African violets can be somewhat picky about their care, so some gardeners avoid these finicky plants. Despite their difficult reputation, these beauties are still some of the most popular houseplants around. They have a compact size, and when properly cared for, they can bloom several times a year, adding a touch of color to even the drabbest room. If you’ve decided to try growing African violets indoors, check out the following tips to ensure you’re doing it right. With the right care, these beautiful plants can be a breeze to care for.
African Violets Care Overview
- African violets are particular in their care, and deviating can lead to issues.
- Keep them in bright but indirect light. They enjoy lots of light, but should be kept out of the most intense of the sun’s rays.
- Water when the soil is dry to the touch on the top inch or so. They like moist soil but should never sit in soaked soil.
- Be careful not to get water on the leaves when watering. They are very susceptible to leaf spots.
- Keep up with pruning dead or dying pieces of the plant. Leaving this to stand can lead to rotting issues.
- Keep the plant in a warm area away from any drafts or sources of large temperature changes.
African Violet Varieties
African violets come in a large number of varieties, many of which display differing colors and aesthetic characteristics. In general, the care for most varieties will be about the same, so you can pick the one that appeals to you the most. Here are a couple of popular ones you might encounter.
This violet features dark purple flowers that gradually turn pinkish towards the edges. This is an excellent, compact variety that works well as a decorative plant in a small container.
This varieties’ leaves take on a more blue appearance separating it from the more standard purples. This plant does well in partial shade, and is an easy variety to grow indoors.
As its name implies, this variety features striking white leaves with a bright yellow center. This gives the plant a unique look and makes it stand out among many of the other varieties.
The best container for an African violet is one that is just big enough for the plant. African violets prefer to be somewhat root-bound, so if they are in a pot that is too large, the plant likely won’t bloom as often or at all. Most African violets are small, so a 6” clay pot is a good choice. The clay material also provides some water wicking properties which help with overwatering. In any case, be sure the container has drainage holes as well to avoid waterlogged soil.
A well-draining potting mix is fine for African violets, though a specialized blend may be a better option for this picky plant. You can make your own African violet soil using 1 part each of perlite and vermiculite and 2 parts peat moss.
The perlite holds onto the moisture without becoming waterlogged while the vermiculite maintains the sterile conditions and retains nutrients. Peat moss boosts acidity, absorbs moisture, and preserves those nutrients. Unfortunately, peat moss is harvested from peat bogs and is slow to replenish, so coconut coir or wood fiber are more eco-friendly choices and offer the same benefits to your African violet.
For those looking for the easiest route though, most commercial potting soils will do just fine. Make sure to go with one that is loose and well draining.
When growing African violets indoors, placing them near a south- or west-facing window is best. In these areas, the plant will get plenty of bright light, as long as there is a curtain or shade to reduce the harshness of those sunbeams. African Violets like a lot of bright light, but should be protected from being directly in the most intense of the sun’s light.
If you notice light green or bleached leaves, too much light is hitting the plant, while dark leaves and leggy stems indicate too little light. Many gardeners opt to use primarily grow lights when growing African violets. This gives them much more control over the light, and reduces the risk of sun related damage.
African violets prefer minimal soil moisture, though they don’t like to dry out completely. When watering these finicky plants, use tepid water and aim for the base of the plant.
Avoid splashing the leaves when watering, or you risk damage and foliar spots, often simply referred to as leaf spots. Only water an African violet when the soil feels almost dry, and do not overwater. Root rot is a common problem with this plant, so limited moisture is best.
Temperature and Humidity
An African violet will thrive at temperatures between 65 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit, though some varieties are more tolerant to cooler temperatures. Regardless of the type in your home, keep it away from furnace or air conditioner vents and drafty windows. These can lead to large temperature swings and can damage your plant.
African violets do like a bit of humidity, so simple steps like a pebble tray are great options. For more tips on increasing humidity, check out our article that goes in depth with several techniques.
