Growing African Violets – A Complete Houseplant Care Guide

A blooming lilac African violet grows on a home windowsill near the window.
© Ludmila Kapustkina/iStock via Getty Images

Written by Heather Hall

Updated: November 18, 2023

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Welcome to our comprehensive guide on growing African violets, an enchanting addition to any indoor garden. Discover essential tips and techniques for successfully nurturing these delicate houseplants with ease.

About African Violets

African violet

Growing African violets is easy. They are one of the few houseplants that happily bloom indoors.

©Lapa Smile/Shutterstock.com

African violets are one of the most popular houseplants in the world. These delightful flowers are native to eastern tropical Africa, with their original species first discovered in the 19th century. Consisting of small, delicate blooms, African violets typically feature shades of purple and lavender, although breeders have developed cultivars that come in a wide range of shades and colors.

In terms of appearance, African violets can vary in size, shape, and color. The flowers tend to have a flattened or star-like shape, and there are both single- and double-flowered varieties. The leaves can be medium to dark green and are often velvety in texture. There are many new cultivars with frilly or fluted petals to choose from.

African violets are a beautiful addition to any home. With their bright, cheerful blooms and easy upkeep, they are sure to bring joy to any space.

Light

African Violet

When growing African violets indoors, give them bright, indirect lighting for the strongest blooms.

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It is recommended that African violets receive approximately 10-12 hours of strong lighting a day. In their native environment, they are shaded from direct sunlight by the trees of the forest. During summer, when there is more light, it is best to provide them with filtered sunlight, while in the winter, they can benefit from light coming from a south-facing window.

Experts believe that using artificial lighting is an effective and dependable way to provide light for African Violets. The optimal setup is two 40-watt fluorescent lights, one cool-white and one warm-white daylight tube, 10 inches above the topmost leaves of the plant. If the plant has strong leaves but no blossoms, try increasing the light exposure. Conversely, if it is flowering but has pale leaves, reduce the amount of light.

Temperature and Humidity

flowers of purple violet saintpaulia close-up in sunlight

Violet saintpaulia comes in varieties with pink, ruffly flower petals.

©Annadokaz/iStock via Getty Images

When growing African violets indoors, it is important to maintain the ideal temperature for optimal growth. The ideal temperature range for African violets is between 65-75°F (18-24°C). When temperatures dip below 60°F (15°C), it can affect the growth of the plant. Humidity levels of above 70% will also ensure healthy growth. For best results, check the temperature and humidity levels frequently to ensure optimal growth. Keep African violets away from drafts and heating/cooling vents. With proper care and the right environment, your African violets will be sure to thrive.

Water

Violet saintpaulias flowers commonly known as african violets parma violets close up isolated

Growing African violets gives you the chance to try out the many different flower colors available now. Even multi-colored blue and white!

©Sinenkiy/iStock via Getty Images

Watering African Violets indoors is an important part of their care routine. To get the best results, use lukewarm water and water from the bottom of the pot. This prevents damage to the leaves and encourages root growth. To water, fill a bowl with lukewarm water and place the pot in it. Allow the water to absorb into the soil until the surface of the soil is moist. Avoid wetting the leaves, as this can cause them to rot. Once the soil is moist, remove the pot from the bowl and let it drain fully. Watering African Violets this way allows the roots to absorb the water they need without the leaves becoming damaged.

You can also use a self-watering pot with a reservoir when growing African violets. These pots automatically water the plant from the bottom up, which is perfect for an African violet.

Soil and Pots

Violet

African violets enjoy a tight pot and get stressed out if placed in a large container.

©adisa/iStock via Getty Images

It is a good idea to re-pot your African violets annually to give them access to fresh nutrients and to eliminate salt accumulation. African violets incline towards being slightly rootbound; they don’t like a large, roomy container. The size of the pot should be no more than one-third the size of the plant’s leaf span. So, if you have an African violet that is 10 inches from one side to the other, use a 3-inch pot.

African violets need soil that is light and allows for water to move through it quickly. You can make this easy by purchasing pre-made African violet potting soil from a garden center. Or you can make your own African violet soil by mixing equal amounts of vermiculite, perlite, and peat moss. Aim for a pH of 6.0 to 7.0. You may have to add a scoop of lime to achieve this.

