutral)

Mix together and use as needed

Indirect Light Please

No direct light for any African violets. The sun can actually burn the leaves. I keep my plants on the second shelf of a plant stand. It seems to do well.

African violets do best with 10+ hours of bright, filtered light. Never give them direct sun; they’ll scorch.

They like windowsills that face east or west if you like to place them there. They love 10 to 12 hours of indirect light. With 8 hours of darkness on top of that, you will get the best blooms. You can use a curtain to filter more light if your violet is placed on a window sill. They should be 12-18 inches from the glass.

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Lack of enough light means that your African violet may not bloom.

You can use grow lights in the red and blue spectrum to help your plant get enough light. Red lights will help your violet bloom. Blue lights aid in photosynthesis. But you need to be careful with the use of grow lights in some species of African violets. Some species may be prone to bleaching under artificial lighting. The leaves of these plants may turn pale. For standard African violets, the grow light should be 18-20 inches.

You can purchase a light meter to determine if your violets are receiving the right amount of light. The correct luminosity of lighting for African violets is between 900 and 1100 foot candles. This translates into 10,000 or 20,000 lux

If you see your African violet's leaves reaching for the light or growing upward, then the violet needs more light than it is receiving.

Over watering and wet leaves can cause this type of damage

Over watering and wet leaves can cause this type of damage

Watering African Violets Can Be Confusing !

That is because there are different points of view on when and how to water these beauties. There are some differences in the way folks chose to water these beauties. The main rule to watering African violets is that the soil should be moist but not drenched.

The soil should always be moist to the touch but never soaked.

If you hand water, try to avoid wetting the leaves. They may get spotty if they get wet.

Use distilled water or tap water that has stood overnight.

Lots of folks like to place water in a dish below the plant. The plant will absorb the water from the bottom up! An additional advantage of watering from the bottom up is that it creates humidity which these beauties love. You will want to place some stones at the bottom of the plant dish.

Another view is that you can water from the top, but you must avoid having any of the water touching the leaves. Water on the leaves will cause your plant to get diseased.

Important Tip No Matter Which Way You Water

Let tap water sit for two days so chlorine evaporates from it before watering violets with it. They’re sensitive to chemicals in tap water and prefer water at room temperature, not chilled. You can also catch rainwater and use that to give your violets a drink.

Another African Violet Tip

Another suggestion is to insert a fiberglass wick into the pots drainage hole. The other end of the wick is submerged into a water source. The advantage of this method is that the plant gets continuous watering.

Keeping Them Humid

Give it to them by placing the violets’ pot in a saucer filled with pebbles and a bit of water. You want the bottom of the pot out of the water so the soil doesn’t get sodden, hence the pebbles. You can also use a special violet pot that comes with its own well you can keep filled with water.

As we said, African violets like humidity. I am lucky in that I live in Florida where my plants are in a room called a Florida room where there is just the right humidity for my plants.

Temperatures For African Violets

Like most of us, African violets prefer temperatures of between 65-75 degrees Farenheight with a 5 to 10-degree temperature drop at night. Remember, think jungle.

If you are in a colder area, make sure not to have them on a window sill that is prone to draft or gets cold.

The Right Type Of Plant Container Is Important

Make sure that when you chose the container for your African violet, that it has enough holes to allow any excess water to drain. If they do not drain correctly. they are prone to root rot.

If you absolutely must have a ceramic pot, plant the violet in a plastic pot with drainage holes that can sit in the decorative pot. Remove the plastic pot to water the plant. But only replace it into the other container once it has drained.

What causes Yellow Leaves In African Violets

Another problem for African violets. Find out why your plant may have this problemW

Another problem for African violets. Find out why your plant may have this problemW

Feed Your African Violet Sparingly !

They do not require much fertilizer at all. As a matter of fact, over-fertilizing them can cause damage to the plant. You will get lots of green leaves, but very few flowers!

Only fertilize if your plant does not seem to be doing well, or it is not blooming very often. Use an African violet fertilizer and follow the directions on the product.

Fertilize them every two weeks during spring and summer with a balanced fertilizer formulated for African violets. Skip bloom boosters; they’re hard on the plants.

Repotting Your African Violet

One of the ways to maintain your African violet is to help it maintain its' shape. They can get out of hand if they are allowed to grow without tender care. Plants must be groomed - removing unwanted leaves removing unwanted crowns and most of all re-potting plants.

Many plants need to be re-potted in larger pots each time. But African violets may not need to moved into a larger home. Many violets just need to be cleaned up, refresh the potting soil rather than moving the plant to a larger home.

Steps To Re-Potting Your African Violet

  1. Before removing the violet, water completely until the water comes out of the bottom of the pot. Do this a few days ahead of when you plan to re-pot it. This will help to minimize leaf breakage.
  2. Gently remove the plant from the pot
  3. Looking at the top of the plant, remove any dead or damaged leaves.
  4. Then, remove leaves that are going in odd ways or places. The goal is to achieve some symmetry in your plants. Remember, these leaves can be propagated into new plants.
  5. Properly groomed African violets have their lower leaves between a quarter to a half of an inch above the soil line. It is not uncommon for a crown to get woody and tall above the soil.
  6. If the crown looks green and healthy, just gently scrape the wooden parts off with a dull knife. Then plant the whole thing is some damp African violet soil mixed with some perlite.
  7. If it appears to be rotting, keep cutting until you get a rot free section
  8. Trim the stem to 1-2 inches in length with a clean scalpel
  9. Repot with fresh African violet mix soil

Pot Size

Again, African violets like to be in a compact home. Smaller species often are quite content in a 4 inch pot as long as they are properly maintained.

