How to Grow and Care for African Violet (Saintpaulia ionantha) Indoors


African Violet, Saintpaulia ionantha

Botanical name: Saintpaulia ionantha
Synonmy: Streptocarpus ionanthus
Family: Gesneriaceae
Common name: African Violet

Description

Saintpaulia ionantha or African Violets are a popular plants due to their ability to flower almost any time of the year. Their compact size allows them to fit in the small spaces which makes them ideal for the limited spaces.

The major requirements for African Violet are steady warmth, careful watering, good light, high humidity and regular feeding.

To keep African Violet thriving; keep the leaves off the windowpane, remove dead flowers and damaged leaves immediately, don't leave a stalk.

Remove side shoots on older African Violets as soon as they develop to promote flowering.

Keep the African Violet moderately pot-bound to promote flowering. Use a plastic pot to reduce water loss as they like the soil to be consistently moist.

Origin

African Violet (Streptocarpus ionanthus) is native to eastern and southwestern Tanzania in Africa.

Where to Buy

These magnificent African Violets are available online at Etsy. Buy African Violets online from Etsy.

Related Plants

African Violet care is similar to that of its close relatives Gloxinia (Sinningia speciosa), Cape Primrose (Streptocarpus hybrida) and Flame Violet (Episcia cupreata).

African Violet, Saintpaulia ionantha

Photo Credit: Crocus

Saintpaulia ionantha Care Indoors

African Violet (Saintpaulia ionantha) thrives in bright, indirect light away from direct sunlight, warm and humid conditions and consistently moist, fertile, well-drained soil coupled with fortnighly feeding during the growing season.

Saintpaulia requires potting only when it has outgrown its current pot as it blooms best when pot-bound. Regular pruning is necessary to promote flowering and to rejuvenate growth. Keep reading for more on these growing conditions and how to achieve them.

Light Requirements

African Violet grows best in bright indirect light of about 10 hours per day. Do not expose the plant to direct sunlight as it can cause sunscorch marks on the leaves.

Regularly turn the pot to ensure that the plant gets adequate light on all sides for uniform growth and prevent lopsided growth.

African Violets will also thrive under a grow light where natural light is not sufficient.

Watering

Water African Violet thoroughly and keep the soil consistently moist but not soggy. Allow the top 1-2 in. of soil to slightly dry out between waterings.

Decrease watering during the cold season as growth is minimal at this time but do not allow the soil to dry out completely.

African Violet is a tropical plant, therefore water it with water that is at room temperature to avoid shock as it can lead to reduced growth.

The African Violets are sensitive to chlorine and other chemicals dissolved in water therefore use chlorine-free water only.

Avoid wetting the foliage and water from the bottom or use the immersion method. Wetting the foliage can lead to crown and stem rot. Read more on how to water houseplants.


Temperature

African Violet prefers average warmth with a minimum of 150C. A temperature that is comfortable for you is ideal for this plant.

Keep the plant away from cold and hot draughts to avoid sudden changes in temperature as they can cause wilting, pale-green leaves with long stalks and curled leaf edges.

Humidity

African Violet has no need for high humidity. Average room humidity is adequate for this plant.

However, for lush growth and to reduce pest infestation, set the pot on a wet pebble tray or use a cool mist humidifier to raise humidity.

Regularly clean the leaves by gently brushing off the dust with a soft brush. Do not wash or mist the leaves as it can lead to crown and stem rot.

Fertilizer (Feeding)

Feed African Violets every 2-3 weeks during the growing season with a phosphorous-rich, water-soluble fertilizer to promote flowering.

Withhold feeding during the cold season growth is minimal at this time therefore, feeding at this time can cause fertilizer burn and death of the plant.

Repotting

Keep African Violet pot-bound to promote flowering. Repot during the growing period only when the soil becomes compacted.

Use a pot which is half as wide as the plant and free-draining soil that is rich in organic matter like African Violet potting mix.

Ensure the pot has a drainage hole to prevent the soil from becoming soggy as it can lead to rotting of the plant.

Pruning

Pruning African Violet is easy. Remove spent blooms and any side shoots to encourage development of more flowers. Get rid of dead leaves to keep the plant neat and tidy.

Remove the bottom 2-4 leaves monthly to balance out the appearance and to encourage growth of new leaves. The leaves can be used to propagate new plants.

The African Violet can be cut back at any time of the year to rejuvenate growth.

Propagation

African Violet (Saintpaulia ionantha) can be propagated at the beginning of the growing season from leaf cuttings, seeds, offshoots or by plant division.

How to propagate African Violet from leaf cuttings

Take an African Violet leaf cutting with the petiole still attached.

Insert the leaf petiole in moist, free-draining soil and cover with a plastic bag to create a greenhouse effect.

Place the set up in a warm brightly-lit place and maintain the soil moist through out.

New African Violet plants should develop at the base of the petiole in about 5-8 weeks.

Carefully seperate the new plants and transfer them into individual pots.

Place the set up in warm, brightly-lit place and maintain the soil moist through out.

