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African Violets - How to Grow and Care For Saintpaulia Ionantha

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by Max - last update on December 29, 2018, 8:20 pm
African Violet

Some people shy away from growing the African Violet because of its quirkiness. While this is true to some extent, learning about how to take care of them can remove this intimidation quickly enough.

The fact that they take little indoor space and you can grow them in a little pot for a showy display makes it even more appealing to adopt the SaintPaulia Ionantha.

In this article, you’ll learn how to take care of this houseplant and the possible problems you may face along the way and how to solve them.

Quick Facts about the African Violet

OriginEastern Africa
NamesSaintPaulia ionantha, African Violets, Streptocarpus
Maximum GrowthFor the large African Violet, it can grow as much as 16” in diameter. The smaller ones will grow 3” in diameter
FertilizerYou don’t need a lot of fertilizer for the Saintpaulia except when it isn’t blooming or stopped growing outright. Also, ensure you use the appropriate fertilizer for this plant. Don’t over-fertilizing it and make sure you follow the instructions on the label for the best results
Poisonous forAccording to the National Poison Center (NCPC), the African Violet is a non-poisonous plant. Also, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) also affirmed that this houseplant is not toxic to dogs, cats, or other smaller animals adopted in the home
LightTo grow well, this houseplant needs a lot of bright, indirect sunlight. A wholesome amount of this ensures the plant maintains good health as well as helps it get the right amount of photosynthesis needed for continuous survival. If you can get this plant on a windowsill facing west or east, the better for the African Violet.
WaterTaking care of an African Violet requires the use of different watering techniques because of their fussiness. Unlike others like the peace lily, this plant is choosy, so you have to ensure you are providing the right water. In addition, you should keep the soil moist, but not soggy. When supplying water, you can place the dish in a water container for the plant to soak up water but don’t let water get onto the leaves.
TemperatureThe reason this plant thrives well in homes is that of the fact that they like the temperature that people feel safe in. Common indoor temperature above 65o F and below 75o F is what the African Violet needs to survive
SoilIt’s important to have the right mix for your plant, usually with peat moss, vermiculite, and perlite. When you buy the soil designed for this plant, you should read the label to ensure it’s what your plant needs.
HumidityThis plant requires high levels of humidity, so if your home has low humidity, you should try increasing the humidity around your plant. What some people do is place pot on a tray of pebbles and keeps the pebbles moist. This works well in increasing the humidity around the plant
PropagationIf you see your plant is sprouting newer crowns in groups, it might be time to propagate. Usually, when African Violets grow too big, they’ll grow newer crowns that’ll be under the mother plant and ready for separation. Separating the new crowns from the original plant will keep the original healthy and blooming.
PestsAfrican Violets are prone to pests like the mealybugs, thrips, cyclamen mites

Description of the African Violets

Native to East African, the African Violet is another pleasant houseplant that people tend to keep like the peace lily.

They are small and easy to grow and have this clusters of blue, white (and mostly) purple flowers over hairy leaves. While might bloom with low light, the best growing light condition for them is bright, indirect sunlight.

African Violets are quite finicky too, so you have your work cut out for you when it comes to taking care of them. Much like the peace lily, they are easy to grow (for both beginners and seasoned growers), resilient and liked for their striking resemblance to violets. They’re a joy to look at with their elegant petal that’s usually and fuzzy appearance.

African Violets grow in a width of 2 inches to 12 inches and a height of 2 inches to 6 inches, though some can be wider. Like most houseplants, their lifespan depends on how much care they receive.

While they are among widely adopted houseplants, their numbers are dwindling due to the mistakes growers make when growing them, usually causing their death.

Learning all the important tips in this article is what you need to nurture this beautiful plant if you’re in it for the long hurl.

African Violet Variations

African Violets are divided into major groups based on their types. This includes:

The Rosette African Violets

Rosette African Violet

This type often grows one or two dense stems with heavy internodes and is short in size as well. Their leaves grow to the soil surface but with tight clusters at the base of the plant. They keep their blooms in the center with up to 5 regular cortexes.

