african violets

african violets

Posted by Megan Nichols on Mar 10th 2020

Discovered in the 1890’s, African Violets started being produced commercially in in 1926. In 1946 The African Violet Society of America was formed and still exists today with over 9000 members around the world.

Tonkadale began as an African violet breeding greenhouse and visitors came from far and wide to purchase unique selections. With time, violets faded into the backdrop to make way for fancy new annuals, perennials, and easy-care house plants.

Now, African violets are experiencing a resurgence in popularity.  Houseplant parents love their retro appeal and broad color palette. They provide year-round beauty and make a great gift, office pet, side table accent or massed as a collection.

light

African violets thrive in medium to bright, indirect light. Having the correct amount of light is vital for the plant’s health and overall performance. African violets need 10-14 hours of light a day, but they will burn in intense sun. A north or east facing window is best in summer, and a south or west facing window is better in winter to allow for longer exposure to light. The sun begins to strengthen in February, however, and a sheer curtain may be required to protect violets from burning. Turning violets a quarter turn each day will prevent the plants from becoming lopsided. 

African violets need at least eight hours of darkness each day in order to bloom. Florigen, which makes the plants flower, is produced in the light but does not trigger blooming until it is dark.

water

Violets should be watered from the bottom when soil is slightly dry to the touch, but never let your violet dry out completely. Place the plastic grower’s pot in water, then allow the plant to absorb the water for no longer than 30 minutes. Bottom-watering aids in keeping droplets off the leaves, which can cause spotting.

Important: The water for your violets should be room temperature. If you use cold water, it will chill the roots of the plant. The leaves will curl down while the plant is absorbing water.

Never use soft water, which has a higher saline content and will decrease the plant’s ability to absorb nutrients and water.

Be careful not to “love your plants to death,” otherwise known as overwatering. Roots need oxygen, so constant oversaturation of the soil will result in root rot and the death of the plant.

soil

Plant in a light and porous “soilless” potting mixture. Either a basic potting mix or one formulated for African violets is best.

temperature

African violets like the same comfortable conditions as most people, so they are easy to live with. Temperatures around 70 degrees are best, and over 80 degrees or under 60 degrees will cause the plant to suffer. Cold is more detrimental than heat, and if your violet is exposed to cold temperatures it should be moved to a warm area instead.

Humidity is also important to violets. Placing violets close together can increase humidity, but do not place close enough for the leaves to touch because they also need air circulation. A humidifier can help to increase humidity. 

fertilizing

Choose a fertilizer that is 100% water soluble and made specifically for African violets. More is not better, and over-fertilizing can lead to dry, cracked leaves and lesions on the stems. Always follow fertilizer package directions.

for the love of plants

Pinch back violets to remove spent blooms and remove suckers to encourage new growth.

Follow the “one foot from the window” rule to keep plants from getting too cold or sunburned. 

Open curtains or blinds during cloudy weather.

If water is spilled on the leaves, wipe it off right away. Water droplets can damage violet leaves through mineral deposits and sun-magnification and it’s irreversible.  

Preventative maintenance is most important. Be sure to take notice of your violets’ condition on a regular basis. Remove any diseased or decaying plant matter that may cause the spread of pathogens or provide refuge for unwanted pests.

Happy violet growing!