This article was co-authored by Maggie Moran. Maggie Moran is a Professional Gardener in Pennsylvania.
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African violets are a group of flowering perennial plants that are native to Tanzania, Kenya, and other areas of East Africa. Growing these violets at home is quite easy, but they need the right medium, nutrients, and environment to thrive. But as long as they get everything they require, African violets will bloom their beautiful purple flowers all year long, bringing a bit of summer to your home even in colder months.
Part 1Part 1 of 3:Propagating African Violets Download Article
- 1Grow a new plant in water from a leaf. The most common way to grow new African violets is to propagate them from the leaves of existing plants. Once you do this, you can sprout the cutting in water. To propagate a new African violet in water, you'll need a sterilized cutting tool, a thin-necked bottle (such as a sterilized beer bottle), and a plastic bag or wrap.
- Select a large and healthy leaf from a healthy African violet.
- Include 2 inches (5 cm) of stem and cut the leaf from the plant on a 45-degree angle. The cut side of the angle should be on the top of the leaf.
- Fill the bottle with lukewarm water.
- Place the stem of the leaf into the neck of the bottle, so that the stem is in water and the leaf is resting above the rim.
- Cover the leaf and top of the bottle loosely with plastic to help keep in the humidity.
- Place the leaf somewhere warm that gets lots of filtered light.
- Add more water as necessary to keep the stem submerged.
- Over the next several weeks, the cutting will begin to sprout baby African violets.
- 2Plant a leaf right in the soil. Alternatively, you can also plant that same cutting directly into soil rather than sprouting it in water. To do this you'll need your healthy leaf and 2 inches (5 cm) of stem cut from a healthy violet, a small pot of clear plastic, potting soil, and a plastic cover or wrap.XTrustworthy SourceUniversity of Georgia Cooperative ExtensionDivision of the University of Georgia focused on research and community educationGo to source
- Fill the pot with loose potting soil.
- Press the cut stem a half-inch (1.3 cm) into the soil.
- Cover the top of the pot with a clear plastic cover or wrap.
- Place the cutting somewhere warm where it will get lots of filtered sun.
- You probably won’t need to water as long as the plastic keeps in the moisture.
- 3Grow them from seeds. One way to grow African violets is to start them from seed, though this is less common than propagating the plants from cuttings. To grow African violets from seeds, you'll need seed starters, a plastic cover or wrap, a spray bottle, growing lights, and a medium suitable for African violets, such as milled coconut and perlite or pasteurized peat moss.
- Water the medium and allow it to dry out so it’s moist.
- Fill the seed starters with medium.
- Spray the top of the medium with water.
- Sprinkle a few seeds into the top of each starter cell.
- Cover the top of the cells with plastic.
- Place the seed starters 10 inches (25 cm) below the grow lights.
- Provide the seeds with 12 to 14 hours of light per day.
- If the environment stays humid thanks to the plastic wrap, you won’t need to water.
Part 2Part 2 of 3:Transplanting Young African Violets Download Article
- 1Determine the right time to transplant. Seedlings should reach a certain size before they're transplanted, but plants sprouted from cuttings will be ready to transplant after a certain amount of time.
- For seedlings, wait until the seedlings have leaves that reach 2 inches (5 cm) in width.
- For cuttings, the babies should be ready in about eight to 10 weeks, once new leaves are roughly the size of a dime.
- 2Choose the right soil. African violets grow best in a slightly acidic medium that has a pH between 6.4 and 6.9. Because the medium must be loose, well-draining, and allow for free root development, African violets are not often grown in soil.
- Most garden and home stores will sell a medium specifically designed for African violets.
- You can also make your own African violet mix by combining equal parts perlite, vermiculite, and peat moss.XResearch source
- 3Select the right pot. Because African violets are grown indoors, choosing the right pot is like choosing the right home for your plants. These plants grow best in pots that are sized for their root systems. Don’t put your plant in a pot that’s too large, otherwise it may not bloom.XResearch source
- A good rule of thumb is to put your violet in a pot that’s one-third the size of the plant itself, because this will match the size of the root system.
- For the current size of your seedlings or babies, a 2-inch (5-cm) pot will probably be sufficient.
- You can use either plastic or terracotta pots for your violets. Plastic pots require less watering, but terracotta pots provide more air flow.
- 4Separate plants grown from cuttings. When you propagate violets by cuttings, you could have as many as 15 babies grow from a single parent. These must be separated before they're planted. Gently turn the cutting, along with all the soil, out onto a newspaper or table. Carefully remove the soil with your fingers to reveal the cut stem and all the babies.
- To distinguish one baby from another, look for small clusters of leaves that are attached to the parent.
- When you’ve located all the babies, carefully trim each one from the parent using a sterilized cutting tool.
- 5Transplant the violets. Fill your small pots with your African violet medium. Leave the medium loose, and don’t pack it down. With the tip of your pinky finger or a pencil, make a half-inch (1.3 cm) indentation in the soil at the center of each pot.
- Gently place each seedling or baby plant into the hole in the soil. Make sure all the leaves and stems are above the soil.
- Loosely cover the roots with extra medium.
- 6Water the plants and store them somewhere warm and humid. Add some water to each pot so that the medium is moist. Place the pots with the new plants in a location that’s warm, gets lots of indirect sun, and that’s humid.
- If you don’t have a humid location available, set up a humidifier where the plants are growing.
Part 3Part 3 of 3:Caring for African Violets Download Article
- 1Water the plants when the soil feels dry. African violets thrive best when their soil is somewhere between dry and moist, so give them water when the soil starts feeling dry to the touch. Over or underwatering the violets could prevent the plant from blooming.
