How to Grow: African Violet

Sun Requirements
Bright indirect light is best. They also grow well under grow lights.

Bloom Period and Seasonal Color
African violets bloom on and off all season long especially if grown under lights

Mature Height x Spread
4 to 16 inches tall and wide, depending on the variety. Some miniatures are literally only a few inches tall.

African violets are a forever popular plant that delight growers with their diversity of flower colors and shapes. Although they are native to Africa and grow outdoors there in the mountains, they are threatened in the wild by development. Mostly we know them as indoor plants with breeding creating hundreds of selections to grow.

There is a range of African violet types categorized by plant size. Micros grow less than 3 inches tall, minis 4 to 6 inches tall and giants more than 1 foot tall. There are trailing types as well. The flowers can range from white to the deepest purple. The flowers also can be single, double, bi-colored and ruffled.

When, Where and How to Plant
Plant African violets anytime since you’re growing them almost exclusively indoors. You can propagate plants by cuttings or divisions or purchase already grown plants from a local garden center or African violet society plant sale. They are so easy to propagate, they are commonly shared among friends and family.

Grow African violets in an East or South window in winter and the North or West windows in summer. African violets like a bright, indirect light and shy away from direct sun. You can also grow them year round under 40 watt grow lights turned on 14 hours a day. Place the bulbs about 1 foot above the plants.

Plant African violets in pots filled with moistened African violet potting soil. African violets like a rich, well-drained, humus-rich, slightly acidic, moist soil. But, if it’s too moist the plants will rot.

Growing Tips
African violets can be finicky about watering and humidity. Always water so not to wet the leaves. Use room temperature water. The leaves are easily stained by cold water. Keep the soil evenly moist, but not too wet. Don’t let the soil dry out. Keep the humidity high around plants by grouping them together and growing African violets on pebble trays filled with water.

Keep the indoor temperature around African violet plants about 60F. Avoid cold drafts and fluctuations in air temperature.

Repot African violets every 6 to 12 months depending on their growth rate. You can tell they need repotting when they stop blooming and the crown is lifting out of the pot and is crowded with baby suckers.

Fertilize your plants every time you water with a diluted African violet fertilizer. When growing mostly leaves favor a balanced fertilizer such as 7-7-7. When flowering use a fertilizer with more phosphorous such as 8-15-8.

Plant Care
Prune away dead or dying leaves regularly. This not only tidies up the plant, it reduces the amount of diseases and insects that will attack the healthy leaves and flowers.

When repotting, divide off any baby suckers that have formed off the main plant. These take nutrients and water from the mother plant. They can be rooted in water or a moist potting medium and grown into mature plants.

Remove healthy leaves only if trying the balance the look of your African violet or propagating new plants. To propagate, take a leaf with the petiole attached, dip the cut end in rooting hormone powder and stick the cutting into moistened potting soil. Keep out of direct sun and keep the soil moist. In a matter of weeks you’ll see a new plant growing. Eventually, pot the new plant into its own container.

Companion Planting and Design
African violets are show plants. You’ll often see them in competitions at African violet society meetings and flower shows. In the home, they look best grouped with other African violets with different colored flowers. They also can be used individually as a centerpiece in a decorative ceramic pot on a table.

Some African violet lovers will have a special light set up in the living room just for displaying their collection. When they have the right light, moisture, temperatures and fertilizer they can stay in flower almost year round.

Varieties
There are hundreds of different varieties of African violets in the market. It’s best to go to a florist, garden center or plant sale to find some with the flower colors and leaf shades that you like. A few particularly decorative ones to try include ‘Optimara Isabelle’ with ruffled pink edges on white flowers, ‘Optimara’ Little Hopi II’ with fuchsia colored single flowers dashed with blue and ‘Humako’ Jantien’ with single, purple and blue striped flowers.

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