African Violets: How to Achieve Constant Bloom

November 27, 2012

I LOVE AFRICAN VIOLETS (Saintpaulia ionantha) and can never have enough of them. They sex up my windows. They provide dazzling decoration for my tabletops and mantels.  They even provide gift-plants, because a single leaf will produce multiple babies.  To keep the plants in constant bloom, I give them everything they want:

Light. Make no mistake — African violets need plentiful light to bloom. As a rule, give them full sun in winter, and bright light in summer. From October through April, I grow them in the sunny east window of my upstairs bath (above). Then, from May through September, I let the plants dwell in a north exposure or under fluorescents. Otherwise, the harsh summer sun would surely fry their leaves.

To keep the plants shapely, give the pots a quarter-turn every other day.

For sensational bloom, place them under fluorescent lights. As you can see, I grow dozens of African violets beneath  48-inch fixtures that I attached to shelves in my Writing Room.   These are not special “grow-lights”, but common, inexpensive “cool white” fluorescents. The plants are set 7-10 inches from the light (5 inches for miniatures and trailers), distances measured from the top of the plants. I leave the lights on for 16 hours each day, followed by 8 hours of darkness. Plants under lights need more food and water, but they always bloom to perfection there.

Temperature & Humidity. You may have heard that African violets need indoor temperatures above 70 degrees in order to flower. Actually, this is not true. My own plants bloom and bloom in temperatures that range from 55-65 degrees. On bitter nights, I pull the plants away from windows, and return them only when the morning sun has warmed the glass.

Saintpaulias will not bloom when humidity is low. They revel in about 50% relative humidity, which is fairly high for the average home in winter. Keep in mind that humidity plummets during the heating season. If you suffer from dry skin and a scratchy throat when the furnace is roaring, just imagine how miserable your African violets must be.

To increase humidity, group plants together. Even better,  set them on pebble-filled trays. Galvanized “boot trays” work well, and they can be painted to match your window trim. Keep the trays  filled with water, but make sure the plants are resting on the pebbles, above the water-level. When plants are watered from the top, excess drains down into the pebbles, and produces humid air as it evaporates. Pebble-filled bowls or oversize saucers (as above) are a suitable alternative to the trays.

And here’s another tip: Grow your plants in clay pots. Clay absorbs moisture, and then releases it as humidity through evaporation.

Watering. Use only room-temperature (or slightly warmer) water. You can water from the top or the bottom; sometimes bottom watering is easier because of spreading leaves. To water from below, fill a saucer or bowl with one inch of water, and let the plant absorb all of the moisture it can for exactly 30 minutes. Then pour off any excess. Water often enough to keep the soil moist, but not saturated.

The weekly shower.  To remove dust from leaves, and also to deter pests (including aphids and red spider),  I shower my plants once a week with room-temperature or slightly warmer water. Afterwards, the plants are kept out of direct sun until their foliage has dried. Leaf spotting only occurs when the temperature of the water is colder than the temperature of the leaves. You can safely return plants to the fluorescent light garden even when leaves are wet.

Fertilizing. A low-nitrogen, high-phosphorous, soluble plant food  is terrific for African violets. I fertilize every time I water, using Jack’s Classic 10-30-20 formula. Window garden plants receive one 1/4 teaspoon to 1 gallon of warm water. I increase this to one 1/2 teaspoon food per gallon of water for the hard-working light garden residents.

Soil. Use a light, humus-rich, well-draining potting mixture. Almost all commercial mixes intended for houseplants are suitable for African violets.

Multiple Crowns & Suckers. With time, most African violets become burdened with multiple crowns and sideshoots, or “suckers.” These rob the parent plant of energy, and interfere with bloom. To free your plant of these offenders, follow the directions I described in this post.

Pots. Mail-order plants always arrive in tiny, 2 1/4-inch plastic pots. You won’t need larger pots for months. The African violet in a too-big pot will be slow to bloom. I wait for six months to a year before shifting  to 4-inch pots, and that’s that. I prefer clay pots — glazed or unglazed, but always with drainage holes — for display in the window garden.

Propagation. It’s fun to make new plants from old. Simply snap off a leaf with one inch of stem attached…

Then insert the stem, or petiole, in a 2- or 3-inch pot of damp soil.  Lightly firm the soil.

To produce a pleasantly-humid environment for the cutting, place the pot in a clear plastic bag.

