Some people find growing African violets to be a piece of cake. Their violets thrive with little special care, blooming repeatedly and creating fresh new fuzzy leaves on a regular basis. Others struggle, never seeing a bloom, moaning over spotted leaves, and eventually wind up chucking their plants in the trash. If you’re in the first group, you don’t need these tips. If you’re in the second group, try these tips for growing African violets successfully.
Bright indirect light is a must. African violets (Saintpaulia ionantha) are native to rainforests in the mountains of eastern African countries like Tanzania. They are low-growing plants, thriving in the shade of other vegetation. In their native environments, direct light never touches their leaves. Your African violets will do best in an environment that mimics this. Provide bright light, but never direct sun. In a sunny window, use a sheer curtain to protect the plant from direct sun. If your plant isn’t flowering, chances are it’s not getting enough light. Experiment with different settings to find the best light exposure (bright artificial light can be effective too). Make note of the climate in your home, too. African violets need temperatures of at least 60 degrees F, and dislike sudden temperature changes and drafts.
Moist soil, dry leaves. In the wild, African violets grow in humid environments. They like soil that’s consistently moist but never soggy. If your home is dry, try filling a shallow dish with stones and set the pot on top. Fill the dish with water that will provide humidity as it evaporates. Never let the roots sit in water, though, or they’re likely to rot. Many people prefer to use room temperature water, since cold water can shock the plant. If you water from the top, use a narrow-spout watering can to get the water directly to the soil. Water that sits on leaves can cause spots. Allow the water to drain through, and get rid of any excess – setting the pot in the sink first is the easiest way.
If it’s flowering, it’s happy. Once you’ve figured out the right light and watering schedule for your plant, don’t mess with success! Consider re-potting once a year if the plant has outgrown its pot, but remember they flower best when roots are pot-bound. The same goes for fertilizing – do not overfeed your plant. Follow the directions on a quality fertilizer made for African violets. Liquid fertilizers usually don’t need to be used more than once a month. Other regular maintenance includes gently removing dead leaves and flowers, and keeping an eye out for pests.
Remove suckers and make more plants. Once you’ve mastered growing African violets successfully, you’ll notice your plant is producing “suckers”. These are baby plants growing out from the main stem, and are one way that African violets propagate. To maintain the health of your plant, remove these suckers when you notice them. You discard them, or re-pot them to make more African violets for friends! Learn more about pruning and re-potting suckers here.
Are you a master at growing African violets? Add your tips in the comments below!