Hardy African violets do well as houseplants

by Beverly Stormoen, Master Gardener

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The African violet was discovered in 1892 by Baron Walter von Paul, who found them growing among rocky mountain ridges in Tanzania. Seeds were sent to Germany, then to other European countries and were finally brought to the United States in 1826 by the California nursery of Armacost and Royston.

All blooms were basic blue in color, had a standard pansy shape and had leaves that grew in a rosette pattern. Today there are thousands of varieties with new hybrids being developed constantly throughout the world.

African Violet

Colors now available include blue, purple, red-violet, orchid, lavender, red-pink, white bi-color and multi-colored. Flower shapes can be single, double, semi-double, star-shaped, fringed and ruffled. Leaf shapes can be plain, ruffled, fringed, scalloped, spooned, pointed and variegated.

Sizes are determined by leaf size and can be miniature, semi-miniature, standard, and large which is over 16 inches in diameter. Trailing varieties are also available. Under the right growing conditions, African violets bloom almost continuously.

African violets prefer bright light and no direct sun. This would typically be a south, west, or east window. Too much light produces small, crinkle, leathery leaves on stunted plants, whereas not enough light produces thin, dark blue-green leaves with long stems.

Any comfortable house temperature should work well for African violets.

Watering African violets can be the most difficult part of their card, as they require a moist, light, well-drained soil. If the plant is too wet, it may rot. If it is too dry, it may not grow well or flower.

Wick watering is increasingly popular. It provides continuous moisture from a reservoir at the plant base and a wick, which connects the plant to the reservoir. This method gives a consistent level of moisture to the plant. Avoid cold water on the leaves as it causes discoloration.

African violets need a loose, porous soil or a soil less mixture with a pH of 6-6.5. Garden soil will not work for African violets because it is much too heavy.

Routine fertilization is needed to encourage blooming throughout the year. There are many African violet fertilizers available. Excessive fertilizer, however, can leave brown marks on the leaves and excessive salts on the soil.

African violets make great houseplants providing color throughout the year.






Beverly Stormoen

Beverly Stormoen lives on Amelia Island and is an active Master Gardener volunteer.