Then set the pot in a bright but sunless window, or, even better, beneath a fluorescent light.

Alternatively, if you want to propagate several leaves, you can make a terrarium out of the plastic tub that (hydroponically-grown) Boston lettuce comes in. Use a knife to cut a few drainage-slits in the bottom of the container…

Fill the shallow bottom with soil, and then insert leaves about 2 inches apart from each other.

Close the cover, and place the nursery in a bright window or beneath fluorescents.

Neither the bagged pot nor the Boston-lettuce bin will require water until new plantlets emerge.

After two to three months have passed, the leaves will give birth to numerous baby plants, as pictured above. One year, I had a single leaf sprout 9 new clones!  Separate the tiny rosettes from the mother, and then pot them individually in 2- or 3-inch pots. Give them the same care I described earlier, and in six to nine months they will bloom as beautifully as the parent plant did.

Of course, after propagating the leaves, you’ll end up with an entire forest of African violets.  But who can complain about that?

Do African violets bloom well for you? You can let me know by leaving a comment. As always, I love to hear from you.

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Related Posts:
African Violets: Divide & De-Sucker for Better Flowering
Forcing Fun: Tropical Narcissi
The Window Garden, November 2012

Comments

  1. beetree says:

    Thanks for this info, Kevin! I had a plant that someone gave me…I kept it alive and healthy for two years without a single bloom. :( I got sick of trying and gave it to my neighbor. I just might have to try again now.

  2. Hi beetree – Glad you found some useful information here. Maybe your neighbor can snap off a leaf for you to propagate. Then you’ll soon have many, many African violets to play with!

  3. beetree says:

    Ha- I was thinking the same thing! :)

  4. franni says:

    You are such an inspiration…..I am on it to make new violets.

  5. Donna B. says:

    How I’d love to just clone your bathroom window for my own. :D

    This winter one of my indoor projects is to turn a hallway window that is east facing into a window garden. I don’t know if it’s the best because during the summer it’s shaded by a maple tree, but in the winter it’s fairly sunny!
    Maybe in the summer I could attempt some ferns or something…

    But this is a beautiful guideline for african violets! I know I keep promising that I’ll do this one day… I need to make this year the year of the indoor garden! I will be triumphant!
    [Okay, I'm done with my personal pep talk.. haha!]

  6. constantine says:

    Hi Kevin,

    I have a violet that is healthy, green and beautiful….and no longer blooming, despite good light and fertilizer. It has also morphed into a trifoil, with only one stem appearing to have roots. It’s a pretty plant and the shape is nice but I miss the blooms! Any suggestions? Thanks!

  7. Hi Donna – Sounds like you have the perfect window for a garden — shady in summer, and sunny in winter. With glass shelves and a broad sill in place (I use a low bookcase as a sill), you can have all kinds of fun making horticultural portraits!

    constantine – By “trifoil,” do you mean the plant has produced little off-shoots, or suckers?

  8. constantine says:

    Hi Kevin – by ‘trifoil’ I mean this: imagine three separate plants cojoined at the base, just above the soil. I would guess an offshoot would come from below the soil line, and these do not. Maybe I am mistaken. I think if I would cut two of the three off I would not be able to root them as the stem is pretty thick. Thanks for asking and I hope you have a suggestions! Cheers.

  9. Constantine – From what you’ve described, it sounds like your plant has multiple crowns. These interfere with flowering. I deal with them this way.

  10. Apryl says:

    Hi Kevin,
    I have an African Violet with beautiful pink leaves. It has never flowered. Are they only grown for their leaves or do they need an environment different from the green leaf variety? Its a beautiful plant. I almost killed it by forgetting to empty the water in the saucer its in. Have to root some leaves “today”.

  11. Andreas says:

    Hi Kevin, Thanks for those valuable tips for African violets. I’ve managed to get one of mine to flower again last year, and now I know why. I still have the plant and will give it the treatment you recommend, so that it’ll continue to flower!

  12. Jerry in Sealy says:

    Thanks for sharing Kevin. I have always loved my african violets and had extra wide window sills built into my east and southeast windows, just for them. Last week was plant dividing time and really enjoyed potting up new little pups. Ran out of room this year so not making any new plants from leaves. You are so right on using slightly warm water for the lovely plants they show their appreciation! I also use a fluffy makeup brush to clean up the leaves after potting and montly just to give them alittle dusting. Always enjoy seeing your plants, I am green and violet with envy.

