Growing African Violets Plants: How To Care For Saintpaulia

Are you ready to add lush greenery and vibrant colors to your home? The popular African violet is an excellent choice. These fuzzy-leaved, delicate, low-growing plants are known for their colorful violet-like blooms that can flower all year round with proper care.

The African Violet, the common name for the Saintpaulia houseplant, originates from Africa and has violet-like blossoms. Ironically, this plant is not a violet. It belongs to the Gesneriaceae family, which includes plants such as Gloxinia and Streptocarpus.

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Named after Baron von Saint Paul, who discovered the plant in 1892, the Saintpaulia was initially difficult to grow in homes.

Midway through the 1920s, a Los Angeles nursery began to develop new African violet cultivars, including Blue Boy.

Blue Boy was easy to propagate, had a more extended flowering period, and was reasonably easy to maintain, unlike previous cultivars.

The Saintpaulia plant, with its fuzzy leaves, started to appear on a larger scale for homeowners in the United States after the Great Depression, and it’s been one of the most popular houseplants ever since.

Saintpaulia houseplants are compact and low-growing. Propagation is simple and quick, and the blossoms have no defined flowering season, meaning they bloom at any time of year and for lengthy periods.

While there is one common name for Saintpaulia (African Violet), there is a wide variety of popular varieties available:

  • First Kiss Blush
  • Summer Twilight
  • Gold of Scythians
  • Shamahanskaya Queen
  • Lonestar Twilight
  • Aroma of Summer
  • Diamond Tiffany
  • Julia
  • World to Your Home 

Quick Facts On Saintpaulia

  • Family: Gesneriaceae
  • Light: Indirect sunlight
  • Temperature: 65° to 80° degrees Fahrenheit
  • Water: Let the soil dry out before watering
  • Fertilizer: Well-balanced fertilizer 14-12-14
  • Propagation: Leaf cuttings
  • Common Problems: mealybugs, spider mites, root rot, powdery mildew 

Saintpaulia African Violet Care

African violets are reliable and easy-to-grow compact, low-growing plants, making them popular common houseplants for gardeners and homeowners. Here are the basic rules to consider when growing them:

How Big Do African Violet Plants Grow?

African violets come in hundreds of different types. Plant sizes are generally classified as follows: 

  • Miniature (6″ to 8″ inches in diameter or less)
  • Semi-miniature (6″ to 8″ inches)
  • Standard (8″ to 16″ inches)
  • Giant (over 16″ inches) 
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When Do African Violets Flower? Are The Flowers Fragrant?

One of the reasons African violets are so popular is that these flowering plants bloom with a wide range of colors almost all year with proper care.

Each flower will stay 2 to 3 weeks if it is healthy. A healthy plant regularly produces fresh blossoms for 10 to 12 months.

African Violet flowers have no scent. Flower colors range from:

  • Lavender
  • White
  • Blue
  • Pink
  • Red-violet
  • Blue-violet
  • Lavender-pink
  • Red Wine

What Are The Lighting Needs And Temperature Requirements?

African violets require indirect light as direct sunlight will burn the foliage. For beautiful plants, choose an east or north window with lots of bright light.

In addition, plants need to be kept away from cold glass and rotated once a week to ensure that all leaves receive light.

When natural light is reduced or unavailable, African violets grow very well under artificial light, like a fluorescent light as its light source.

To provide sufficient light, it’s best to leave the fluorescent light fixture on and suspended about 6″ inches above them for 12 to 16 hours of light per day. Ensure the plants get adequate light and around 8 hours of darkness per day.

During the winter months, place African violets beneath a grow lamp to extend daylight. Do you summer your plants outdoors? See: How to Care for African Violets in Summer

African violets prefer temperatures between 65° and 80° degrees Fahrenheit. They won’t grow or produce their beautiful flowers well below 60° degrees or above 80° degrees Fahrenheit.

Moreover, these plants grow well in home and office environments with low humidity levels and moderate temperatures. A pebble tray with water can help increase the humidity around the plants if needed.

How And When To Water And Fertilize African Violets?

Before watering your African violet, feel the top of the soil for dryness first. If it is dry to the touch, it is time to water. 

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NOTE: Cold water on the foliage can cause leaf spots. When watering, use distilled room-temperature water and try not to wet the leaves.

