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African violets are unique plants that have fuzzy leaves and small delicate flowers. They are quite easy to care for which makes them a popular houseplant. Known to be one of the world’s most hybridized plants with new varieties developing continuously, African violets are said to be one of the world’s most popular houseplants with enthusiasts devoted to growing and breeding them.
If you are looking for a unique houseplant that’s easy to care for, why not try an African violet? Keep reading to find out more about African violets and what you need to have these plants thrive.
About African Violets
African Violet (Saintpaulia ionantha) is not actually a violet, but it belongs to a group of six species of flower-producing plants that come under a family called Gesneriaceae. African Violets belong to the higher altitudes of Eastern Africa that have a tropical climate.
African violets were first discovered in 1892 by Baron Walter von Saint Paul-Illaire, a German explorer, who found them growing in the Usambara Mountains in Tanzania. They were introduced to the United States in the early 1900s and quickly gained popularity as a houseplant and are the state flower of Mississippi. Being one of the most hybridized plants, African violets now have over 20,000 known varieties.
African Violets – Categories and Growth Habits
African violets are classified into two main categories: standard African violets and miniature African violets.
- Standard African Violets are the larger varieties of African violets, reaching up to 8 inches (20 cm) in diameter. They have larger leaves and flowers and are typically grown in pots or hanging baskets.
- Miniature African Violets are smaller varieties of African violets, typically growing to only about 4 inches (10 cm) in diameter. They have smaller leaves and flowers and are often grown in small pots or dish gardens.
In addition to the two main categories of African violets (standard and miniature), there are also two main growth habits of African violets: rosette and trailing.
- Rosette African violets are the most popular type and have a rosette growth habit, meaning that the leaves grow in a circular pattern around the center of the plant. They are typically wider than they are tall and are often used in dish gardens or as standalone plants.
They tend to grow their leaves in clusters making a circular design similar to a rose. It has a set of roots that form a single crown. Once the Rosette African Violets have more crowns developed, they can be separated into single crowns with their own set of roots.
- Trailing African violets have a trailing growth habit, meaning that the leaves and stems of the plant will grow long and cascading, making them ideal for hanging baskets or for growing on a windowsill.
Trailing African Violets are very rarely known. They develop multiple crowns with one root system. Their numerous stalks each have leaves that sprout out in a circular fashion developing in a cascading manner giving it its trailing appearance.
All African violets are similar in their growing and care requirements and can be propagated by leaf or stem cuttings, or by division. The main difference is the size and growth habit of the plant.
Popular Types of African Violet
1. Cherry Princess
This lovely assortment has an overflow of sprouts that are generally fuchsia with pieces of white around the edges of the petals. This splendid example adds tone and interest to any room.
2. Crimson Ice
As its name suggests, it is a wonderful standard assortment that has white blossoms with enormous patches of dark red. The blossoms hang out as opposed to its dim green leaves.
3. Diamond Tiffany
This African violet has lovely, unsettled sprouts. The blossoms are for the most part yellow and white with increments of green on a few external edges.
4. First Kiss Blush
This African violet has lovely, unsettled sprouts. The blossoms have a bright yellow center with soft pink petals that have sprays of purple-colored splashes.
5. High School Sweetheart
This stunning flower has yellow centers that contrast beautifully with its sensitive pink. The blooms have an appearance that seems to be a watercolor painting.
How to Care for African Violets
Let’s look at some basic care needs for your African violet plants to thrive.
Spacing And Potting
These plants require a potting mixture where water drains quickly, and the soil isn’t left too damp. The best results can be obtained through the utilization of a perlite-based mixture, loose and peat. To have the correct formation of the root system, various African Violet soil mixtures sold in the market are of very good quality.
Use a pot that is 1/3 to half the diameter of the size of the plant. The height of the pots shouldn’t be too much for root ventilation and draining of water to be sufficient. Relocate the plant to new soil and a new pot once in 12 months.
There should be enough space for the plant’s growth without contacting the nearby plants. This will allow the plant to grow in its natural shape, and this will also stop diseases and insects from easily going from one plant to another.
Any small new plants that are starting to develop on the stem must be removed so that the growth of too many plants in the pot can be prevented. This also stops one plant from growing on another.
African violets need a well-draining, sterile potting mix. This can be achieved by mixing equal parts of peat moss, perlite, and vermiculite. You can also purchase a pre-made African violet potting mix which is specifically formulated to provide the right drainage and aeration for the plant.