Most soils have all the nutrients a plant needs to survive, though there are times when a bit of extra plant food can encourage more growth from your African violet. During the spring and summer, when the plant is actively growing, adding a bit of high-phosphorus fertilizer can give it a boost. Add a bit every two weeks if you notice pale leaves or slow growth. You can stop in the fall/winter as the plant will slow its growth and need less nutrients.
African violets are compact plants, so they shouldn’t need a great deal of pruning. If you notice dying blooms, pinch them off to encourage new flowers. You can do the same to any wilting or dead leaves. You should also remove any debris from the soil in a timely manner. The accumulation of dead leaves or other parts of the plant can lead to rot and other plant damage.
As we mentioned above, African violets prefer smaller pots that keep them somewhat root-bound. Of course, they will eventually outgrow their little pot and require a larger home. To tell when the time has come, watch for wilted or falling leaves and roots peeking out of the soil. When this happens, move the plant to a container one size up from its current pot.
To repot your African violet, gently lift the plant out of its pot and place it in the new one. Fill in new soil around the plant and add a bit of water. Be sure not to damage the roots during this process, go slow to prevent any accidental damage.
To propagate an African violet, place a rooting medium into a small 2-inch pot. Add a bit of water to create some slight clumps in the soil. Then poke a hole in the soil.
Once your pot is ready, remove a healthy, mature leaf from the plant, cutting as close to the base as possible to maintain the plant. Trim the stem to about an inch in length and apply a light coating of rooting hormone to the cut end.
When the trimming is ready to go, gently insert the stem into the hole you poked in the soil until the blade of the leaf touches the surface. Firm the soil around the stem to hold the cutting in place. You can add a stick or plant tag to support the leaf if needed. You can also trim away the top of the leaf if it’s too large for the pot.
For the best results, you can place the potted leaf into a clamshell container to create a mini greenhouse. Place the container where it will receive bright, indirect light. After about two months, you should see new growth. When this occurs, it’s time to transfer your plant into a slightly larger container.
Outdoor Growing Tips
As picky as African violets are when grown indoors, they are even more difficult to maintain as outdoor plants. As natives of Tanzania, they are used to hot, dry climates, so warmer is better for these pretty plants.
They prefer daytime temperatures between 70 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit and between 65 and 75 degrees F at night. Going out of this range could damage the plant, so if your climate can’t maintain these temperatures, you may need to keep your African violet indoors.
African violet leaves can’t handle the harsh rays of direct sunlight, so place them in a shady area that still gets plenty of indirect light. Those leaves also don’t like to get wet, so a rain cover of some kind is also a must. Pests can also be a problem, so keep an eye on your African violet to prevent insect attacks.
For the best results, place your African violet in a pot, even when planting them outdoors. Doing so allows you to control the soil and keeps the plant root-bound, which encourages more blooms. A container can also be moved as needed, so you can bring the plant indoors when the weather isn’t cooperating.
Growing African Violets Indoors
African violets are an excellent indoor plant that aren’t as difficult as their reputation might suggest. With the right care, they’re actually fairly straightforward and require minimal upkeep. Once you see them bloom, and how beautiful their flowers can be, you’ll be more than rewarded for the effort.
African Violets FAQ
Where Is The Best Place To Put an African Violet?
The ideal location is a few feet away from a southern facing window. This provides enough light for the plant to thrive, but protects it from the most intense light that can burn out the leaves.
Are African Violets High Maintenance?
If kept up with, African Violets do not require a ton of care to thrive. They are however a big specific in their care, and that can throw people off.
How Long Do African Violets Live?
With proper care, they can live up to 50 years. This requires good care though, and repottings every 2-3 years to accommodate new growth.
Should You Mist African Violets?
As African violets like high humidity, you can mist them to help promote proper humidity. You should however only do so in the morning to allow enough time for the moisture to evaporate. Doing so in the evening can lead to issues with standing water.