You may think of African violets as old fashioned, but they are still among the easiest and most satisfying flowering plants to grow indoors, and the shapes and colors of the flowers are almost endless. Ranging in size from under six inches to over sixteen inches in diameter, African violets can fit into any home or office.
African Violet Light Requirements
African violets need a fair amount of light; don’t leave them in a dark corner, but keep them out of direct sunlight. A north- or east-facing window is ideal. The plants grow toward the light, so turn them regularly for even growth. Africa violets also flower very well under fluorescent light. If your plant has thick leaves and long leaf stems it’s not getting enough light. Stunted plants with short leaf stems and small, crinkled leaves are getting too much sun.
African Violet Temperature and Humidity
African violets are fussy about temperature. Nighttime temperatures between 65 and 70 degrees are perfect; daytime temperatures should be 10 to 15 degrees higher. Unless your windows are well insulated you might want to move your plants away from the windows on cold nights. African violets turn dark and wither if they get too cold, but they don’t like it too hot either. Air conditioning, higher humidity, and optimum light can compensate for temperatures above 80 degrees.
Speaking of humidity, African violets need high humidity to thrive. Serious growers use humidifiers and pebble trays. Misting is not a good way to increase the humidity because the water drops can damage or spot the hairy leaves.
Potting soil for African Violets
Loose potting soil with high organic content is a good growing medium for African violets. Experts disagree on the best method for watering these colorful plants, which prefer an evenly moist soil. You can water the soil from the top, water from the bottom by setting the pot in a dish of water (don’t leave it in the water or it will rot), or water continuously using a wick and reservoir system.
African Violet Propagation
When you have a particularly beautiful African violet it’s natural to want to share it. You can make new plants by rooting individual leaves or by dividing old plants that have multiple crowns.
Want to learn more about how to grow African violets?
There’s so much more to know about African violets, so we’re listing a few websites to get you started:
University of Rhode Island Landscape Horticulture Program created a factsheet on growing African violets.
Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service has a fact-filled article on African violet care.
The African Violet Society of America is one of the best sources of information about the different kinds of African violets.
Lynne Lamstein gardens in Maine and Florida and is currently working on a sustainable landscape. She has a degree in ornamental horticulture from Temple University.