Since the early 1900s, hobbyists in Europe and the United States have grown African violets in their homes. Hybrids in a variety of colors became available in the early 1930s, with new cultivars being added regularly. Today, African violets are widely available in dozens of flower colors and leaf types. If their modest demands are met, these cheerful houseplants are not difficult to keep and provide almost continual indoor blooming.
Size, Soil and Containers
African violets are classed according to size. Miniature African violets are less than 6 inches in diameter. Semi-miniature are 6 to 8 inches, and standards are 8 to 16 inches. Large varieties grow to more than 16 inches. Provide a pot that will accommodate the expected mature size of the plant. Choose glazed ceramic or plastic pots for optimal moisture retention. Place a piece of window screening over the drain holes, add a layer of commercial African violet potting mix and place the plant so that the crown will be just above the final soil level, which will be about ½ inch below the rim of the pot. Fill in with soil and water. Allow the soil to settle, adding more if necessary.
Light and Temperature
Double, ruffled flower types in bright colors are available
In its natural environment, the African violet is found growing out of direct sunlight in rock crevices, in soil that’s rich in organic matter. Provide a sunny room, placing the African violet away from the direct heat and light of the window. In its native African habitat, the violet grows at low elevations in high humidity. Run a humidifier at night in very dry climates, or place plants on trays of pebbles with water in the bottom below the drain holes. Keep temperatures between 60 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
Water and Fertilizer
African violets come in many colors, including white
Consider watering your African violet from the bottom by allowing the pot to soak water up through the drain holes. Watering from the top has advantages, as salts are leached out of the soil. Keep the soil moist but not soggy. Don’t allow water to stand in the pot, as this could rot the crown. Water should be at room temperature to avoid discoloring the leaves. Every month or two, take the pot to a large sink or a shady porch outside in warm weather, and allow water to flow through the pot, aerating and refreshing the soil. Commercial fertilizers formulated for African violets are readily available. Use according to package instructions, or use a very weak solution with each watering.
A new plant may be propagated from a single leaf
African violets will eventually grow new crowns, crowding their pots. Divide the crowns carefully by lifting the plant out of the pot and gently pulling the crowns apart. Provide a pot and fresh soil for each crown, and plant as new plants. A new, flowering plant may be developed within a year through leaf propagation. Choose a healthy leaf with 1 inch of stem. Fill a small plastic yogurt-type container into which drainage holes have been cut, with a rooting medium such as perlite. Plant the stem of the leaf in the medium. Water well and place a baggie over the pot. Watch for small leaves to form within a few weeks. In about three months the new plant will have developed a root system, and may be potted.