I have always loved flowers, and but as a beginner gardener, I had a bit of a rough patch getting started. Being new to it all, I came across African violets and it felt like I had found the perfect plant for me.
African violets became popular as houseplants nearly a century ago. And the main reason is that they are quite easy to take care of. Even beginners can try their hand at growing this plant and will get a much-needed boost in gardening skills. African violets have many varieties, which makes them a delight for all gardeners.
Growing African violets is easy, so you have to give it a try. Here is a detailed guide to help you learn how to grow African violets for your home.
Everything You Need to Know About African Violets
African violets are also called Saintpaulia and are native to Tanzania. They are not actually related to the flower called violet. Although they are mostly used as houseplants, you can also plant them outside; however, only in certain climates. Many species of the flowering plants are under threat, and some are even endangered.
Since there are several varieties of the plant, it can often be difficult to choose one. The different colors, leaf forms and sizes can make the choosing process tough. Some plants have rounded hairy leaves, while others have smooth and pointed leaves. You can also get them in different base colors such as gold, white, pink, blue and yellow.
Some African violet plants have streaks or multi-colored spots, thus giving them a more vibrant look. Even the shape of the flowers varies. You can easily get African violets in shapes ranging from sweet bell to flat singles.
Growing African Violets
Step 1 – Plant the Seeds
Planting African violets from the seeds is not as common as propagating them from plant cuttings, but it is a simple process. To plant the seeds, you would need pasteurized peat moss or milled coconut as a medium. Place the medium of your choice in seed starters and spray water on it. Sprinkle a few seeds and use plastic to cover them.
Step 2 – Transfer the Seedlings to a Pot
Once the largest leaf of the seedlings has a width of ½ inch, you can transplant them in separate pots. You can also separate the seedlings that are growing too close. However, make sure to do so only when the leaves are ¼ inch wide (source).
If you want to grow African violet plants inside, the choice of the pot will play an important part in its health. Make sure the pot is not too big or too small as it will prevent the flowers from blooming. Make sure to go for a pot that is one-third the size of the plant. This will give the roots enough space to grow and get some air.
Step 3 – Propagating African Violets from Leaves
If you already have an African violet plant, you can use its leaves to grow new plants. Just cut a healthy leaf with at least 2 inches of stem. Plant it in a pot and cover it with a clear plastic wrap. Place the pot in an area where it can get ample indirect sun light. The plastic wrap will keep the moisture trapped inside, so you won’t need to water it.
You can also grow African violet plants in water. Instead of planting the healthy leaf in a pot, place its stem in the neck of a water bottle. Make sure you take lukewarm water as it helps in healthy growth of the roots. Most people make a mistake here and submerge the whole leaf under the water too. It is important to rest the leaf on the rim of the bottle so that it can take in air.
Next, use a plastic wrap to cover the leaf and the bottle top. This step will help keep in the humidity. Place the bottle in a well-lit place so that it can get lots of indirect sunlight. Keep an eye on the leaf and keep adding water whenever needed.
Regardless of the propagation method you use, it can take about 10-12 weeks for the plant to grow. As for the seeds, they take 1-9 weeks to germinate. According to the Bay State African Violet Society, an African Violet plant can live for a long time. If you take proper care of the plant, it can last for 50 years or even more. However, this long life depends on the species of the plant. Repot it regularly and it will easily live for decades.
African violets grow best in slightly acidic soil. If it has a pH value ranging from 6.4-6.9, you will have a better chance of growing African Violets that last longer and bloom easily. If you want to know how to grow African violets that look amazing, you need to ditch the soil.
That is right! African violet plants need a combination of nutrients. But more than that, they need a medium that is loose and drains well. Another requirement is that the medium must also promote root development. Finding all these qualities in soil is not possible, which is why people do not usually grow African violet plants in soil.
You can easily get the right medium to grow the plant from any home or garden store. However, if you do not find any, you can make some on your own.
How to Make a Homemade Medium for African Violet Plants
- Peat Moss
- Mix equal parts of the three ingredients and transfer them to a pot.
- Water the medium and let it sit for a few hours so that it absorbs the moisture.
- Plant leaves or seedlings and watch your African violets grow up and bloom soon.
Watering and Harvesting
Water the African violets only when you feel the soil is dry. Since the plants prefer dry to moist soil, watering it too much can likely kill the plants. Refrain from using cold water as it can chill the roots and cause the leaves to curl. Room temperature water suits American Violets but only when you water the roots. If you leave water on the flowers or leaves, it can cause rings or spots.
Humidity and Temperature
African violets prefer a humidity level of 40-60 percent. If the plants do not get enough humidity, they will grow slowly. Even if the plants produce flower buds, the lack of humidity will prevent them from blooming. If your area does not have much humidity, you can use a humidifier to retain moisture in the atmosphere or place the pot on a bed of pebbles and water. Just make sure the pot does not touch the water and gets the moisture it needs from the pebbles.
As for the temperature, make sure you maintain it between 65-75 oF. Sudden temperature fluctuations and keeping the plants in less than 50 oF will most likely kill them (source).
Bright sunlight also helps African violet plants grow. Place the plants in a place they can get ample indirect sunlight, for a good 16 hours per day. You can also use a light bulb or grow lamp to fulfill the needs of the plants. You have to keep a close eye on the plants to see if they are getting enough sunlight or not.
A simple way to determine this is to observe the leaves. If they start to look bleached, the plant is probably getting too much direct sunlight. On the other hand, if the leaves look dark or unusually thin, they need more indirect sunlight. A lack and abundance of sunlight can prevent your African violet plants from flowering.
African violets need fertilizers to produce flowers all year round. A good fertilizer for African violets must follow the 20-20-20 rule, which means, it must have equal proportions of potassium, phosphorous and nitrogen. You can even get specialized fertilizers for African violets that provide balanced nutrients for healthy growth.
To maintain the health of African violet plants and to help them grow, make sure you re-pot them annually. Since the plants keep growing, make sure you put them in a large size pot (source). This move will aid in their growth and the larger pot will make room for new roots. When re-potting, changing the medium also helps. As long as you provide them with a balanced medium, your African violet plants will thrive.
Q: Do African violets need direct sunlight?
A: African violets do not need direct sunlight. Just make sure they get ample indirect sunlight and they will be good to go.
Q: How often do African violets need to be watered?
A: Since African violets prefer dry to moist soil, it is best to water them once a month or after every six weeks.
Q: Are African violets easy to grow?
A: Growing African violets is easy as long as you satisfy the plants’ needs.
Q: How do you get African violets to bloom?
A: To make sure African violets bloom all year round, it is best to use terracotta pots. These pots provide more air flow. They are also durable and can last a long while. Also fertilize the plants regularly and water the plants with room temperature water to get flowers.
Final Thoughts on Growing African Violets
African violets are a great starter plant for beginner gardeners. They are equally dazzling for the experienced gardeners because of their wide range of varieties. They have a long life, which makes them the ideal indoor houseplants. Growing African violet plants is easy and here are a few points to help you out:
- Use a pot that is one-third the size of the plant.
- Use a good fertilizer for balanced nutrients.
- Make sure the plant gets plenty of bright and indirect sunlight
- The thrives in a slightly acidic medium, with a pH value ranging between 6.4 and 6.9.
If you have any more questions on how to grow African violets, just get in touch with me via the comments. I will answer your questions shortly.