If you must increase the size of the pot, because the plant is growing, only increase the pot size by 3/4 to 1 inch at the maximum. This should be only be done rarely.

If you have separated plants and need to repot the plants you have divided, use a pot that is the width of the root base or the crown plus two additional diameter.

Try to use pots that are as deep as they are wide.

More Repotting Tips

For the best conditions for your repotted violets, it is recommended that you place the plant in a zip lock bag and close it up. This keeps the humidity in, which is just what the plant likes. Make sure that the leaves do not touch the sides of the bag.

More On Repotting Your African Violet

Leaf Propagation Of African Violets


Propagating New African Violet Plants

Yes, you can get new plants from your violets. They like to be a little root bound and this is when they will often produce new shoots. The best time to do propagating is in the Spring. If you are using leaf cutting to grow new plants, it should take 3-4 weeks before you see roots.

If you propagate with the leaf method, make sure that the leaf is 2-3 inches in length. You can use a rotting hormone to help the growth of your new plant. Just dip the stem of the leaf in the hormone material before you start your chosen process.

When you see the crowns in the plants, it is time to separate the plant to get new ones going. There are other ways to start new plants from the old.

  • When you see the crowns in your old plant, remove the plant from the pot. Gently, separate the plants. Pot the new plant in a separate container. Repot the old plant
  • Cut a leaf from the plant and root it in water. Make sure that the water does not cover the leaf. Use a mature leaf that is neither too young or older. Cover the jar or plate with aluminum foil. Rest the leaf on top of the foil with the end of the leaf resting in the water.
  • A third way is to cut off a leaf with its stem attached, dip the stem into rooting hormone and then plant the dipped stem in a pot containing a sterile potting mixture. Plant the leaf about one inch deep in moistened soil. Place the plant in a plastic bag and seal. Water the plant with lukewarm water every three to four days. Remember to keep the plant in indirect sunlight.
  • You can grow new African Violets from seeds. The seeds are very tiny. Use a light soil mixture of peat, vermiculite and green sand. The seeds should germinate in between 8-14 days..

Another Way To Propagate African Violets

Handling African Violet Pests

There are just a few concerns when it comes to pests that bother African Violets:

  1. Cyclamin mites can strike. They are the worst pests. They’re near impossible to eradicate and spread quickly to nearby plants, so throw out infected plants.
  2. Rot and blight. Overwatering causes this. Once it starts, your plant cannot be saved.
  3. Mealybugs look like white masses on the plant. Those are clusters of bug eggs. Dab them with swabs dipped in alcohol or spray with a mixture of neem oil and liquid Castille soap. If you don’t get the mealys under control, throw out the infected violet so the bugs won’t spread to your other plants.
  4. Powderly mildew. Remove infected leaves. Lower humidity and increase air circulation to control the mildew.
  5. Thrips are tiny and feed on pollen. Rinse them off with mild, soapy water.

Propagating African Violets In Water

Easy way to grow and increase your violet family

Easy way to grow and increase your violet family

More African Violet Resources

How To Display Your African Violets

There are many ways to display your violets, the most popular way would be on a plant stand.

You can also use a window display with your plants on shelves in a west window. There are plant shelves that mount easily. Check your local garden center for your options.

Find a pretty tray for 4-6 plants to display . You will want to find a tray that you can line with small rocks or moss. It will also need to be able to hold water, because you need to keep these rocks damp.

Here is one way to display your African violets. So simple , yet elegant

Here is one way to display your African violets. So simple , yet elegant

The Hobby Of Growing African Violets

Many people make a hobby of growing African violets. They meet together, learn from each other, swap cuttings and even sponsor African violet shows where they compete.

Many of the national and international groups have local chapters. The sites of these organizations have lots of information for beginners too.

African Violet Societies And Groups

  • The Gesneriad Society
    The Gesneriad Society is an all-volunteer international society devoted to the identification, culture, propagation, and conservation of gesneriads. (African violets)
  • AVSP Home
    The African Violet Society of Philadelphia is a Delaware Valley horticultual club devoted to growing and showing African violets.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 Linda F Correa

What Has Been Your Experience With African Violets? Share A Tip Or An Idea

Linda F Correa (author) from Spring Hill Florida on July 13, 2020:

Thank you ! I love my violets too. Growing my collection as time goes on

Linda F Correa (author) from Spring Hill Florida on July 12, 2020:

In my book, you can never have too many ! I am wanting to add some white ones to my collection. Thank you for your comments. We always love to hear from folks who enjoy our love of plants!

Janisa from Earth on July 11, 2020:

This is a very informative article, well done! I'm also really fond of African violets and I have a ton of them at home! :)

Linda F Correa (author) from Spring Hill Florida on March 05, 2020:

Sounds like you are doing all the right things. Hope your new plant does well !

Marie Flint from Jacksonville, FL USA on March 05, 2020:

There's a lot of information here. I have a variety given to me that has smooth, glossy leaves. The broken piece stayed in water a week or so and developed roots before I stuck it in with the pot of lemon balm, also given to me. Both are doing well. I fill the water catch when it empties. Occasionally, I mist the plants with water.

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