- Use room temperature water rather than cold water, otherwise you could chill the roots. If this happens, the leaves or flowers may start to curl.
- Don’t get water on the leaves or flowers, as this can lead to rings or spots forming on the plant.XResearch source If you get water on the leaves or flowers, gently dry the area with an absorbent towel.
- 2Provide plenty of bright but indirect light. African violets need lots of light, and they won’t flower if they don’t get enough sun. However, they will scorch easily in direct sunlight, so their placement in the house is very important.
- In winter, the plants will do best near a window that faces south or west in the Northern Hemisphere, or north or east in the Southern Hemisphere.XTrustworthy SourceUniversity of Georgia Cooperative ExtensionDivision of the University of Georgia focused on research and community educationGo to source
- In summer, the plants will be better near a window that faces north or east in the Northern Hemisphere, or south or west in the Southern Hemisphere.
- To provide bright and indirect sunlight, provide shade by placing the plants behind lightweight curtains.
- 3Feed them fertilizer. These plants need lots of nutrients to continue producing flowers year-round, and the best way to ensure they get what they need is to provide them with fertilizer.
- There are specific fertilizers available for African violets, but the important thing is to provide them with balanced nutrients.
- A good fertilizer would be a 20-20-20, which means it has equal quantities of nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium.XResearch source
- Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for feeding the violets.
- 4Monitor the temperature. The best temperature range for African violets is between 65 and 75 F (18 and 24 C). Keep them in an area where you can maintain this temperature, and keep them away from drafts and other things that could cause sudden temperature fluctuations.XResearch source
- Anything below 50 F (10 C) will almost certainly kill the plant.
- 5Maintain the humidity. The ideal humidity level for African violets is between 40 and 60 percent. You can monitor this with a hygrometer. To add more humidity to the air, consider installing a portable humidifier in the room where the violets are kept.
- Violets that don’t get enough humidity will grow slowly, and while they will produce flower buds, they likely won’t bloom.XResearch source
- 6Repot the plants every year. Because African violets thrive in small pots, it’s important to repot them regularly to keep up with their growth. When you repot, make sure you use new soil, and a pot that’s one size larger than the pot they're currently in.Advertisement
Community Q&A Did you know you can get expert answers for this article?Unlock expert answers by supporting wikiHow
- QuestionDo African violets need direct sunlight?
- QuestionHow long do flowers last on an African violet?How long the flowers last depend on a variety of factors. The varieties that have thick petals and flowers that are tinged with green tend to bloom longer. You can also make blooms last longer by keeping your plant in high humidity and cool temperatures. Removing dead petals can be beneficial as they can shorten the life of adjacent petals. With good, consistent light and proper care, most modern breeds of African violet will bloom almost indefinitely.
- QuestionHow often do you water African violets?Be extremely cautious when watering your African violets, its very easy to kill them by overwatering them. A great option to monitor the amount of watering you are doing is to use a specialized African violet pot. This pot is specifically designed to keep the violets evenly moist by filling the lower portion of the two part pot with water, then placing the flower in the top portion. Allow the plant to soak in the water for about an hour then be sure to drain any unused water. Only water when the soil is dry to the touch. Do not mist the leaves.
- QuestionWhat can cause an entire Violet plant to wilt?Community AnswerMany things: too much or not enough water, overfertilization, stem damage, too much or not enough sun, or inhospitable temperatures.
- QuestionWhat should I do when there are too many leaves?Community AnswerThey can be pruned off, just make sure that you cut the leaf off at the stem.
- QuestionWhat can I do about this powder that's forming on my violet flowers as they age?Community AnswerThis is most likely powdery mildew or some other form of mildew. It's caused by combination of high humidity and a lack of circulating air. Remove affected leaves and blooms. To prevent powdery mildew, don't get water on the leaves and blooms, improve the circulation around the plant, only water in the morning, and make sure the plant gets lots of filtered sunlight.
- QuestionThe leaves on my African violet look great, but the flowers and buds have shriveled up. I have followed your directions for watering, temperature, and sun exposure. What should I do?Community AnswerIt sounds like your plants still aren't getting enough light (12 hours/day of natural, fluorescent, or LED light), or your plants are not being fertilized properly. I would recommend playing around with your fertilizer to find one that your plants like as that's more likely to be the issue if you've already adjusted the light.
- QuestionHow do I start an African violet plant?Community AnswerThey are most easily grown from a leaf cutting. If you place the leaf in a pot of moist soil and loosely cover it with a little tent of Saran Wrap (toothpicks work well to hold it up), the leaf should send out roots and start a new plant. My grandmother grew a huge collection this way.
- QuestionCan I grow African violets outside?Community AnswerAfrican violets are tropical plants that require humidity, the right light, and the right temperature to grow. Because of this, they typically will not survive as outdoor plants in non-tropical climates. However, if you live in a tropical country that would be similar to the natural climate that African violets are used to, you can certainly try to plant them outdoors.
About This Article
To grow African violets, start them from seed or plant a leaf from a mature African violet. When you plant your violets, use a well-draining soil that's slightly acidic and choose small pots. Then, put your plants in a warm, humid spot that gets lots of indirect sunlight. You'll need to water your violets whenever the soil they're planted in is dry, and it's also a good idea to feed them a balanced fertilizer so they continue to flower every year. Once a year, repot your African violets so their roots have more room to grow. To learn more from our Horticulturist co-author, like how to transplant your seedlings to another container, keep reading the article!
Reader Success Stories
- "I grew African violets in Germany years ago and basically forgot that they were so easy to grow. I used to grow the ones that looked like porcelain and grew at least a dozen plants from each plant I had. Just started again for my father-in-law's church."..." more