How do I Care for an African Violet?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

The African violet, which is native to Tanzania, is often better known as a lovely houseplant. It tends to prosper best indoors because it thrives in temperatures similar to those most people set in their homes. It’s also attractive because of its tiny violet flowers that may come in a variety of colors, and there are many of these plants to choose from for indoor growing since over 2000 cultivars of the plant exist. Most popular types tend to feature white, pink, or purple blooms.

The African violet is native to Tanzania.
The African violet is native to Tanzania.

One thing that may stop people from purchasing an African violet is that they have a known reputation for being somewhat temperamental and difficult to grow inside. Yet people can successfully grow African violets and keep their plants beautifully healthy and blooming with a little extra care. There are several things these plants will require, which home gardeners should bear in mind, which include special temperature, access to light, plenty of water, feeding, and potting procedure.

Best temperatures for the African violet are between 62-72 degrees F (16.67-22.22 degrees C). People who are able to control home temperature can set thermostats for 62 degrees at night and 72 degrees during the day. Some slight variation in these temperatures is permitted, but the plants may perform better when temperature remains within these standards. Some gardening books suggest slightly higher temperatures, recommending 78 degrees F (25.56 C) during the daytime and 68 degrees F (20 C) at night. Most people can be free from worry if they keep their home heated at about 68-70 degrees F (20-21.11 C)

African violets require light, and care should be given as to where to place them in the home. Putting them in a window that faces east gives them morning sunlight that isn’t usually too warm. A window that receives afternoon sunlight that is slightly filtered is also acceptable, especially if the window is double paned. Some people can get fairly elaborate on this issue and put the plants under special plant lights, but this isn’t necessary unless a home doesn’t receive much sunlight.

Watering is extremely important to the African violet. Soil should not be allowed to dry and harden. Most gardening books recommend watering the plants when the soil is still moist on the top, but not soaking wet. This should mean most plants will require water every one to two days, or at least should be checked each day.

These pretty plants will also perform better if they are fed regularly. They need plant food that contains potassium, phosphorous and nitrogen. Special African violet plant foods do exist, which may be the best choice, but any plant food with these chemicals is likely to be a good substitute. There are differences in recommendations on feeding, but most suggest that the plants get fed every three months.

Another issue in caring for African violets is how long to keep them in pots prior to repotting. Actually, the plants will bloom more if they’re a little crowded or rootbound. However, if the violets stop blooming or the plant looks unwell, it may be too crowded. A good indication that a plant could use a larger pot is when the whole pot is filled with the African violet foliage.

For enthusiasts who would like to grow many of these plants, there are wonderful books on African violets. They can feature information about history and variety in addition to discussing specialized plant care. Most people don’t require a book to grow and care for a single plant.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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