Trailing African Violets

Trailing African Violet
Credit: Ladylong

These types do have multiple stems from the same root, which gives them a striking difference to the rosette. They also have multiple crowns and grow slanted such that you’d think they’re after light. Their cascading growth gives rise to their trailing characteristics, from where their name is taken from.

African Violets Plant Care Instruction


The best temperature for the African Violet is between 65-80o F. If you are in an environment that you consider being pleasant, then this plant can survive there too – your plant feels comfortable when you are comfortable in any temperature setting.

However, to create a comfortable atmosphere for your plant, you should get the temperature close to 70o F but never below 600 F or above 80o F. While heat can negatively affect the African Violet, they can be suffocated by cold temperature.

If you mistakenly expose it to cold temperature, the best action is to move it where there is a warm temperature. You can remove any leave or tissue that’s been affected by the wintry temperature (usually dark and soggy in appearance).


Because African Violets are picky about water, you need to take extra care when wetting them. When watering the plant, you should do it at the base of the plant.

This is because the foliage of the African Violet is not friendly to water, so a drop can damage it or cause foliar spots to occur. Also, the water should be tepid and be preserved for about 2 days before you wet the plant with it.

You should also learn to identify when the plant needs to be watered. Usually, this is when the soil begins to dry out such that it feels less wet to the hand. This is why it is important to watch out for this so that the soil doesn’t completely dry out before you water it.

To encourage blooming, you should allow the soil around the root to dry out before another wetting. However, you should do so in such a way that water doesn’t reach the leaves because that may lead to spotting damage.


African Violets thrive in areas that have lots of indirect sunlight. However, you may have to keep your plant away from direct sunlight rays, for instance, by keeping it by a bright window ledge.

Another important thing to note is that the plant doesn’t always need 24 hours of light to bloom. This means they’ll still need a few hours out of light, and the best time is when you sleep.

If you are nurturing in an area that doesn’t have a lot of bright light as described above, you can opt for grow lights that cover both the red and blue spectrums. If you are growing the standard African Violet, it helps to mount the light 1 ½ ft. above the plant.

Test for how much heat from the light is reaching the plant by placing your hand between the plant and the light. If you’re not comfortable, then the lighting source is too close and should be moved back a bit in order not to burn the leaves.


When selecting the soil for your go with those that are quick draining as this will allow the plant to get optimal nutrient for its growth.

Some people use one part vermiculite with the African V soil mix, which is a good one and you can find it in your local store for cheap.

Some soils, like the one mentioned above, are specifically designed for the African Violet, but you can make your own. If you decide to go this way, then people have found a mixture of half ordinary potting soil, half peat moss and half perlite to work well.


You can use the fertilizer at every watering or when you see the leaf color on the plant changing to pale. In this case, the plant is not getting enough fertilizer to support the leaves.

Some gardeners recommend using a mix of one-quarter strength for the African Violet which is to be served at about 3 to 4 weeks. What’s more important is checking and following the directions on the fertilizer you are using, which is most likely stated on the label.

Some gardeners also recommend the Schultz African Violet Plus with an analysis of 8-14-9 for those who are just starting out and cannot make their fertilizer. 


Humidity is very important when it comes to caring for a houseplant. In the case of an African Violet, the optimal humidity is 70o F and generally anything above 60o F and below 80o F.

When kept in a setting with low humidity, African Violets start to grow wrinkled, dry leaves. Aside from that, the flower buds may not open and look the same way.

This may be caused by a low humidity too, so it’s important to check the humidity if you see that. In any of this case, you should change the present environment or improve the humidity around the area your plant lives.

Repotting Your African Violet

If possible, repot your African Violet regularly – some gardeners advocate doing this once a year or two. To new growers, repotting an African Violet may look like a daunting task or something that may hurt their plant.

However, this is a good thing for the plant since it’ll help it grow and have a long life.

