African violets are among the most tolerant houseplants available, as they cope with a range of temperatures and conditions. Providing the ideal conditions, however, ensures healthy growth and plenty of flowers. Since African violets grow from the leaves of old ones, gardeners new to propagation find this project easy and satisfying. This attribute also forms the basis for a simple science project.
African violets do best in well-draining potting compost mixed with an equal quantity of perlite or 1/3 perlite to 2/3 potting compost. They grow in any kind of pot with holes. Transfer to bigger pots when you see the roots after lifting up the pot. An inch of broken clay pots or large gravel at the bottom of the pot improves drainage. The ideal soil is slightly acidic with a pH of about 6 (neutral is a pH of 7).
African violets prefer room temperature. A minimum temperature at night of 65 degrees F, and an increase of about 10 degrees F during the day — but reaching no more than 80 degrees F is optimal. They need plenty of light, although not direct sunlight. A well-lit windowsill is ideal. If windows get very cold at night, transfer the plant pots to a table in the middle of the room until morning.
African violets need plenty of water. However the soil should not be permanently saturated with water, which often leads to roots rotting. Water thoroughly from the bottom and wait until the top of the soil becomes dry before watering again. Water from the top instead, avoiding the crown of the plant, once every four to six weeks, to flush salts through the pot. Use lukewarm water, not very cold water straight from the tap. Fertilize if growth slows and leaves become paler. Use a complete houseplant fertilizer at the lowest rate indicated on the packaging.
African violets take readily to vegetable propagation. Break full-sized leaves off the base of a plant and push the bottom of each leaf gently into a new pot containing a mixture of potting compost and sand or perlite, similar to that used for mature plants. Sand by itself also works since all that’s required in the beginning is moisture, not nutrients. If you use only sand, transfer the new plants to a compost medium once they develop. Several plants may grow from each leaf. Leave them together if you’d like a bushy plant with several crowns, or separate out each one.