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How to Care for African Violets

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While African Violets care can be more difficult than some other houseplants, growing African Violets can be well worth the extra effort. 

African Violets are a gorgeous addition to any home.  These beauties produce clusters of small purple, white, and blue flowers with fuzzy leaves.  This exotic houseplant has been a cherished favorite of many for 100+ years.  

There are a variety of African Violets you can plant for your home.

With nine species, this tropical delight has eight subspecies with several hundred various hybrids.   Some contain single flowers, while others have double or semi-doubled.  The petals can be ringed or ruffled.  

African Violets come in a miniature size that measures about 8 inches in diameter with tiny flowers that measure about ¾ inch.  Standard African Violets have flowers that are 2 inches in diameter with a plant measurement of 8 to 16 inches.  The largest plants have a 3-inch diameter flower with a span of 16+ inches. 

This amazing flower looks great in any home.  They can brighten a room, make home decor pop, or add a cozy feeling to a room.  These flowers are the perfect housewarming gift, a birthday or get well plant, or a teacher appreciation present. In fact, in certain cultures, African Violets are traditional flowers for Mother’s Day. 

African Violets are perfect for those that are just starting to grow flowers as they are fairly easy to grow.  Since they are non-toxic, those that have cats or dogs can grow these violets in their homes.  

African Violets Care

Purple African Violet

If you have never cared for African Violets before, there are some things that you will want to learn before taking care of them, such as watering requirements, light needed, humidity, and much more.  Here we have provided a guide to help you learn how to take care of these precious treasures. 

Watering Requirements for African Violets

African Violets prefer soil that is moist.  It should never be soggy. 

If they receive too much water, this gorgeous houseplant will become susceptible to Root Rot, Crown Rot, Pythium, and other diseases that are deadly to flowers.  

If you water your flowers too much, it could hinder the plant from getting the nitrogen it needs to survive.  This process is called denitrification.

You will want to be sure to use room temperature water.  Should the water be too cold, it will chill the roots of the plant.  If chilled, the leaves will begin to curl down.  

Watering from the bottom is the best way to water your African Violets. 

If watering from the top there is a chance the leaves will become spotted.  Spotted leaves can not be removed as this is a form of necrosis.  To water from the bottom of the plant, set your planter in a container of water long enough for the soil to get moist.  

These plants don’t like any chemicals in their water.  An easy remedy for this is to allow water to sit for two days in order for the chlorine to evaporate.  You can also catch rainwater in buckets to water the plants with. 

Soft water should never be used for watering your violets.  Soft water alters the PH of the soil as well as the conductivity.  This makes it hard for your flowers to absorb the nutrients that it needs from the soil.  

Self-watering devices are available for those that are concerned about watering their violets incorrectly.  These devices eliminate the need to worry about a fungal disease that causes your pretty violets to rot.  

Light Needed for African Violets

Pink tinged with purple African Violet Flowers

African Violets should never be placed in direct sunlight.  Attempting to do this will result in a plant that is scorched.  Instead, the flowers should be provided with bright, filtered light.  They must receive at least 10 hours of light daily.  

If African Violets do not receive enough light, the leaves will yellow and the plant will cease to flower.  The leaves and stems may also become elongated.  

On the flip side, too much indirect sunlight can be an issue for these flowers. Brown spots can form on the leaves of the plant and the blooms.  Leaves are also known to curl down when too much light is provided. 

The only time African Violets should be placed in the direct sun is early in the morning or late in the day.   It is advised to place your flowers in Southern or Western facing windows to make sure they do not receive too much sunlight.  You can shield out the direct sunlight in rooms with sheers or blinds.  

Be sure to rotate your African Violet.  This is crucial so the plant receives equal light on all four sides.  You can remember to do this each time you water the flowers, or once per week.  It only needs to be rotated a quarter.  

Humidity

African Violet in pot on table

African violets need high humidity. 

An easy way to manage this is to place the planter in a pebbled filled saucer with a small amount of water.  With the bottom of the pot out of the water, the soil will not become sodden.  

There are special planters on the market that are made specifically for violets.  These have their own well that you simply fill with water. 

Fertilizer

In the spring and summer, your African Violets will need to be fertilized every 14 days. 

A balanced formula of fertilizer needs to be used.  While it may be tempting to use a bloom booster on these flowers, refrain from doing so.  These are very hard on the plant.  

Containers or Pot Considerations

Self Watering Round Shape Glazed Ceramic Pot African Violet

There are a variety of pots or containers on the market for your African Violets. 

Many love clay pots because they are affordable and porous.  This makes them able to drain better. Clay pots are also easy for individuals to personalize with paint, making them a great addition to any home decor.

Clay pots do allow evaporation to occur faster than any other pot, and will often become covered with a mineral deposit over time.  