  13. Bobbie Floyd says:

    Kevin, you are always an inspiration. I can’t begin to duplicate your environmental conditions_we are still running the AC daily, but I am going to try-again-to grow an african violet. Thanks for the detailed directions.

  14. Cilla says:

    Kevin, my Mom also had African violets in many colors when we were kids. And my Grandmother and my Great Auntie Alice. And every other blue-haired lady I knew as a kid! Mom kept them in her bedroom in a huge south facing window in the winter. Sort of set back on a shelf unit. And she always (as a real Yankee) kept that bedroom COOL!!). This was also the home of probably the world’s largest Christmas cactus! lol

    I never really thought much of them as I grew all kinds of other things my Dad, who worked in the greenhouses at Brookhaven Natl Labs, would bring me home. He could grow anything! Well, now that I am older (yikes!) and retired and live in NW Rocky Mountain Montana! I crave flowers! My summer is so short that by time your petunias start to look good they freeze! lol So I have started with 2 and am loving them. I always thought they were finicky plants and that is why old, gray haired ladies always had them! lol I am going to put glass shelves int he window and get some more colors and propagate! Thank you for the shove off the starting line to get going with them. Mine also surprising bloom pretty much all the time. :) Thank you, thank you and I am going to make cognac cookies!! Have a wonderful holiday!!

  15. Cathy says:

    Hi Kevin,

    Thanks for the great tips on growing African Violets. I have one that I’ve had for YEARS (20+), that thrives on neglect. It always has flowers! The stem –if I could straighten it out is probably 6-12 inches long. It just spirals, and spirals. I need to transplant it, but i’ve been afraid to mess with “perfection”. What do you to to keep it from growing like that? Oh..and I stuck a broken leaf into the soil, and it has given me a baby!

  16. constantine says:

    Hi Kevin – Thanks for the advice and nice detailed guide to dissecting my violet. This morning I got out the scalpel and went at it! The two crowns that looked less robust were cut off; each had a very tiny root system attached. I removed some lower petals, dusted all cuts with root hormone and repotted. The mother plant was also repotted. Several leaves were cleanly cut, dipped in hormone then placed in the lettuce container greenhouse as you suggested. Fingers crossed that I have success. This plant has a pretty flower:white with purple fringed edges and a coating of glitter over all. Thanks for the great guidance!
    Cheers,
    Constantine

  17. Karen L. says:

    I really enjoyed reading the article on violets and especially seeing the photos of your “family”. I have a bay window that faces pretty much east and my violets love it although I do have to curtain it in the summer so they don’t fry! I have about half a dozen plants that are all flowering profusely. Four of them are from leaves given to me by a friend. From these I was able to pass along three propagated plants to another friend while keeping four for myself of varying colors. The friend who gave the leaves to me cannot seem to get her original plants to flower so I am sending her a link to your site to help. However, I think it is probably the lack of light that inhibits her plants. One white violet that I have had for a long time was so very prolific that I think I re-potted around half a dozen suckers to give to a group of friends who adopted them.

    Now though I am moving soon and will not have that wonderful window and actually don’t have any that face east in the new house. Not sure what will happen to my colorful plants but I will have to find a way to keep them going ….. perhaps I will be able to find a way to put your lighting idea to work some where in the house until we can build a sun room on the back.

  18. KimH says:

    Thanks so much for the direction for African Violets.. I have had 2 I got when my S/O’s mom passed on 7 years ago. I’ve split them a few times & they’ve always done wonderfully for me, but this year I almost lost all of them. I still have the 2 originals but none of the other survived. I have no clue what I did or didnt do, but my 3 orchids died as well. I think those plants all started to die after I brought a new orchid in the house.. No other plants died though I have a house full, none other are flowering types, they were the only ones affected.
    I keep thinking I should repot the African Violets and give them new pots as well as soil.. there are new babies so I’ll split them too.
    They are in a perfect for them window.. North in the winter and mostly shaded in the summer. I didnt know it was perfect for them, but as I said, until this year, they were happy.

  19. DOROTHY HARGIS says:

    kevin, your violets are beautiful.
    do you ever sell leaves? I WOULD LOVE TO GET A LEAF OR PLANT FROM YOU. THANKS, DOROTHY

  20. Hi Apryl – In my experience, African violets with wildly-variegated leaves (such as your pink-leaved variety) tend to flower poorly — if at all. The reason: lack of chlorophyll. But the pink leaves are something to enjoy even without flowers!