For best results, Saintpaulias need to dry out between waterings, as overwatering the African Violet plant is likely to cause diseases like root rot, crown rot, or worse, death.

If container-grown, plant it in a pot with drainage holes to prevent waterlogging but keep the soil moist.

Many avid growers of Saintpaulia grow their plants in self-watering pots or wick pots that have a water reservoir. Check out: Watering African violets and Wicks

African violets require a specific amount of nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and trace minerals.

For African violet fertilizer, the recommended ratio is 14-12-14. Check your local garden center for available commercial liquid fertilizer formulas.

Some growers use urea as a nitrogen source. While urea is generally less expensive than alternative nitrogen sources, it is known to induce root burn.

Burned roots reduce an African Violet’s ability to absorb water and nutrients effectively.

Pale leaves and reduced flowering are the most visible indicators of this.

Always follow the directions provided with your fertilizer to avoid overfertilizing and the problems that come with it.

Drenching the soil every 3 months helps removes any excess fertilizer salts accumulated in the soil while restoring the right element balance the plants need.

What Is The Best African Violet Soil, And When Should You Transplant?

Ironically, a suitable potting soil for Saintpaulia contains almost no soil. Good potting soil is light and porous. The main component of this African violet potting mix is sphagnum peat moss.

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Many experienced enthusiasts recommend repotting with fresh potting soil at least twice a year.

As a rule of thumb, an African Violet should be repotted at the very least when it gets rootbound. This means it has outgrown its current container to the point where its roots grow out and around the root ball.

Repotting into a larger pot is known as stepping up, and it is relatively simple and quick.

You may wish to bag it once you’ve finished repotting. Many growers recommend it, claiming that the higher humidity aids the recovery of African Violets from transplant shock. More on transplanting African violets.

Here’s what you need to do:

  • Place the African Violet in a clear plastic bag large enough to hold the plant without injuring the green leaves or stems.
  • Don’t forget to brush the root ball clean.
  • Remove the Violet from the bag after one week.
  • Then, resume your regular watering and fertilization routine.

Tips and Secrets From Avid African Violet Collectors

Growing African violets have become a hobby for many.

Does Saintpaulia Need Special Grooming Or Maintenance?

When caring for your plants, keep an eye out for elongated stems, a sign of a lack of light.

Wipe away any water that has dripped on the leaves, including any variegated leaves, after watering.

Gently wiping away excess water on a healthy leaf fulfills many functions:

  • Dissolved minerals from the water will leave a powdery substance on your leaves
  • Water droplets on the leaves can cause brown spots
  • Excessive moisture causes fungus 

If you’re concerned with the shape of your African Violet plant, remove suckers (baby plants) accordingly.

Otherwise, use a sharp knife to remove dead or injured African violet leaves.

Lastly, look for insects, bugs, or issues with leaves or blooms.

Getting Started With African Violets

How To Propagate African Violets?

African Violets are one of the easiest plants to propagate. Read our article on propagating African violets.

Rooted leaf cuttings of African violets in small white potsPin

Here’s what to do:

  • Remove a mature leaf and the top 1/3 leaf stem from a parent plant with a sharp knife.
  • Cut the stem at a 45-degree angle to about a 1/2″ inch length.
  • Put the leaf stem into a small pot filled with a moist soil potting mix of peat moss and vermiculite.
  • Place it in a covered container or a clear plastic wrap or bag.
  • Place the covered small pot with excellent drainage in a bright place with indirect sun.
  • Although you can pull plantlets in 12 weeks, wait four to five months for the best and heartiest growth.

At this point, separate the plantlets from the central leaf. (Don’t worry if it doesn’t appear like the plantlets have a root system yet.)

After this, plant your plantlets in small pots with a similar potting mix of peat and vermiculite.

Congrats! You’ve successfully started new African Violet plants!

Saintpaulia Pests And Diseases

Most disease problems with African Violet varieties are caused by temperature or watering issues. Both cold temperatures or drafts and direct sun cause problems for the plant. However, if the cases are treated promptly, the plant will survive. Read: Disease and African Violet Pests Control

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Some of the problems that African violets encounter include:

  • Mealybugs
  • White mildew
  • Spider Mites
  • Powdery mildew
  • Root Rot 

Alternately, if there are multiple issues simultaneously, such as fungus, pests, and incorrect temperatures, it’s likely that whatever Saintpaulia variety you grow may not survive.