It’s important that the mix is sterile to avoid any fungal or bacterial diseases. It’s also important that the soil is well-draining, as African violets are susceptible to root rot if they are overwatered. It’s also important to maintain a pH level between 6 to 6.5 for African Violets.
When these plants are provided with the right amount of light they survive and remain well-nourished and plenty of flowers will bloom. During the winter season, suitable light falls through windows in the direction of West or South. In the case of the summer season windows facing the north or east direction are suitable.
Very often these plants are unable to produce flowers would be due to insufficient light. If very little light is present the leaves of these plants turn dark green and of less thickness. The stems of these plants turn very tall and weak. The plants also don’t bloom often.
African violets get an advantage from utilizing fertilizers often. Liquid fertilizers, dry fertilizers, encapsulated fertilizers as well as fertilizers having a slow release can be used. When adding dry fertilizer, make sure the soil is damp. Soluble salt formations have a quick effect on African Violets this can cause damage to the roots of the plant.
Follow the instructions given by the fertilizer manufacturers regardless of the variety of fertilizer that is going to be utilized. Be mindful of growth environments and periods of dormancy when fertilizing.
Propagating African Violets – Using Leaves
African violets can be propagated by taking leaf cuttings or by dividing the offsets (small plants that grow at the base of the mother plant).
To propagate by leaf cutting, gently twist a healthy leaf from the mother plant, making sure to include some of the stems. Allow the leaf cutting to callus over (dry out) for a day or two before inserting it into a pot filled with well-draining soil. Keep the soil moist but not waterlogged and in a warm, well-lit location.
To propagate by offset, gently remove the offsets from the mother plant and plant them in their own pot filled with well-draining soil. Water them regularly and keep them in a warm, well-lit location.
It’s important to note that it can take several weeks for roots to form and for new plants to start growing.
Growing African Violets – Using Seeds
Growing African violets from seeds can be a bit more challenging than propagating them by leaf cutting or offset, but it is possible. Here are the general steps to follow:
- Obtain African violet seeds. They can be purchased online or from a gardening store.
- Fill a seed tray or pots with well-draining, sterile seed compost or a mixture of equal parts peat moss, perlite, and vermiculite.
- Sow the seeds on top of the soil and sprinkle a very light layer of vermiculite or fine sand over the top.
- Place the tray or pots in a plastic bag or cover them with plastic wrap to create a mini greenhouse.
- Keep the soil moist but not waterlogged and place the tray or pots in a warm location (around 70-75°F) with bright, indirect light.
- Once seedlings have germinated, remove the plastic cover, and place the tray or pots in a warm, well-lit location, such as a windowsill or undergrow lights.
- When seedlings are large enough to handle, transplant them into individual pots filled with well-draining potting soil.
It’s important to note that it can take several weeks for African violet seeds to germinate, and it can take a few months for seedlings to mature enough to be transplanted.
Frequently Asked Questions About African Violets
African violets prefer bright, indirect light. Direct sunlight can scorch the leaves and cause the flowers to fade. A north or east-facing windowsill is ideal, or you can place them near a south or west-facing window with sheer curtains to filter the sunlight.
African violets prefer to be kept evenly moist, but not waterlogged. Water them when the top inch of soil is dry. The best way to water is to use room-temperature water and water from the bottom by setting the pot in a tray of water. Allow the water to be absorbed through the drainage hole then discard the excess water.
Yellow leaves and leaf drop can be caused by over-watering or under-watering, as well as a lack of humidity or too much direct sunlight. Check the soil moisture and make sure you are watering your African violet correctly.
Brown and falling-off flowers can be caused by a lack of humidity, low temperatures, or too much direct sunlight. Make sure your African violet is getting the right amount of humidity and light and keep it away from drafty areas.
African violets can be fertilized every 2-4 weeks with a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer. Dilute the fertilizer to half the recommended strength and use it to water the plant.
African Violets are the ideal choice to be grown indoors not just because they are easy-to-grow houseplants, but being one of the world’s most hybridized plants, there would a large variety to choose from to add a touch of color and cheer to any room.
With proper care and maintenance, African violets can bloom throughout the year, providing a continuous display of vibrant flowers. As seen, propagating African violets is relatively simple and it can be a fun hobby. Taking all these facts, it seems that African violets are a great addition to any indoor garden, and they are definitely worth growing.