African Violet – Your Complete Indoor Care Guide

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This vibrant and beautiful plant will make a stunning addition to your home. When you learn how to grow African Violets, you can add several to any indoor space for bright and cheerful blooms when the outdoor landscape is brown and bare. Growing African Violets take little indoor space but are guaranteed to take your breath away whenever you lay eyes on them. Continue reading to learn about African Violet care, teaching you what you need to know to keep your plant happy and thriving!

Table of Contents

African Violet Origin

Before getting into the grit of the article, it is best to know the history behind the plant. The African Violet (genus Saintpaulia) is a genus of six flowering plants in the family Gesneriaceae native to higher elevations in tropical eastern Africa. African Violets are common houseplants, especially Saintpaulia ionantha, and can thrive in low light conditions and bloom throughout the year. Hundreds of horticultural varieties have been developed for their various flower colors and shapes, including half-sized miniatures.

African Violet Care

African Violets are fun plants to grow indoors, and their beauty will surely be a centerpiece sparking conversations. All you need is the right ingredients (tools) for thriving violets. Grab a container, the proper soil, watering can, small shovel, fertilizer, and get to work.

Container

Indoor plants need to be grown in containers with adequate holes for drainage, and African violets are no exception. Proper drainage is essential to prevent root rot, so if you prefer the look of a hole-less ceramic pot, it is crucial to put the plant in a plastic container with drainage holes and place that container inside the ceramic one. Remove the plastic pot from the ceramic one to water, and do not replace it until the excess water has drained off. African Violets have roots that grow out, not down, so a shallow wide container works better than a narrow tall container.

Soil

Pot the plant into the correct soil for the most trouble-free African Violet care from the start. Specific potting mixes for the plant are available, or you can make your own from peat moss, vermiculite, and perlite in equal parts.

Water

African Violet plants are picky about water, so take extra care of African Violets when watering. Water the plant with only lukewarm water. Water at the base and avoid splashing the foliage with water; just a drop can cause foliar spots and damage. Proper watering is a critical aspect of learning how to grow African Violets. Only water the plant when the soil feels less moist to the touch. Never let growing African Violets stand in water or completely dry out. Wick watering from the bottom is sometimes appropriate but may not be the best practice for those new to growing African Violet plants.

Light Requirements of an African Violet

Provide appropriate lighting for the African Violet plant. Light intensity should be filtered, with bright to medium intensity reaching the growing African Violet. Light affects flowering. African Violet plants with dark green foliage usually need more light than plants that contain pale or medium green greenery. Turn pots regularly to keep flowers from reaching for the sunlight. Place growing African Violets 3 feet (1 m.) from a south- or west-facing window for the correct amount of lighting. Consider switching to fluorescent lights if the plant cannot maintain sunlight for at least 8 hours.

Fertilizer

Fertilize African Violet plants with specific African Violet food or a higher phosphorus number — the middle number in the NPK fertilizer ratio, such as 15-30-15. Fertilizer can be mixed at one-quarter strength and used at every watering. Reduced flowering and paler leaf color indicate that growing African Violets are not receiving enough fertilizer. Pinch blooms from the developing African Violets when they are dead; doing so will encourage the development of more flowers.

Temperature and Humidity

Do not allow to fall below about 60ºF, and these plants specifically thrive at 70ºF. Most indoor locations average temperatures between 65- and 75-degrees Fahrenheit, perfect for your indoor African Violets.

However, these violets need humidity levels higher than the average home—at least 50% up to 75%. Consider adding a humidity tray or a humidifier to the plant’s area to ensure it receives what it needs to flourish.

Propagating African Violets

You can propagate the African Violet plant from leaf cuttings or offsets. Adult plants occasionally produce small plantlets or shoots from the side. Remove these and pot up independently. Removing them also encourages better blooms on the parent plant.

Potting and Repotting an African Violet

African Violets do better when they are slightly underpotted. Repot only, when necessary, into a pot that is one size up. To re-pot these plants, grab the plant, lift it, and replace it with a larger container, making sure not to damage their root systems in the process. Common signs that a plant is stressed out and needs to get repotted include falling leaves and overcrowding or roots that protrude from the soil’s surface.

African Violet Varieties

The original plant, the S. ionantha, was introduced in Germany in 1893. Two years later, the S. confusa made an appearance. Since then, thousands of varieties have come about. Today, African Violets are available in single and double flowers, in many different colors, and widely varied leaf shapes. Gloxinia is sometimes mistaken for a type of African Violet. If you like African Violets, you might also enjoy the closely related Streptocarpus species or the African Violet cousin, the Goldfish Plant.

Pet Approved

Unfortunately, houseplants often pose a threat to companion animals. Bright flowers and intriguing leaves and vines can compel your beloved cat or dog to take a little nibble—but many are toxic! But don’t fret! African Violet flowers are pet-safe!

Fun Facts About the African Violet

Now that you’ve learned everything needed to care for your new plant, here are some fun facts about it to make you love it even more!

  1. They’re long-lasting. While most indoor plants flourish for only two to five years, African Violets can live up to 50 years with the correct care! The key is to avoid over-watering, chilly temperatures, and direct sunlight—all of which can drastically reduce your plant’s chance of reaching a ripe old age.
  2. They symbolize devotion. Maybe it’s the year-round blooms, or perhaps it’s the nostalgia they inspire. Whatever the cause, African Violet’s symbolism is devotion, commitment, and faithfulness.
  3. They’re not violets! Our favorite purple plant is a proud imposter. African Violet flowers receive their name from their resemblance to true violets (Violaceae), but they’re a completely different genus: Saintpaulia. While botanists estimate anywhere between 6 and 20 species of Saintpaulia exist in the wild, most household variations descend from just two species: S. ionantha and S. confusa. An impressive range of colors and shape variations have come about from these parent plants—but none of them are violets!
  4. They’re going extinct in the wild. While you can find these beautiful plants thriving on countertops worldwide, African Violets are teetering on extinction in the wild. Endemic to a tiny bio-diverse region in Tanzania, the beloved houseplants are enduring a threat: deforestation. Since some species can be found only in a single forest—sometimes even a single mountain—any habitat loss makes the African Violet extremely vulnerable to extinction.

African Violet Care – The Wrap-up

African Violets are one of the world’s most popular houseplants. These compact, low-growing plants flower several times a year, and they are available in a multitude of leaf forms and colors. African Violets will thrive indoors if taken care of properly. With little experience, it’s possible to keep them in flower nearly all year round and grow them to the size of dinner plates. Enjoy the beautiful addition to your home!

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