African Violet: Plant Care and Growing Guide

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An exceptionally popular houseplant, the African Violet is a low-growing plant that comes in many colors and with various leaf forms. It is a compact plant that will bloom several times a year.

While this plant has a reputation for being difficult to cultivate indoors, by following a few simple guidelines, your plant should thrive.

They can grow to be roughly the size of dinner plates and are able to bloom all year round, adding beauty and color to your decor. 

I’ll be covering some care tips on how to care for and grow the African violet, as well as some other useful information about them.

African Violet Overview

Originating in tropical East Africa, the African violet’s former botanical name was Saintpaulia, but they are now referred to as Streptocarpus.

They come in several colors, not just violet and lavender, but also pink, red, and more. Flower types and species will also vary.

A typical height for this plant will fall somewhere between two and four inches, while the petal spread is commonly anywhere from three to eight inches.

How to Care for your African Violet

Like many successful indoor plants, this plant loves a warm, humid bright environment.

Any dead leaves or flowers should be removed in order to encourage the plant’s health. There should be no dead leaves accumulating on the soil bed because this can contribute to rotting.

In general, soil conditions should be moist, but with access to fresh air. Sunlight is important but not to the point that it damages leaf tips.

If you experience some rough spots, take heart, with a bit of experience you’ll have beautiful blooming African violets in your home.

Soil for African Violets

Potting soil must be well-draining. If the soil bed does not drain correctly, it will lead to root rot. In this case, the soil bed and the plant’s roots will be waterlogged. The leaves will begin to drop off.

This plant must never find itself in standing stagnant water for an extended period of time. Soil bed pH should measure between 5.8 and 6.2.

If you prefer you can mix your own potting soil with equal parts of perlite, vermiculite, and peat moss.

Temperature for African Violets

African violets thrive in a median temperature of 70° Fahrenheit. Anything under 60° F will often lead to its end.

Light for African Violets

African Violets like bright light but not direct sunlight. They do best when they have indirect lighting or filtered sun from an east facing window. The intensity of direct light should always be filtered, from medium to bright. The light will affect how your plant flowers.

If you live somewhere where there isn’t much natural light available then artificial lights may help. You could also use fluorescent bulbs if you want to try something different. The fluorescent lights should sit twelve to fifteen inches above the plant itself. 

African violets with very dark green leaves will require a bit more light than those with naturally pale or medium green leaves.

Turn your flowerpots regularly, so that the flowers do not reach for light always in the same direction. These plants will be happiest with eight hours of light when placed about three feet from a window.

If your region or home cannot provide this type of lighting, consider supplementing it with fluorescent lighting.

Water and Humidity for African Violets

The first rule is that water should not touch the leaves of this plant, or it will leave brown spots. Be careful with overwatering as well, since excess water can lead to root and crown rot.

Ideally, the soil should be kept moist with warm water or tepid room temperature water, not cold water.

Watering frequency could be once per week. You’ll want to check whether the soil is dry or not and adjust how frequent you water. Different potting soils will give you different results.

This plant thrives in high humidity. You can occasionally do a very light misting to help the humidity level.

Always water your African violet from below, or you can even put the watering can spout directly into the soil bed. Water only when the soil feels as though it is not moist to the touch.

Fertilizer for African Violets

Your African violet will enjoy a feeding once every two weeks. Ideally, you might use a fertilizer that is specially formulated for the African violet.

The fertilizer should have a higher phosphorus number, which is the middle number when reading fertilizing labels. An example would be a fertilizer with an NPK ratio of 15-30-15.

The fertilizer should measure one-quarter strength when watering. If your plant is not flowering much and has paler leaves it may indicate that it needs a good feeding.

Pruning and Repotting African Violets

Pruning your African violet will help it remain beautiful and healthy. The real goal in pruning is to remove spent flowers, as well as damaged or dead leaves.

It’s similar to a trip to the beauty shop. Pruning will inspire new growth, and more access to air and light. African violets can be trimmed at any time of year.

A good habit for your pruning activity is to remove at least three leaves from the bottom of the plant once a month. Since the African violet grows new leaves on a regular basis, this will improve the appearance of the plant and make room for new growth. 

You will not need a large-bladed pair of shears for this. Since the plant’s stems are soft, good fingernails or scissors with fine tips will be more than adequate for the job.

Using your thumb and forefinger, just pinch off the spent flower or leaf. Sterilized scissors are also an option. Remove plant material from the base, but do not cut into the main stem of the plant.

Contrary to most houseplants, the African violet will do better if it is somewhat underpotted. You should repot only when absolutely necessary, and then you should only move one pot size bigger.

To repot, just gently take the entire plant and lift it from its current container. Be gentle with the root system. Place the plant in a new container and fill it in with new soil.

Signs that your plant needs to be repotted are overcrowding in its current container or leaves that begin to fall off. Also, roots that begin to poke through the soil bed will let you know that it’s time for a pot change.

Propagating the African Violet

The African violet can be propagated from offsets or from leaf cuttings. Many adult plants will produce baby plantlets alongside the parent plant, or as a shoot from the side of the parent plant.

These can easily be removed and potted separately to create new plants. There also is the upside that by removing them from the parent plant, you are encouraging the parent to flower better.

