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African Violets

Updated on February 13, 2013
Marye Audet profile image

Marye Audet-White is an internationally known food writer, food editor for Texas Living, cookbook author, and food blogger.

Image: (c)MaryeAudet 2008
Image: (c)MaryeAudet 2008

Popular Indoor Plants

African violets are a favorite indoor plant of many hobbyists. They are relatively easy to grow and propagate, and provide an array of beautiful blooms. It seems that people either can grow them or can't, though. If you are one of those who has always wanted to know how to grow African violets then read on.

Growing African Violets

Violets are easy to grow but they do require some basic things for best results.

Good Light

These plants need to be in a good, sunny window. An east window is best because they get the less intense sun of the early morning. A northern exposure is the worst because there is less light. If you must put them in a west facing window then be sure to have a sheet curtain to filter the intense sunlight or the leaves will scorch and the plant will not do well. Turn your plant weekly so that it receives equal light on all sides.

Soil

The special potting soil for African Violets should be used when starting, or repotting a plant. You can make your own soil mixture by mixing equal parts of vermiculite, perlite, and peatmoss. You can substitute your own, well rotted compost for the pea. Just be sure to pasteurize it by putting it in a 200 degree oven for 30 minutes.

Plants flower best when they are slightly rootbound, so time the repotting carefully.

Water

The wick method of watering is best for violets. To make you own self watering plant just pull a wick (like for an oil lamp), a thin strip of cheesecloth or even some yarn up through the drainage hole in the bottom of the pot. Leave about two inches of the wick hanging out the drainage hole to absorb water. Lay it across the bottom and up the side. It works best if you soak it first. Now, add the potting soil and plant.

You can also water from the top, being careful not to splash the leaves of the plant. Water when the top of the soil feels dry to the touch.

Feeding

You should feed you violets regularly to keep them at their best. Use a commercial fertilizer as directed on the package or feed with a manure tea.

Manure tea is made by adding two parts water to one part well rotted manure and allowing to sit at room temperature for a few days. This is an incredible boost to plants of any sort.

Environment

Violets do best between 65-80 degrees in a moist atmosphere. Grouping plants or setting them on a saucer filled with water and pebbles will keep them at a higher level of humidity.

Pests and Diseases of African Violets

Root Rot- Root and crown rot are caused by a fungus. It most often can be found in plants that have been overwatered. The crown and roots of the infected plants turn dark and soft and the leaves begin to wilt.It is best to destroy the infected plants and begin again in a sterile potting mix and sterilized pot.

Chlorosis - Chlorosis is a yellow or white spotting of the leaves most often caused by water droplets splashed, or left on the leaves. Be careful not to wet the leaves when watering plants from the top and wipe off any splashed water immediately.

Botrytis Blight - Botrytis Blight affects plants grown in artificial light. It begins as small, water-soaked lesions on the underside of the leaves. These become larger until the leaf turns brown to black. Flowers may also be affected. The contributing factors of this disease seem to be:

  • High humidity
  • Poor air circulation

  • Low light intensity

The spores of the fungus are spread by direct contact of leaves. Keep your plants spaced to that the leaves do not touch. The application of a fungicide sometimes controls outbreaks.

Powdery Mildew- Powdery Mildew is a light (white to grey), powdery substance on the stems and petioles of the violet. Mildew grows in cool, moist, stagnant air. Planting the violet in an area where there is good air circulation is the remedy for this.

Petiole Rot - Petiole rot is an orange-brown, rusty colored lesion where the petiole touches the rim of the pot or where it contacts the soil. It is often caused by the accumulation of fertilizer salts on the rim of the pot or on the top layer of soil. It happens most often with plants that are watered by wicking. If you use this method of watering it is a good idea to water form the top every week or so to wash the salts down into the soil.

Nematodes - Nematodes cause plants to have stunted growth and become weak. Galls form on the roots, and the crown and leaves become thick and distorted. Blisters appear on the leaves. Destroy all infested plants and sterilize their containers.

Cyclamen Mites - Cyclamen Mites feed in the plant crown. This causes the emerging leaves to be stunted or brittle. The leaf hairs may become matted with the flower buds not opening.

Infected plants should be isolated. Wash hands before touching healthy plants so as not to spread the mites.

