Caring for African Violets

Caring for African Violets
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African violets (Saintpaulia ionantha) have a reputation of being hard to grow, but if you can meet a few requirements they will last for years and become one of your favorite plants.
HEAT AND LIGHT: They need a temperature between 60 and 80 degrees. Anything in-between works fine, as long as it's not above or below. They need a bright light, but not the direct sun. They grow under artificial light too, which is a big plus. You can grow a little mini garden under florescent lights if you wish, or place them here and there where it's a combination of natural and artificial light. Keep the florescent light about 10-15 inches from the top of the plant. African violets need about 14 hours of light and as a general rule at least 8 hours of darkness. This doesn't have to be exact, but it gives you an idea of what they need. Also in the winter try to give them more light if possible.

WATER: I had always heard the leaves of African violets should NEVER get wet. This isn't true-they should never be placed in direct sunlight when they are damp, but you can wash the leaves with a soft brush or dip them in tepid water then allow them to dry away from sunlight. Never allow them to dry out completely-try to keep them evenly moist but not damp. However, one of mine dried out for a very short period of time, and it came back just fine after I soaked it and removed a few leaves. African violets should never be watered with water from a softener, or water with a large amount of chlorine. You can use spring water from the store, or let tap water sit out overnight before watering. Watering from the bottom is fine-it's a good practice to keep the crown of the plant from getting wet on a regular basis. But do water from the top, underneath the leaves, as well as from the bottom. Simply rotate every few times you water. Also, don't use cold water-it should be room temperature or warmer. This all does sound rather complicated, but it's really not! I keep my violets in the kitchen and bathroom which seems to do the trick for adding humidity. If your house is extra dry place them on a tray of pebbles. You can group them together to do this. MORE TIDBITS: African violets don't like a stuffy room, but at the same time keep them away from cold drafts. Each plant should have one crown-where all the leaves meet. If there is more then one you'll need to cut it away with a very sharp knife and replant it. See the picture below for the one I divided.

They like being pot bound, and for the most part standard African violets are happy in a 4 inch pot. Plastic works better than clay because the "fleshy" leaves may react to the clay after awhile. Also, don't be afraid to cut the leaves off with a sharp knife if they yellow or brown. Remove the blooms too when they start turning brown on the edges. If your African violet leaves become pale or yellow looking they may not be getting enough light. If you notice your plant is not blooming very often check each of the requirements one by one until they all are met. Chances are something is lacking and once fixed they will begin to bloom!


About The Author

Brenda Hyde is a freelance writer living on ten acres in rural Michigan with her husband and three kids. She is a mom, grandma, gardener, cook and writer. She blogs on all of these topics at


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