Others prefer to use plastic pots. 

Some of these come with saucers.  This makes draining the flowers fairly easy. 

Should you use this type of pot, be sure to empty the draining water often so the plant is not sitting in the water. 

Many master gardeners will choose plastic pots for various reasons.  They may like that there is a constant water method that can be used with these plants (wicking or capillary matting).  

Master gardeners also find that plastic pots have a greater variety.  Most clay pots only come in a few sizes.  However, with plastic pots, one is able to find smaller pots that often work best for African Violets.  These gardeners are also finding that plastic pots are much easier to clean and more inexpensive than clay pots. 

The third choice for a pot is ceramic.  This kind of pot has two pieces, which makes watering very easy.  

One consideration that you may wish to make when purchasing a pot for your African Violets is a self-watering pot.  This makes it very easy to care for your beauties and you will never need to worry about overwatering them. 

When looking for a pot or container for your African Violets, make sure it is large enough. 

If you plant your flowers in a pot that is too small, the roots will not develop properly.  This will cause them to become rootbound, which will not promote new growth.  

Keep in mind that it is advised to repot your African Violets at least twice per year.  Some may need to be repotted more than this. 

This method is called “Potting Up”.  You move your plant to a larger pot, using fresh soil.  

You will know that your plant needs to be potted up as the roots will begin to grow out of the rootball.  

There are times when you may need to “Pot Down”.  This method involves moving an African Violet that is too small for the container it is currently housed in. You can often tell the pot is too large if the soil is soggy even though you have provided proper drainage or the root balls are not formed cohesively. 

Soil Requirements for African Violets

Pink African violets in clay pot on table.

African Violets should be planted in a potting mix that actually does not contain any soil at all.  The potting soil used should be light in order to enhance the aeration. 

You can create an airy soil by adding perlite, sand, or vermiculite to the potting mix which will create air pockets.  These air pockets will help promote roots that are healthy. 

 The soil must be kept moist, but should never be soggy.   It should never be packed into the pot, as root penetration will be eliminated if the soil is dense or compacted.  

Propagating African Violets

A very easy way to grow African Violets is to use a leaf cutting.  By following these steps, you can ensure you have the best chance of producing a new healthy African Violet. 

  1. Look in the center of the plant for a leaf middle-aged and healthy.  Using a sharp knife, cut it, leaving a stem of 1.5 inches. 
  2. Place the leaf in your potting soil mixture.  Be sure to use a soil that contains vermiculite or perlite. A soilless rooting mixture will help stop the risk of soil-borne fungus, which will infect the leaf of the plant
  3. The potting mix should be placed in a brightly lit area with no direct sunlight. 
  4. Clumps of plantlets will start to form at the bottom of the leaf in about 6 weeks.  
  5. Once the plants have 4+ leaves, you can separate the clumps and plant them in their own pots.  

African Violet Pests and Other Problems

Unfortunately, there are pests and other problems that bother your African Violet plant.  These include the following:

  • Mealybugs-  A clump of eggs will be laid on a leaf, which will resemble a white clump.  By taking a cotton swab dipped in alcohol, you can gently rub the leaves of your plant to remove them.  Neem oil and castile soap mixed together in a spray bottle can also be effective when sprayed on the violet’s leaves.  Mealybugs can spread to other house plants, so if you are unable to remove them, it is best to get rid of your African Violet. 
  • Powdery Mildew-  Any leaves that are infected with this mildew should be immediately removed.  You can lower the humidity and increase the air circulation to avoid this. 
  • Thrips- These small pests will feed on pollen.  Simply remove them by rinsing with soapy water. 
  • Cyclamen mites- Any plant that becomes infested with this pest should be taken to the garbage immediately.  It is typically impossible to completely remove them, and they will spread to other healthy plants in your home. 
  • Rot and blight- Avoid this by overwatering.  If this occurs, your African Violet will be ruined with no chances of saving. 

If your African Violet has soil or debris on any of the leaves, a paintbrush can gently wipe this off.  Should you see dead leaves, a pair of tweezers can assist you in their removal. 

If you happen to see the leaves of the plant becoming pale, or they look bleached, you will need to move them to an area that receives less light.  If there are pale leaves and the plant is not growing, you may need to fertilize them more often. 

Rusty colored leaves or tightly planted centers can be caused by too much fertilizer.  If this is the case, you can flush the plant with fresh water to remove the excess fertilizer.  You will then want to only fertilize these flowers every other watering.  

Last Thoughts on African Violets Care

By using this guide on how to care for African Violets, you’ll make sure you have healthy plants in your home. 

If you know how to take care of African Violets, you should have no problem growing these flowers in your home.

By making sure your flower has the proper water intake, humidity levels, fertilizer, and more, you will ensure that your plant has a healthy life.  

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