There is no secret that African Violets are among the most adorable ornamentals. Unique-looking and versatile, they also happen to be among the most popular houseplants worldwide. And, although they are commonly referred to as “violets” they aren’t all purple as there are many varieties to choose from.
These plants have a very generous colour palette ranging from white, light blue, and pink to deep shades of purple and red. If you are not familiar with African violets, you will surely be surprised by their mixed reputation as these cute-looking plants are often considered by gardeners temperamental and difficult. While they do require some love and attention in combination with warm temperatures, high levers of humidity, and plenty of indirect light, African violets are not hard to grow. Once you understand their needs, you’ll be able to fully enjoy their soft, fuzzy leaves and delicate flowers.
About African Violets
- Streptocarpus sect. Saintpaulia is a section of the Streptocarpella subgenus that consists of about 10 species of lovely flowering plants. The species and cultivars go by the common names African violets or Saintpaulias. They are members of the Gesneriaceae family. The plants originate from eastern tropical Africa, with a concentration of species in Tanzania and southeastern Kenya.
- As mentioned above, African violets belong to the Streptocarpella subgenus, which includes the following species: S. afroviola, S. albus, S. brevipilosus, S. goetzeanus, S. inconspicuus, S. ionanthus, S. nitidus, S. shumensis, S. teitensis, and S. ulugurensis. All of these species come with their varieties.
- Some Streptocarpus sect. Saintpaulia species and subspecies are endangered, and many are threatened. This is a consequence of their native habitats consisting of cloud forests being cleared for agriculture. For example, the Streptocarpus ionanthus species has a near-threatened conservation status.
- There is an international society of plant admirers who promote the cultivation of African violets as houseplants. This society goes by the name African Violet Society of America and hosts annual conventions.
- African violets have cultural importance. For a long time, people have associated these plants with motherhood and mothers. Because of this, they are a traditional gift for Mother’s Day in various cultures around the world.
- African violets are also popular around Valentine’s Day and Easter. The plants are most vigorous in late winter through spring, so they usually appear in nurseries and markets by those holidays.
- These plants are usually indoor houseplants, but they can also look absolutely gorgeous in outdoor settings. You can create an outstanding landscape by planting African violets near Bromeliads, Anthuriums, Gloxinias, Croton Plant, Philodendron, or Prayer Plants.
- It is quite common for people to think that just because they have the word ‘violets’ in their name African Violets have similar properties to violets (members of the Viola family). These two plants have nothing in common, except for their colour. While Violas are edible, African violets are not. They are not particularly poisonous, and according to the ASPCA African violets are non-toxic to cats, dogs, and horses. But, the African violets’ sap and fuzzy leaves can irritate the skin and should be handled with care. And, most importantly, shouldn’t be consumed as they are not considered edible.
African Violets Feature: An Overview
- African violets are herbaceous perennial flowering plants. They are relatively small plants that come in various sizes and names for them. For example, while a plant that has less than 3 inches (7.5 cm) in height is a “micro” specimen, one that has over 12-16 inches (30-40 cm) is a “large” or “giant” one.
- Their foliage consists of small, fleshy, finely hairy, rounded to oval leaves that appear on hairy, 0.8 to 4 inches (2-10 cm) petioles. The leaves usually measure from 1 to 3.4 inches (2.5-8.5 cm) in length and can be either light green, dark green, or variegated.
- With the right care, African violets may bloom nearly all year round. The flowers can grow as wide as 0.8 to 1.2 inches (2-3 cm). They feature a five-lobed velvety corolla and show up in clusters of 3-10 or more on thin stalks.
- Their blossoms come in a wide range of colours like white, pink, violet, purple, lavender, blue, or pale blue. Most cultivars have hypnotic flowers, exhibiting a mix of two or more of these shades.
- The most irresistible African violet cultivars include ‘Cherry Princess’, which has elegant variegated pink and purple blooms, ‘Persian Prince’, with delicate pansy-like blue flowers, ‘Aroma of Summer’, with fragrant fuchsia blooms, ‘Summer Twilight’, with lilac-purple rich and ruffled flowers, ‘Lonestar Snowstorm’, with white blooms, ‘Julia’, with elegant light blue ruffled flowers, and ‘Little Maya’, which is among the most popular types thanks to its joyful crimson red blooms.
- Other examples of beautiful African violets are ‘King’s Ransom’. ‘Blue Confetti’, ‘Kentucky Goosberries’ ‘Terry Lou’ and ‘Jolly Orchids’.
Growing African Violets
Many people avoid growing African violets due to their undeserved reputation as fussy houseplants. But we think that these plants are a delight to have around. They might require some extra care, especially when it comes to their watering routine, but other than that, African violets demand very little and reward us with their cheerful blossoms and fuzzy leaves.
