Q. What are some tips for growing African violets?
The beautiful, flowering African violet (Saintpaulia) in the Gesneriaceae family is well loved for its colorful blossoms and completely symmetrical form. It is easily grown indoors as a houseplant and blooms almost continuously with appropriate cultural care.
Light: African violets need as much bright light as possible, preferably an eastern or western exposure. They are also easily grown under artificial light, but will require more light than under natural conditions.
Watering: Since African violets have tiny roots, they need to be evenly moist. Water thoroughly with tepid water either from below or above, taking care not to wet the foliage. After 15 minutes, discard all excess water that the plant has not taken back up.
Temperature: They grow best in temperatures between 60º and 75º F during the day and 60º to 65º F at night. In summer, plants will accommodate to natural temperatures above 75º F but will cease to grow if temperatures rise near 90º F. African violets dislike cold drafts, so protect them from windowsill drafts in winter.
Humidity: A relative humidity above 50% is preferred to successfully maintain flower production. Provide additional humidity by setting plants on saucers and placing on shallow trays filled with moistened pebbles and/or using a humidifier.
Feeding: Feed African violets once a month in spring, summer and fall but not at all in winter. Use a dilute, liquid fertilizer made especially for African violets (10-10-5).
Transplanting: When roots begin to grow out of the bottom of the pot, transplant into the next largest size pot. Use a fertile, well-drained soil mixture of equal parts sterilized houseplant potting soil and peat moss. At the time of transplanting, African violets can be divided and sucker growth removed to re-establish a single crown plant.
Maintenance: To keep their growth symmetrical, turn plants slightly every week. By the end of each month the plant should receive a complete 360º turn so that all the leaves receive equal amounts of light.
Special Note: Encourage more flower buds to form by maintaining a single crown plant. Carefully remove any sucker growth as soon as it forms in the leaf axil to prevent overcrowded growth in the pot. If there is an excess of nitrogen fertilizer in the soil, too many leaves will be produced at the expense of flower formation. Remove the outer rows of the largest leaves to promote use of nitrogen and production of flowers.
For additional information on caring for popular houseplants, please refer to our guide Popular Houseplant Profiles.
Courtesy of the NYBG Plant Information Service