Growing and Caring for African Violets
When provided with the right growing conditions, African violets will bloom almost all year long. Contrary to popular belief, they aren't difficult houseplants to care for, but they do have specific needs in order to survive and thrive.
The blooms of the African violet are unlike any other flowering houseplant. They boast petals in unique shades of purple, red, blue, lavender, and white, and you'll even find bicolor blooms. They are available with single, semi-double, and amazing double blooms, and some are embellished by nature with ruffled edges. Upon close inspection, the blooms of African violets contain tiny sparkles that capture the light and enhance their breathtaking beauty.
African violet leaves are also unique in the fact that they're covered with tiny hairs that feel like the softest velvet. Some African violets have leaves that appear quilted, while others look ruffled. Ordinary African violet leaves are a solid shade of green, but there are varieties with eye-catching speckles of white or pink.
African violets thrive in household temperatures ranging between 60 and 75 degrees F. When temperatures dip below or rise above recommended temperatures, they might fail to grow and bloom. Try to maintain the proper temperature, and avoid sudden changes for best results.
TIP: Our expert gardening advisor, Susan Patterson adds, "Never place plants near an air vent or under a ceiling fan."
During warm summer months, place African violets in north or east windows, so they'll receive filtered light. As winter approaches, move them to south facing windows that receive indirect sunlight. If your home is exceptionally shaded, consider investing in fluorescent or incandescent light fixtures especially for plants.
TIP: Susan suggests, "If you use a grow light, be sure that it emits both red and blue spectrum light. Both are necessary in order for African violets to bloom.
If your violets develop long stems and foliage that appears unhealthy and soft, and they produce little to no blooms, chances are they aren't receiving sufficient light. Move them to a brighter location where they'll receive the amount of light they require for optimum health and development.
African violets that develop yellow leaves and limp stalks are more than likely receiving too much light. Move them to a location that receives indirect or filtered light. Remove unhealthy foliage at the stem. Healthy new growth will eventually emerge, and your African violets will once again regain their natural beauty and health.
Proper watering is essential. They thrive in humid locations with moist soil, but take care not to over water them or get the foliage wet. Gently move stems and foliage aside, and water until the soil is moist but not saturated.
TIP: Susan recommends, "When watering, use only room temperature water."
Provide humidity by placing small stones in the base beneath the pot. Partially fill the base with water to provide natural humidity to the plant without damaging the leaves.
TIP: Susan advises, "Self watering pots ensure that your violet is getting enough, but not too much water."
African violets should be fed water-soluble houseplant food once a month in spring, summer, and fall. Plant food especially formulated for African violets will help stimulate and promote flower growth, and it will improve their overall health and quality.
Planting and Replanting
African violets are happier when they're root bound, and they are more likely to bloom in close quarters, so don't be overly anxious to repot African violets after purchase. When approximately one-third of the foliage extends beyond the rim of the pot, it's time for a new pot. Choose a pot just a size above the previous one, and repot plants in early summer or spring for best results.
Repot them in soil especially blended for African violets, or blend your own by mixing equal quantities of perlite, potting soil, and peat moss. With proper care and attention, your plants will grow and thrive for many years to come.
TIP: Susan suggests, "Encourage blooms by pinching off spent flowers."