People who avoid repotting often end up with a plant that lives a short and tough life. So how do you do this?

The first thing you do when repotting is to remove the plant. Grasp it from the base – with your hands on the lowest leaves – and pull out gently. Don’t tug the plant forcefully since it can hurt it, which is why you need to be patient and not give up.

Once it’s out, scrub out any soil on the root until the root is spotless. Remove the old/damaged leaves – they are easy to spot with their color against other fresh, new leaves.

Once all the bad leaves are gone, be ready to remove all the flowers. Usually, African Violets will expand efforts into developing and maintaining flowers, but this might counter the proper growth of the leaves/roots.

After that, do general sanitation of the plant, so you have something healthy to work with. If the old mix is still good, then use it for the repotting otherwise get a new mix into the pot and place the plant in its pot.

Common Problems & Pests

Common pests that attack African Violets are the Cyclamen mites, thrips, and the Mealybugs of this world. When your plant suffers from the Cyclamen mites, for example, you may have no choice than to grow out the affected plant. The reason is that it’s often tricky to treat that kind of plant.

For the Mealybugs, it’s also difficult to get rid of them because they stay in the fork of the crowns, so the best way is to look for a healthy leave, cut it out and dispose of the mother plant.

When the Thrips infest the plant, you can use the same treatment like that of the Mealybugs. If you want to go further, you can try your luck with insecticidal soap.

But how do you work against these pests so that your plant doesn’t get infected?

You should avoid keeping the soil too damp or give way for too much organic matter to develop.

Any of these can cause springtails to rise on the plant. If you notice this, allow the soil to dry out and reduce the watering frequency along with allowing some time between each watering session. Let the soil dry properly before wetting again.

And finally, your best bet is to throw out the infected plant if there is root or stem rot.


Blue African Violets

What Can You Do When the Stems Are Too Long?

If you can keep the foliage clean and dry, provide the appropriate amount of fertilizer to the plant and re-pot it every once a year, you can see a good timeline of growth with your African Violet.

It’s recommended to use a slightly bigger pot and cut away dead leaves from the base of the original plant. Take the stems and bury them deeper than before when repotting. What this does, is to prevent uncontrolled growth of the long neck.

If your plant has up to an inch of bare stem, you can remove it and cut out the damaged/dead foliage at the bottom. Then remove and scrub the top layer of the bare stem. This will expose the cambium layer, thus promoting growth.

Why Is My African Violet Not Blooming?

If there is too little light going to your plant, blooming is likely to be interrupted. Remember you should place your plant where there is bright, indirect sunlight.

When there is little of this reaching the plant, it’ll stretch to reach for the light. This dissipates the energy of the plant; thus it becomes weak to develop new flowers.

Also, you should ensure they are not exposed to direct sunlight in that it can char the leaves and flowers. The best area is an East facing window where you can use a curtain to block the rays from the sun.

How Often Should I Water My African Violet?

You should water your plant when the top of the soil feels parched to the touch. Also, it’s important to allow the plant to dry between each watering to give the plant breathing space to bloom and grow properly.

Finally, when you are watering, ensure you’re not over-watering the plant because they can be stuffed and this can kill them. The fine roots of the plant won’t be able to get enough air (that it needs) when the soil is soaked wet.

Can You Split Your African Violet?

Yes, you can. This is done by propagating, and that’s the proper name. Most plants like this will develop multiple crowns and at a stage will overgrow their container, which makes it essential to split them so as to continue the healthy growth line.

You can split some of the crowns – three or more is sufficient – from the original plant and propagate new plants, through a process called division. This kind of propagation is the one that helps create mature plants and is often better than other methods since it’s easier.


The best thing about the African Violet is that you can easily start a new plant from just one healthy leaf. And as long as you don’t over-water or over-fertilize them, they’ll grow healthily.

Once you take good care of an African Violet, it’ll reward you by sprouting new crowns that you can propagate and start the process all over.

African Violets - How to Grow and Care For Saintpaulia Ionantha

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