By Becca Badgett
(Co-author of How to Grow an EMERGENCY Garden)
Some indoor gardeners shy away from growing the frilly and elegant African violet (Saintpaulia) because they are intimidated by African violet care. African violet plants do have a few quirks, but learning about them and the proper care of African violets can make growing the plants less intimidating.
Tips for African Violet Care
When you learn how to grow African violets, you can add several to indoor spaces for bright and cheerful blooms when the outdoor landscape is mostly brown and bare. Growing African violets takes little indoor space; grow them in small pot groupings for a showy display.
Soil – Pot the plant into the right soil for easiest African violet care. Special mixes are available or make your own from peat moss, vermiculite and perlite in equal parts.
Water – African violet plants are picky about water, so take extra care of African violets when watering. Water with lukewarm or tepid water that was allowed to stand for 48 hours. Water at the base. Never splash the foliage of the plant with water, just a drop can cause foliar spots and damage.
Proper watering is an important aspect of learning how to grow African violets. Water when soil feels less moist to the touch. Never let growing African violets stand in water or completely dry out. Wick watering, from the bottom, is sometimes appropriate but may not be the best practice for those new to growing African violet plants.
Light – Provide appropriate lighting for the African violet plant. Light intensity should be filtered, with bright to medium intensity reaching the growing African violet. Light affects flowering. African violet plants with dark green foliage usually need somewhat higher light levels than those with pale or medium green foliage.
Turn pots regularly to keep flowers from reaching for the light. Place growing African violets 3 feet from a south- or west-facing window for the right lighting. If this light cannot be maintained for eight hours, consider supplementing with fluorescent lights.
Fertilizer – Fertilize African violet plants with special African violet food or a food with a higher phosphorus number, the middle number in the NPK fertilizer ratio, as 15-30-15. Fertilizer can be mixed at ¼ strength and used at every watering. Reduced flowering and paler leaf color indicate that growing African violets are not getting enough fertilizer.
Pinch blooms from the growing African violets when they are spent. This will encourage the development of more flowers.
Now that you’ve learned a few tips about growing African violets, give them a try for indoor growing. Numerous cultivars are available at local or online garden centers.