Care for African Violets
Purple African Violets
African Violet Care Overview
African violets are a very common and attractive houseplant. African violets are relatively easy to grow and they appeal to beginner and veteran growers alike. There are many cultivars of African violets which can lead to a living collection of different colors.
African violets adapt well to small areas which makes them perfect as houseplants. Indoor climates also benefit African violets. The violets require humidity to flourish and bloom, which may be a bit tricky to accomplish indoors during dry winter months. Watering and soil type are arguably the most important factors in growing African Violets. Lighting also needs to be optimal for the growth of blooms. A little fertilization should be applied every so often to keep the plant healthy and vigorous.
Small Watering Can
Watering African Violets
How & When to Water
Knowing how to water African violets is vital. Keeping the soil constantly moist and watering the soil with room temperature water is key. Do not water the foliage, especially with cold water. Water thoroughly so every bit of soil is moist. Let excess drain from the bottom of the container. Watering from the bottom and letting the soil draw up water can be done if the violets reside in a container that sits in a drip tray, but top watering needs to occur once a month to flush out excess salts and minerals.
The best way to estimate when to water is by feeling the weight of the container before and after a thorough watering. Poking a finger into the soil to test for moisture will only test the upper few inches of the container. A wooden Popsicle stick or similar instrument can be stuck into the soil and removed to test moisture content as well. Moist soil should remain on the stick. If the stick is clean and dry, then watering is needed.
African violets like humidity and may experience problems in low humidity environments. Low humidity can be fixed by placing a tray under the pot containing the violets. The water slowly evaporates up into the foliage and keeps humidity regular. Sometimes clear plastic may need to be placed around the pot to create a miniature greenhouse to keep humidity high.
Light and Temperature for African Violets
Proper lighting is essential for healthy African violets. Too much light can cause burning of foliage and blooms, but too little lighting can cause unsightly growth and stunting to occur. Avoid direct sunlight to prevent burning and yellowing of foliage. A north of east facing window is the best for African violets. Remember to turn the plants occasionally to promote growth on all sides. Indoor lighting can be used and is preferred by some African violet growers. The blooming stage requires more light than most growers initially think. Florescent lighting can be used but close placement is essential due to the low intensity of florescent tubes. Grow lamps can also be used to grow African violets and perform much better compared to household florescent and incandescent bulbs.
Temperatures around 70°F are within the optimum range. High humidity is optimal as well. Growth and flowering will be slowed if temperatures exceed 80°F.
Soil for African Violets
African violets prefer soils that remain somewhat loose with good drainage. Most garden and potting soils will not suffice and may injure or kill African violets over time. Soils rich in organic matter that lie on the slightly acidic side with a pH around 6.0 to 6.5 are ideal. Sphagnum peat moss works great as an organic source. A mixture of equal parts sphagnum, perlite, and some common garden soil is a well-balanced mix of organic matter, nutrients, and drainage. The spagnum is perfect for moisture retention while adding a little acidity to the mix. Be sure not to compact the mixture too much because drainage is key.
Water Soluble Fertilizer
African Violet Fertilizer
Fertilizing African Violets
African violets are sensitive to fertilizer and over-fertilization tends to be more of a problem than not fertilizing enough. Nutrient deficiencies can appear as reduced growth rate, lightening of foliage color, and overall unhealthy appearance. Fertilizer should only be applied during the growing seasons and omitted during winter. Water soluble fertilizer that is specifically for African violets is preferred, but all-purpose fertilizer can be diluted by 1/4 the amount listed on the package. It is always better to apply too little than too much.
Excess salts due to fertilizer application pull moisture away from the plant by a process called reverse osmosis. This can "burn" and damage the plant. Excessive fertilizing can easily kill plants.