Gardening > African Violet

African Violet

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If properly looked after African Violets (or Saintpaulia) can produce very pretty flowers. A little care can make the difference between a few wilting leaves and an exotic show of blooms. A favourite house plant, the African Violet, comes from the tropics. It is not actually a violet but is distantly related to gloxinia. It has a reputation for being a difficult plant to grow so here are a few tips to ensure success.

The African Violet needs plenty of light and its ability to bloom can be impaired in a north facing window. It likes some sunlight but needs to be protected from hot midday sun. Fluorescent lights are best for African Violets.

The plant can tolerate an unheated room but if the temperature drops below 15 degrees C. during the day or below 10 degrees C. at night the leaves will curl under.

Gas fumes are damaging to the plant as are draughts so move the African Violet away from the windowsill on a very cold night and keep it out of direct draughts from all sources. Cold or uneven temperatures can kill these plants.

Because they are tropical African Violets love humidity. Some growers use moss as a damp mulch and keep the plants damp with frequent misting with water. a steam bath is much appreciated by the African Violet. This can be achieved by filling a large bowl with steaming hot water and then placing a smaller bowl in the water. The plant pot can then be placed in the smaller bowl. The hot water must not touch the soil or plant pot but the plant will enjoy the steam. (This treatment can sometimes revive a stressed cyclamen or azalea).



African Violets should be watered in the early morning during the summer and at midday during the winter. The water is best slightly warmer than the temperature of the room. Cold water can cause leaf spot and extremely cold water can kill. It is acceptable to water from the top but a fine spout must be used to avoid getting the crown of the plant wet as this can lead to stem rot. Some growers water alternately from the top and bottom in the hope that this will keep the level of moisture uniform throughout the pot.

These plants do not like to be in an over-large pot so there is no need to worry too much about them being pot-bound. They do not flower constantly but take a rest from time to time so do not always assume that a lack of bloom means there is a problem.

How to propagate African Violets by leaf:


- Cut the stem of a leaf with a sharp knife.
- Plant in a well-drained pot of vermiculite.
- Put the pot in a plastic bag or propagator.
- Immerse the pot in tepid water now and again.
- Do not allow the vermiculite to dry out.
- The leaf should put out roots after about 5 weeks.
- Pot up in rich compost a week after the roots start to appear.
- After a few weeks new leaves will appear.
- These will develop into plantlets.
- When the plantlets are big enough to handle they can be eased away from the leaf and re-potted.
- The original leaf can be used again in the same way.