Allow the new African Violet plants to be well established before transplanting after which you can begin routine care.

How to propagate African Violets from seeds

Spread the African Violet seeds evenly on moist, free-draining soil and do not cover with any soil as the seeds are very tiny.

Cover the set up with a plastic sheet to create a greenhouse effect and place the set up in a warm brightly-lit place.

Maintain the soil moist through out by gently misting the soil surface.

Thinning of crowded seedlings can be done when the leaves are about 1/4 in. wide.

Transplant the new African Violet plants when the largest leaf is about 0.5 in. wide after which you can begin routine care.

How to propagate African Violet from offshoots

Carefully seperate the offshoot from the mother African Violet plant while ensuring it has enough roots.

Pot the offshoot in moist, free-draining soil and cover the set up with clear plastic to create a greenhouse effect.

Place the set up in a warm brightly-lit place and maintain the soil moist until the new African Violet plant is well established.

Occasionally open the plastic cover to allow air circulation and to prevent water condensation.

Gradually remove the cover after 4 weeks to acclimatize the new African Violet plant to ordinary growing conditions.

How to propagate African Violet by plant division

Carefully divide a large African Violet plant into sections while ensuring each section has enough roots.

Pot these African Violet sections into individual pots in moist free-draining soil.

Place the set up in a warm brightly-lit place and maintain the soil moist until the new African Violet is well established after which you can begin routine care.

African Violet, Saintpaulia ionantha

Photo Credit: Crocus

Saintpaulia ionantha Problems Indoors

African Violet (Saintpaulia ionantha) problems indoors include lack of blooms, yellowing, rotting, mold, curled leaves, pests and diseases among others. Keep reading for more on these problems and how to fix them.

No blooms (flowers)

There are six possible reasons why African Violet is not blooming. One possible reason for lack of blooms is insufficient light.

Bright indirect light for about 12 hrs a day is necessary to coax African Violet to bloom. It can also grow under grow light if the natural lighting is not sufficient.

The second possible reason why African Violet is not blooming is improper feeding.

The plant needs to be fed with a phosphorous-rich, water-soluble fertilizer every 2-3 weeks during the growing season to promote flowering.

The third possible reason why African Violet is not blooming is very dry air. Set the pot on a wet pebble tray or use a cool mist humidifier to raise humidity. Check out these techniques on how to raise himidity for houseplants.

The fourth possible reason why African Violet is not blooming is too frequent repotting. The plant blooms best when pot-bound; repot the plant only when its is extremely pot-bound.

The fifth possible reason why African Violet is not blooming is failure to remove the side shoots. The side shoots cause the plant to divert energy to developing the shoots rather than the flowers.

The sixth possible reason why African Violet is not blooming is very cold air. Keep the plant away from cold draughts as an average warmth is necessary for optimum growth and flowering.

Yellow leaves

There are four possible reasons for yellow leaves in African Violet. One possible reason for yellow leaves is dry air.

Set the pot on a wet pebble tray or use a cool mist humidifier to raise humidity.

The second possible reason for yellow leaves in African Violet is too much sunlight. Do not expose the African Violet to direct sunlight but provide it with bright indirect light.

The third possible reason for yellow leaves in African Violet is incorrect watering. Maintain the soil consitently moist and do not allow the soil ball to dry out.

The fourth possible reason for yellow leaves in African Violet is overfeeding. Feed the plant every 2-3 weeks during the growing season with a phosphorous-rich, water-soluble fertilizer.

Limp leaves and rotten crown center

Limp leaves and a rotten crown center in African Violet is an indication of crown-rot disease due to overwatering and wide fluctuations in temperature.

The disease is infectious and difficult to control. Remove and destroy the affected plant as soon as possible to prevent spread to other houseplants.

Moldy leaves and flowers

Moldy leaves and flowers in African Violet are an indication of Botrytis or Powdery Mildew. Do not mist the plant as moisture on the foliage creates suitable conditions for these diseases.

Cut off diseased parts and keep the affected plant warm while ensuring good air circulation. Read more on how to identify and treat diseases in houseplants.

Straw-colored patches on leaves

Straw-colored patches on the leaves of African Violet are caused by too much direct sunlight. The leaf edges may also turn yellow and holes may develop on the leaves. Do not expose the plant to direct sunlight.

Pale-green leaves with long stalks and curled leaf edges

Pale green leaves with long stalks and curled leaf edges in African Violet are caused by too cold temperature. Maintain an average warmth for the plant and keep it away from cold drafts to avoid sudden changes in temperature.

Brown leaf spots

Brown leaf spots in African Violet are caused by water droplets falling on the leaves during watering. Avoid wetting the leaves or water the plant from the bottom only.

Pests

The common pests in African Violet are Mealy Bugs, Fungus Gnats and Cyclamen Mites. Isolate the affected plant to prevent spread to other houseplants and treat it appropriately for the pests. Read more on how to identify and get rid of pests in houseplants.

Is African Violet toxic?

African Violets (Saintpaulia ionantha) are non-toxic to both humans and pets as listed by American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. They are safe to grow indoors.

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