How To Grow African Violets
Crave color? African violets boast real flower power.
In the world of houseplants, African violets are true starlets—but without a diva personality. These easy-growing bloomers toss open blossoms in an array of colors and forms, all the while making few demands. No matter your design style, there’s an African violet to suit. With the right growing conditions, this plant can flower without ceasing. Learn what you need to know to help this beauty thrive.
The secret to non-stop blooms is abundant light. African violets need a bright window that receives sun most of the day (think west- or south-facing window). Protect from the brightest, hottest sun with a sheer curtain or shade, especially from spring to fall. In winter, full sun shouldn’t hurt violets.
The way to test if your African violets are receiving the right amount of light is easy. During the time of day when sunlight is strongest, hold your hand over and slightly above the plant. If the light is ideal, you should barely see the shadow of your hand. If the shadow is dark, adjust curtains to reduce the light level. If there’s no shadow, you need brighter light.
African violets respond well when grown under lights—grow lights or cool white fluorescent tubes. Place lights 10 to 16 inches above plants for standard size violets and 6 to 10 inches for miniatures. Light plants no more than 16 hours per day. African violets need at least eight hours of darkness daily to produce flower buds.
For best growth, keep soil moist but not soggy. Use room temperature water, applying it directly to soil or setting pots in shallow water for 30 minutes. African violets are very susceptible to overwatering. Growing plants in clay pots can help reduce moisture in the root zone as water evaporates through the pot sides.
African violets are native to the Usambara Mountains in Tanzania, where air humidity is typically 70 to 80 percent. In the average home, relative humidity runs much lower, especially in winter when it often drops to 40 percent. Raise humidity around violets by grouping plants or running a humidifier. Another option is to sit plants on trays of pebbles filled with water that’s kept just below the tops of the rocks.
Generally speaking, African violets grow well in an environment where you’re comfortable. For best flowering, their ideal temperature is 70°F, but these plants grow in a range from 60° to 80°F.