The removal of healthy basal leaves from the parent plant is also an option for propagating. Prepare a small container with moistened, but well-draining potting soil and insert the petiole of the leaf into the soil bed.

Leaves can also be rooted in water. Use a toothpick to keep the leaf above water. After several months, you’ll have new leaf growth and eventually the beautiful purple blooms.

African Violet Common Pests, Diseases, Problems, and More

Typical leaf problems may include:

  • Brown spots which may indicate direct sunlight that is too strong
  • Whitish, small spots that appear papery will indicate leaf cells killed by the sun through window glass or droplets of water
  • Scorching and stunted growth means the light is too strong
  • Leaf stalks that become unusually elongated indicates light that is too low
  • White spots, rings or blotches, mean that your water is too cold
  • Pale leaves with the edges turned upward indicate the environment’s temperature is too cool
  • Wilted, limp leaves implicate overwatering or under watering

Nutrition deficiency will manifest itself with yellow edges on leaves. Small, dark leaves that appear flattened indicate a lack of phosphate, while small hardened yellow leaves indicate a lack of nitrogen.

If your plant is not flowering, it most probably needs light. However, cold air, lack of humidity, and overpotting can also discourage flowering.

African violets suffer from pests common to many houseplants. Pests like aphids, mealybugs, leafhopper, thrips, and vine weevil. Organic pesticides such as neem oil or insecticidal soap are a possible solution.

Disease sensitivity includes powdery mildew and botrytis (also known as gray mold). For gray mold, you should remove any dead leaves and increase ventilation. No fungicides are approved for this fungus.

Powdery mildew will cause a white dust on the plant. Good drainage and not over-fertilizing will help control this. Fungicides can be used for this because this mildew is on the surface of the plant.

African Violet Toxicity and Pets

According to ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), the African violet is not known to be toxic to dogs, cats, or humans.

Their fuzzy leaves are not known to irritate skin or cause rashes either. Nonetheless, it is wise to keep them out of the hands and mouths of small children.

Growing African Violet Final Thoughts

The African violet is a beautiful houseplant that will brighten your day with its delightful colorful blooms. As it flowers all year round, you will benefit from the vibrant colors in your home or workspace without seasonal interruption.

They require minimum attention, just filtered bright light, warmth, a bit of humidity, watering, and the occasional feeding. They are ideal for homes where temperatures are moderate and constant.

By choosing to grow this plant, you won’t need to visit the florist for flowers saving both time and money. Thanks to the African Violet you’ll have fresh flowers every day all year round.

For other houseplant care tips and grow guides, check out these articles:

Growing African Violet FAQs

What colors do African Violets come in?

There are many different colors available for African Violets today. The most popular color choices include: red, pink, orange, yellow, cream, lavender, blue, green, burgundy, maroon, mauve, fuchsia, salmon, coral, lilac, rose, magenta, aqua, and white.

How long does it take for my African Violet to bloom?

How long it takes African Violets to bloom depends on many factors including temperature, sunlight exposure, fertilization levels, etc. Some types may only last one season while others live up to five years. It takes about three weeks before they start flowering.

Can I repot African Violets?

Yes, you can repot African Violets. Repotting helps maintain good health and vigor. You can use regular indoor containers such as terrarium pots, clay pots, plastic pots, hanging baskets, window boxes, and even large planters.

Do African Violets need direct sunlight?

Yes, African Violets like full sun. However, if you want to extend their life span, then indirect lighting works best. If you don’t get enough natural daylight, artificial lights work great too.

Is there any way to propagate African Violets?

You can propagate African Violets using offset plants, leaf cuttings, and root divisions. Offsets are easy to transplant directly into larger containers.

What does an African Violet symbolize?

An African Violet represents love, friendship, loyalty, beauty, innocence, purity, gentleness, gracefulness, charm, elegance, and simplicity.

How often do you water an African Violet?

Watering an African Violet should be about once per week, but actual frequency depends on your soil. For example, if the soil becomes dry quickly, you’ll need to water more frequently. Water thoroughly until moisture runs out of the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot. Do not overwater, letting the excess run off through the drainage hole. 

Should you deadhead African Violets?

Deadheading African Violets is optional. However, some people prefer to remove spent blossoms so that new ones appear. Deadheads also help keep the leaves clean by removing old foliage. Too many dead heads can cause problems, because they block air flow which results in lower growth rates.

Do African Violets like to be crowded?

No, African Violets enjoy plenty of space. They’re happiest when given a little room to spread out. Keep them away from heat sources or drafts.

Are African Violets hardy?

Yes, African Violets are very hardy. In fact, they can thrive outdoors during winter months. During cold weather, cover with mulch or place inside a heated greenhouse. When growing outside, protect against frost damage by covering with straw bales or other insulating material.

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Written by:

Amy Walsh
Amy Walsh is a passionate indoor gardener, deeply engrossed in the world of houseplants and herbs. Her apartment is a lush sanctuary of foliage, reflecting her journey from hobbyist to devoted botanist. She's constantly exploring the latest in smart garden technology, eager to share her insights on nurturing green spaces indoors. Alongside her botanical pursuits, Amy enjoys connecting with nature and friends, continually enriching her lifestyle with greenery and growth.

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