When it comes to lighting conditions, African violets are big lovers of bright to medium light, but not direct exposure. In general, many gardeners grow African violets under fluorescent lights that stay at 12 to 15 inches (30-38 cm) above their foliage. In terms of temperature, you will see that African violets perform well in a certain interval. These beauties thrive at temperatures that are around 70 °F (21 °C) all year round. If you want your plants to remain healthy throughout the year, it would be wise to protect them from temperatures that fall below 60 °F (15.5 °C). When outdoor temperatures reach this minimal point, you should bring your African violets inside your house to warmer conditions.
Planting African Violets
African violets do best in a potting mix that comes along with very sharp drainage. These plants are somewhat sensitive to waterlogging, causing their roots to rot, so well-draining soil is mandatory for thriving specimens. You can prepare your own mixture by combining equal parts of peat moss, perlite, and vermiculite. We also recommend you plant your African violets in pots that have drainage holes at the bottom.
African violets are heavy feeders, so they will need some extra attention on this part of their caring routine. Make sure you feed your plants with a fertilizer diluted at one-quarter strength once every week. You can use a balanced fertilizer such as 18-18-18 which has equal parts nitrogen, phosphorus, and potash. But, to encourage blooming, the ideal fertilizer for these plants is either a special African violet fertilizer or one with a higher phosphorus number, such as 15-30-15.
A lot of people ask whether it would be best to stop using fertilizer when the African violets are in bloom, but, according to experts, there is no need. It is not recommended to deprive the plants of nutrients during their blooming period.
- A perennial, low-growing flower grown in the United States Department of Agriculture, Zone 3-9.
- Growing in sunny to cool conditions.
- It will bloom in spring, wither in hot summer, and usually open new flowers in autumn.
- These lovely flowers bring new colors and happiness to your garden and family.
- Keep the soil moist and strive to maintain high humidity.
- Includes 50 Seeds in a pack.
- If you love African Violets, the sheer variety of this mix will delight you! And if you've never tried this lovely houseplant before, Fantasy is the place to start!
- You'll get single-, semi-double-, and double-flowered blooms in all the bright jewel tones of the family, including bicolors! Blooms of deep purple, lilac, pink, rose, red, and white -- all with a tiny buttery center!
- Blooming just 5 to 6 months from sowing, these 1 1/2- to 2-inch blooms arise in clusters above handsome, heavily textured dark green foliage. A favorite for its profuse bloom, lovely foliage, and ease of culture.
- Sow the tiny seeds on top of moist growing medium (such as potting soil), keep moist, and provide plenty of light. A good choice for a bathroom with a bright window (it loves the humidity and needs the light!).
- SUN: African violets do well in bright but not direct sunlight.
- SOIL: A well-drained potting mix is essential for African violets.
- WATER: Keep soil moist with warm water and strive for high humidity. Water from below, or push the water spout into the soil when watering. Don't allow the plant to sit in water.
- TEMPERATURE: African violets like warm and humid conditions and thrive at 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Do not allow the temperature to fall below about 60 degrees Fahrenheit.
- PLANTING SUGGESTIONS: Feed with an African violet fertilizer every other week during the spring and summer.
Last update on 2023-07-23 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
African violets perform better when you slightly underpot them. In general, you should repot these plants only when they seem stressed out overall. The most common signs of stressed plants are usually overcrowding and falling leaves, so you should watch out for these indicators. When this happens, you can repot your African violets in new containers that are one size larger than the current ones. Be careful, though, because their root system is a bit sensitive to moving it here and there.
Pruning your African violets a bit will help them remain in shape and even bloom more profusely. When the flowers look spent, you can pinch them back to encourage the development of more blossoms. Likewise, if some of the leaves of your plants are unhealthy or dead, you can remove them to make room for new ones to show their glory.
Watering African Violets
African violets are a bit picky when it comes to their watering routine. However, this should not discourage you or stop you from adding them to your plant family. we will explain to you all the details about their picky watering needs. As a rule, African violets will appreciate if you maintain their soil constantly damp. It is best to water them only with lukewarm water and it is important to avoid water from touching their leaves, especially if the plants are getting a lot of sunlight. Water drops on the leaves can cause leaf spots which many gardeners consider unattractive.
You can also water your African violets from the bottom to avoid the water from touching the foliage. In doing so, make sure you allow the plant to absorb some water for about 10-15 minutes, and remove the excess. Don’t let African violets sit in water for too long.
In terms of frequency, make sure you spoil your African violet with another drink only when their growing medium feels dry to the touch. This method should help you avoid situations like under-watering or over-watering. This is known as the ‘soak and dry’ method and it works with most houseplants.