Fertilizer

Flower and nature

We are thankful that someone discovered African violets in Tanzania and shared them with the world.

©Abdulkadir ARSLAN/iStock via Getty Images

The ideal fertilizer for African violets is a water-soluble, 20-20-20 fertilizer with micronutrients. This fertilizer should be applied at half strength every two weeks during the growing season. For best results, use lukewarm water when mixing the fertilizer into the soil. African violets have sensitive roots and are easily damaged by strong fertilizers, so always use a diluted solution. A fertilizer that has equal amounts of potassium, phosphorus, and nitrogen works well.

Common Pests When Growing African Violets

african violet flowers saintpaulia in pot on windowsill, macro close up

This African violet cultivar has two-tone violet blooms with double petals. They look like tiny carnations.

©kornyeyeva/iStock via Getty Images

When growing African violets indoors, gardeners must keep an eye out for a variety of pests. Common pests include aphids, mealybugs, and spider mites. Aphids are small, pear-shaped insects that suck the sap from the leaves and stems of African violets. Mealybugs are small, white, fuzzy insects that can cause stunted growth and yellowed leaves. Mites are tiny, spider-like creatures that often cause yellowed leaves and webbing on the plant.

To avoid pests, simply perform a thorough plant inspection once per week. You should look for any signs of pests or damage, such as yellowing leaves, webbing, and small insects. If you do find pests on your African violets, use an insecticidal soap to treat the plant. Be sure to spray both sides of the leaves and stems until they are completely wet. Repeat this treatment every few days for several weeks until all signs of infestation have disappeared.

Diseases

On the home windowsill in a ceramic pot is a Saintpaulia violet of the RS-Izbrannaya variety with soft pink highlights on the leaves.

This light lavender African Violet cultivar is ‘RS-Izbrannaya.’ It has soft pink highlights on the leaves.

©Ludmila Kapustkina/iStock via Getty Images

African violets are a popular houseplant, but they are also vulnerable to many diseases. Common indoor diseases for African violets include powdery mildew, bacterial blight, and botrytis blight.

Powdery mildew appears as white spots on the leaves and stems of the plant. Bacterial blight causes yellow or brown spots on the leaves and can lead to wilting and leaf drop. Botrytis blight appears as gray spots on the leaves and can also cause wilting and leaf drop.

To prevent these diseases, keep plants in an area with bright, indirect light and maintain even moisture levels. Prune off any infected leaves and dispose of them in the trash, not the compost. Additionally, fertilize the plant every two weeks with a balanced fertilizer to keep them strong and healthy. The best defense against pests and diseases is a fit and robust plant!

Propagating African Violets

Home window leaf propagation of african violets in water lab test tubes bracket holder

You can get loads of free plants by clipping healthy stems of African violets and rooting them in water.

©pp1/Shutterstock.com

Propagating African violets is a straightforward process that anyone can do. They will easily root in a container of water or soil. Here is a step-by-step guide:

  1. Gather the supplies you need, which include a pot, a tray, a propagation medium such as peat, and a leaf cutting from an existing African violet.
  2. Prepare the pot by filling the bottom with a layer of peat. A mixture of wet sand and vermiculite also works well.
  3. Place the leaf-cutting into the pot, making sure that the stem is at least halfway below the surface.
  4. Water the cutting with lukewarm water, and then place the pot onto the tray. Cover the whole tray with plastic wrap to keep it moist.
  5. Put the tray and pot in a spot that gets indirect sunlight, and mist the cutting with lukewarm water when it gets dry.
  6. After a few weeks, the cutting will form roots. To check, gently tug on the stem. If it resists, the cutting has rooted. You will also see signs of baby plantlets forming near the existing leaf.
  7. Once the cutting has rooted and plantlets have formed, transplant them each into separate pots and begin to water and fertilize them regularly.

With the right supplies and a bit of care, you can easily propagate African violets. Who doesn’t love free plants?


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About the Author

Heather Hall is a writer at A-Z Animals, where her primary focus is on plants and animals. Heather has been writing and editing since 2012 and holds a Bachelor of Science in Horticulture. As a resident of the Pacific Northwest, Heather enjoys hiking, gardening, and trail running through the mountains with her dogs.

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