Why is it that so many people want to know how do you care for African violets? (Botanical name: Saintpaulia hybrids)
It’s probably because African violets are without doubt, one of the most popular indoor plants and for good reason. With their furry leaves and perky, colorful little flowers that bloom all year round, what’s not to love about them?
Small in stature, African violets are the perfect plants to grow where space may be limited. You can perch them on a window sill that receives light filtered through the leaves of outdoor trees.
Don’t be put off by some people who may tell you that African violet care can be difficult as the plants are finicky. It’s true that they don’t like cold temperatures and water on their leaves, but as long as you understand and respect that, they’re really quite easy to get along with.
African violets respond best when kept indoors all year- round. Like most indoor plants, they can react badly to over watering, chilling, or placement in direct sun, but otherwise, these little plants rarely complain.
Having said that, African violets will respond well to any extra care and attention you may give them. With a little extra TLC such as grooming (eg pinching off the old flower stems and removing dead flowers), increasing humidity and careful watering, African violets have been known to live for to up 50 years.
African Violet Care Instructions
African violets like bright, indirect light such as that from an eastern or western window. Avoid direct sunlight as this will scorch their leaves. It’s a good idea to rotate the plant a quarter of a turn regularly to encourage even growth
Room temperatures (65- 75 F/18 – 24C) year-round are most suitable for African violets. Cold temperatures can reduce their growth.
Water & Humidity
It’s important not to let the soil dry out completely by keeping it slightly moist at all times.
It’s generally recommended to water African violets from below to avoid splashing their leaves, but if you have a watering can with a narrow neck, you can carefully water from the top without wetting the leaves.
In summer, leach pots once or twice to remove any accumulated salts. If conditions are dry, use a pebble tray.
Use a peaty potting soil or African violet mix which is light, porous and well drained, which makes them ideal bed mates with Rex Begonias.
Fertilizing African Violets
Best results can be achieved by feeding your African violet, every 3-4 weeks from spring to late summer, with a high phosphorous plant food, or use a balanced houseplant food mixed at half the rate recommended on the package.
Repotting African Violets
It’s a good idea to repot every year or so to freshen up the soil, but keep plants in small pots due to their shallow root system. When repotting, prune off up to one-third of the roots and set the plant slightly deeper in the pot.
Propagating African Violets
African violets are easy to propagate from leaf cuttings. Root healthy medium sized leaves with 1-2 inch/2.5 – 5cm of stem attached. Leaves develop roots in about a month, and plantlets form within 4-6 weeks after that.
Other African Violet Care Tips
Grouping small plants together on a pebble tray is a good idea as it helps increase humidity and can make a really nice window display.
Trouble Shooting: African Violet Care
PROBLEM: Plant does not bloom
CAUSE: Too little light; a lack of darkness or too cold.
SOLUTION: African violets can stop blooming in winter when light levels are low and temperatures drop, so move plants to a bright south or west window.
Plants may also fail to bloom if they don’t receive 8 hours of darkness each night. In autumn and spring check that your plant is getting enough warmth.
In spring and summer, keep plants where light is less intensive and switch to a high phosphorous fertilizer. Some people add a light pinch of Epsom salts to water to help persuade plants to bloom.
PROBLEM: Old leaves shrivel to brown and fall off
CAUSE: African violets naturally do this
SOLUTION: Pinch off old leaves as they fail and dispose of them. Plants that are underfed shed more leaves than those that are adequately fed.
PROBLEM: Plant grows lopsided, curving to one side.
CAUSE: Natural response to directional light. In the wild, African violets grow between rocks, curving as needed to get the best light.
SOLUTION: To correct this you will need to renovate the plant. Remove all leaves except seven or eight in the central crown, then remove the old roots. Leaving a 3 inch / 7.5cm trunk. Set the groomed plant to root as if you were rooting a stem cutting. When new growth appears, transplant into African violet soil.
PROBLEM: Brown spots on leaves
CAUSE: Cold water on leaves or any water on leaves when plant is in bright light.
SOLUTION: Water from below to avoid wetting leaves. If leaves need to be cleaned, either brush them lightly with a dry paint brush or rinse them with lukewarm water on a dry warm day. Place plant in a shady spot until leaves are dry.
PROBLEM: Yellow leaves
CAUSE: This could be due to dry air, too much sun, or poor feeding or watering.
SOLUTION: Remove the plant from direct sunlight. Raise humidity and check feeding and watering is in line with directions provided above.
PROBLEM: Grey fluff on leaves
CAUSE: This is most likely grey mold known as botrytis.
SOLUTION: Remove affected areas and treat with a fungicide.
PROBLEM: Leaves bleached and wilted; tiny insects on leaf undersides
CAUSE: Cyclamen mites
SOLUTION: This pest is difficult to control. Dispose of infected plant and isolate any others that were growing nearby.
I hope this article has been helpful in answering your question, how do you care for African violets?
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