African violets need high humidity levels to grow healthy and happy. If you keep them in a somewhat dry area, we suggest you mist them daily to keep the humidity at optimal levels.
Propagating African Violets
If you want more African violets for yourself or to offer them to someone very dear to you, you can obtain them without spending any extra money on the way. African violets respond well to propagation through offsets or leaf cuttings. Both methods are easy for every type of gardener, even if you do not have too much experience overall.
Sometimes, African violets produce small offsets from the side. When this happens, you can remove these tiny African violets from the mother plant and pot them up independently. You can replant these offsets in the same type of growing medium in which you already grow the mother plant. This process will also encourage new, healthy blooms on the parent, so it is a good thing for both sides.
If you wish to make even more African violets, you can use leaf cuttings. Look for healthy leaves and cut their stems just above the place where they meet the main stem. We recommend you take more cuttings, some of them might not produce roots. Plant the cuttings in a pot filled with moist potting mix and place the pot in an area with bright, indirect light. Make sure you water the cuttings regularly to maintain them constantly moist. With proper care and lots of patience, the cuttings will produce a root system in a month or so. Once they have roots, you can transplant them into their individual containers.
Although most African violets are grown from cuttings, you can also grow them from seed, but this will take longer. However, it is a rewarding activity that’s worth trying if you love these plants as much as we do. It’s important to get the seeds from a reputable seller, as this will increase your chances of success. Most gardeners use peat moss for seeding African violets. Make sure the soil is moist but not super wet. Spread the seeds over the soil evenly. You don’t have to bury them or cover them with soil.
Spray them with water evenly, and cover with plastic wrap. Place the container near a bright window or use fluorescent lights. The germination process should start to show results in about nine weeks. When the seedlings start to grow leaves that are larger than 1cm, you can transplant the plants into individual containers.
African Violets Pests, Diseases, and Other Common Problems
Although African violets do not encounter any serious issues with pests, some intruders might show up once in a while. The most common pests that will bother your plants are mealybugs, thrips, aphids, and cyclamen mites. If you encounter any of these on your African violets, you should first spray them off with some water, then apply neem oil on them to prevent the spread.
Other examples of diseases that may affect African violets are powdery mildew, phytophthora crown rot, botrytis blight, bacterial blight, pythium root rot, and foliar nematodes. If you suspect that your plant might suffer from one of these diseases, the first step is to separate it from your other plants to prevent the disease from spreading. Next, do some research based on the first signs of infection and try to rule out other less severe issues such as the very common ring spots. If you are really dealing with one of the diseases mentioned above, the best course of action might be to discard the plant, especially if it is severely damaged.
The leaves are the most sensitive parts of the plant, so a lot of common African violet problems are foliage problems. Let’s take a look at some of the things that African violet growers struggle with:
Leaf spots – Brown leaf spots are a common problem in African violets and are usually the result of water drops. These plants are very sensitive to cold water and their leaves shouldn’t be splashed during the watering process. Leaf spots can also be caused by fungal and viral pathogens, but water damage, commonly known as African violet ring spots remains the most common cause.
Dusty leaves – The fuzzy leaves of African violets can become dusty and covered in debris. If this happens, it is important to clean them using a soft brush or a soft piece of cloth.
Dead leaves – It is quite normal for the older leaves of African violets to decay. When this happens, remove them with a small pointed pruner or with a pair of tweezers. Spent flowers should also be removed.
Elongated leaves and lack of flowers – This is usually a sign that your African violets aren’t getting enough light or warmth.
Pale, bleach out foliage – It is quite common for African violets to show these signs of distress when they receive too much direct light.
Pale leaves, no new growth, lack of flowers – An African violet that isn’t showing any signs of new growth and doesn’t bloom might suffer from a nutrient deficiency. If you are not fertilizing your plant regularly, it’s time to start.
Rusty leaves – Too much fertilizer can also cause some issues such as rusty leaves and tight growth in the centre of the plant. In this situation, it’s best to fertilize your plants less often.
The plant is limp and wilted – You might be tempted to think that the plant isn’t getting enough water. However, a limp, wilted African violet might be overwatered. The best solution here is to repot the plant. If you notice that the roots are unhealthy, rotten, or mushy, the plant has been affected by root rot and should be discarded.
African violets are as irresistible as they can be, bringing lots of colour and personality to any spot you will place them in. Plus, they are very easy to grow and care for, even if they have some particular demands when it comes to their watering schedule and general care. But they aren’t difficult to grow and they make perfect desk plants or windowsill plants. Once you get used to the environmental needs of African violets you’ll surely develop a passion for these tiny buddies. The most difficult part about growing African violets will then be choosing the cultivars that you love best.
What types of African violets do you enjoy growing? Let us know in the comments!