African violets are a favorite flowering house plant. They are easily propagated from a leaf cutting, they bloom continually all year, and they are available in many flower colors and forms.
To grow African violets, you must provide the proper amount of light, otherwise the leaf blades will become thin, and the stalks elongated. The plants often will retain normal color even when they don't get enough light, but they will rarely bloom. When the light is too bright, growth slows and leaves become pale or yellowish green. Leaves are often darker when they are shaded by other leaves and cause flowering to continue at a decreased rate. Eastern and northern exposures provide ideal light conditions, but filtered light in south or west windows also is acceptable. In addition, African violets grow well under artificial light.
Night-time temperatures for African violets should be between 65 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit, and day-time temperatures should be between 75 to 85 degrees. At low temperatures, the leaves on the plants turn dark, appear water-soaked, and eventually die. Plants grown on a window sill can be easily damaged by low temperature conditions, and may freeze if they touch the glass.
When repotting African violets, use potting soils specifically blended for these plants. As a general rule, water African violets only when the soil surface feels dry. Never wait until the soil becomes hard or the plants begin to wilt. Apply enough water each time to thoroughly saturate the soil, and be sure to discard any excess water collected through the bottom of the pot. To prevent spotting, avoid splashing cold water on the leaves.
Most water-soluble house-plant fertilizers are suitable for African violets. Apply fertilizer according to the manufacturer's recommendations, or use your best judgment based on personal experience. As a general rule, plants should be fertilized every four to six weeks. If the leaves become pale green and the plant begins producing fewer and smaller flowers, it's time to fertilize.
To propagate African violets, cut off a young leaf with its stalk and immerse the stalk in warm water. New roots will arise from the stalk and can be planted immediately.
Do you have a question? Try Ask an Expert!
Updated Tuesday, July 22, 2014