Mealybugs - Mealybugs are small, soft-bodied insects that look like small clusters of white cotton on the surfaces of leaves and near the base of the leaf stems. They suck plant juices and cause the leaves to be stunted. The sticky substance that they excrete often causes a dark mold to grow on the plant. Bugs can also affect the root of the plant.

Mealybugs have to be removed by hand, removing them with a cotton swab soaked in alcohol is often effective. To control these insects do not overwater your plants.

Thrips-Thrips are a small, slender insect. They are characterized by long, hair-fringed wings. The damage is done to African violets by feeding on the leaves and flowers. The injury appears as streaked silvered areas on the leaves. You may find that these areas are speckled with black drops. Spraying plant with lukewarm water can be effective.

Aphids- Aphids have soft, pear-shaped bodies, long legs and antennae. They also excrete honeydew and the leaves take on a shiny appearance and may develop the black mold. Wash aphids from infested African Violets with a spray of lukewarm water.

Propagation of African Violets

If you have an especially healthy and beautiful plant it is easy to make more of them!

Just take a healthy leaf from the plant. Leave a long stem. Now, cut it at a 45 degree angle.

Plant the leaf in some potting soil and keep moist. In about a month you will notice a tiny violet plant forming at the cut end of the leaf.

Propagating violets is easy. It is a great learning tool for children, and the resulting plants make wonderful (and inexpensive) gifts.

How to Propagate an African Violet

African Violet Pots

Any kind of pot will do as long as it has good drainage.

Self watering pots allow the plants to be watered at a constant rate and safe-guard the plant from being overwatered. These pots use either a system of wicking or a porous pot to absorb water. The pots are usually less than $10.00 at the nursery.

You can make your own self watering pot by using the wicking instructions above or by planting the potted violet in pure peat moss. Keeping the peatmoss damp will allow the potting soil to soak up moisture as it needs it.

What About Coir?

Coir is a substance that is much like peatmoss. It is sustainable because it is made from coconut fiber. Peat moss is not sustainable and many people use coir in place of peat.

In most cases this is fine. However, coir does not work as well with African Violets and you may not have consistently good results.

Violets are a fantastic hobby. They are beautiful decorations and create a cozy atmosphere in the home. By understanding the best ways to grow these plants you can have thriving plants in no time!

Comments

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    • craftybegonia profile image

      craftybegonia 

      7 years ago from Southwestern, United States

      African violets are gorgeous! Too delicate for me, but I still love them.

    • Phyllis Doyle profile image

      Phyllis Doyle Burns 

      7 years ago from High desert of Nevada.

      Marye, this is a great hub. You have provided so much info and it will really help when I start buying my African Violets. I have a small east facing window that will be perfect for the plants. Problem is, there is no real windowsill there. I will have to buy some sort of shelving unit to put my plants on and set that on top of my desk.

      Thank you so much for all this wonderful information.

    • profile image

      tommysun123456789 

      7 years ago

      these are some great plants just hope mum likes them for her birthday coming up

    • profile image

      Wooden Greenhouse Guy 

      7 years ago

      How difficult are african violets to grow? Could I do it here in the UK? Our weather isn't great but i suppose indoors may work? Thanks for the info!

    • tim-tim profile image

      Priscilla Chan 

      8 years ago from Normal, Illinois

      I never had luck with the African Violets but now you shared some of the tips, maybe I will try it again. Thanks.

    • ratnaveera profile image

      ratnaveera 

      9 years ago from Cumbum

      This blog is very useful for those who want to grow African violets.

    • Marye Audet profile imageAUTHOR

      Marye Audet 

      10 years ago from Lancaster, Texas

      Umm..Eileen? They should not die when they flower..LOL! They flower almost constantly when healthy and do not die back.

    • Eileen Hughes profile image

      Eileen Hughes 

      10 years ago from Northam Western Australia

      I love these, but unless I am on the wrong track, these ones die of when flowered. That is when I fail, I put them outside and mistakenly empty pots and replant with something else.

      Forgetting that they will regrow. I have done this a few times. You would think I would learn. And maybe mark the pots with names so do not do again. Lovely hub many thanks

    • solarshingles profile image

      solarshingles 

      10 years ago from london

      Marye, what a wonderful hub about African Violets! Your great work really pays tribute to these 'happy plants', which have been following me, wherever I'd lived.

    • jacobworld profile image

      Jakub Wawrzyniak 

      10 years ago from Ireland

      cheers I will send it to my father he loves his plants

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