July 17, 2008
African Violets are stunning tropical plants whose flowers resemble violets in color and shape. Their cheerful flowers perched just above a neat rosette of dark-green, fuzzy leaves may bloom constantly throughout the year.
There are thousands of cultivars, which provide a palette of flower colors that include lavenders, blues, pinks, reds, and white. Some blooms combine two or more colors and may be single or double. The leaves are either smooth or wavy and sometimes are variegated. In addition to standard varieties, there are miniature African violets and trailing forms that can be grown in hanging pots.
Beginning growers sometimes have trouble getting African violets to flower. This is because the plants are really fussy about growing conditions.
- For maximum blooms, they demand ten to 14 hours of bright but indirect light per day and an eight-hour rest period in darkness.
- West- or south-facing windows offer the best light in winter, and windows that look north or east are preferred in summer.
- African violets thrive best with daytime temperatures between 70° and 80° F and nighttime temperatures near 65° F.
- Avoid overwatering; water just enough so that the soil is uniformly moist but not saturated. Use tepid or room temperature water; cold water can damage the root system and will cause spotting if spilled on leaves.
- Too little or too much fertilizer can result in a lack of blossoms. Use an African violet food to ensure the right proportions of nutrients. Experienced growers use a diluted solution of fertilizer with each watering.
African violets need to be repotted about once a year, but they can be persnickety about this, too. They prefer to be a bit potbound, so use a new pot that is only slightly larger than the old one. Remove about one-third of the old soil and replace it with a commercial African violet potting mix. Make sure that the crown of the plant is just above the soil line. Water thoroughly and the job is complete.
African violets really are easy to grow as long as you care for them on their own terms. When rewarded with a windowsill full of beautiful, blooming plants, you’ll know that they were certainly worth all of the fuss.