    Hi Jerry Sealy – Good idea – use a make-up brush (or camel’s hair brush) to dust the leaves. I chuckled when you mentioned building extra-wide windowsills in your house. Oh, what we do for our plants.

    Bobbie Floyd – Do give AVs another try. They are soooo worth the effort!

    Cilla – Nice that you think of your Mom, Great Aunt and Grandmother when you survey your violets. I think of Margaret Jones, an elderly neighbor who gave me a leaf to propagate when I was 10 years old. Oh, the memories.

    Hi Cathy – Wow – a 20-year-old African violet! You may not want to tamper with the plant. But long necks can be cured this way: knock the plant from its pot; cut off at least half the roots, and remove all but the top set of leaves. Then replant, burying the long, naked “trunk” right up to the remaining leaves.

    And about the leaf which has given you a baby: don’t be alarmed, but it has given you many, many babies! Check carefully, and you’ll find at least 4 tiny rosettes of leaves. Best to pot these separately.

    Constantine – Glad that worked out for you. And it’s a good thing you like your purple-fringed, white-flowered AV. With all your propagation efforts, you will soon dozens and dozens of clones!

    Karen L. -African violets love to lounge and luxuriate beneath fluorescents. So if the windows in your new home are not suitable for plants…then by all means attach a fixture or two beneath your bank of kitchen cabinets. Then you can have blooming plants right on your counter top.

    Kim H – Hard to know what caused your AVs to falter. Like you said, it could have been a pest or disease that came in with your new orchid.

    Dorothy Hargis – I don’t sell leaves. But if you come to one of the tours here next summer, I’d gladly give you leaves!

  21. caren says:

    About showering the African violets. I have soft water everywhere in my house except the kitchen sink cold water. Will the salt in the softened water hurt the plants?

  22. Linda K. says:

    I was given a violet as a gift and have had some for many years. This one blossomed for along time in my east window and i moved it to the south in the winter. we have wood heat. It started looking limp and stopped blossoming, so i repotted it in a supposedly african violet pot. one that you can water from the bottom and it absorbs the water through the upper pot. It just got limper and limper and finally i got rid of it. We have our own well and i have wondered if that can have an affect on plants?

    I used to have many violets and when i moved to this home brought my last one i had for many many years with. it was a double pink blossom. It had a trunk like a tree and reading your care ideas i realized i should have separated the off shoots but i thought it looked cool. Eventually i had to get rid of it also because it became limp.

    I will put your ideas to use and see if i can make them survive but do wonder about the type of pot that the top pot sets in the bottom pot of water and if my well water can affect my house plants. Thank you

  23. Hi Caren – Yes, softened water is harmful to African violets, and not just the leaves, but the roots, too. Any chance you can divert the water before it reaches your softening-unit?

    Linda K. – Those self-watering “African Violet Pots” can be death traps. I never use them. Too often, water is left is in the outer pot. This means oxygen can’t reach the plant’s roots. Consequently the plant drowns. And the first sign of drowning is — you guessed it — limp leaves. Well water should be fine, especially if you first pour it into a gallon-size jug. Let the jug sit overnight (or longer) so that potential gasses can evaporate. Then water your plants.

  24. Becky Raymond says:

    Hi Kevin,
    Thanks for a very inspiring presentation on window gardens at the Sand Lake Garden Club on Wednesday night.
    Didn’t mean to put you on the spot about African geography. I lived in Africa for 6 years and still have a high interest.
    I looked up the Usumbara Mountains and they are in Tanzania.
    Thanks again,
    Becky

  25. Naomi Shelton says:

    Kevin, thank you so much for this article on African Violets. I have loved them and grown them for years. They remind me of my maternal grandmother whom I had a very close nurturing relationship with. She always grew them and I am absolutely in love with them. I can’t resist rooting a leaf if it breaks off, but my space is limited and I recently have been trying to control myself! But they are just so, so beautiful and varied when they bloom. I have definitely learned some things from your writing about them and loved looking at your photos. Question: I have always rooted mine in water and then transferred to a pot. Is this not a good idea? I guess it’s not really necessary since propagating directly in soil works so well for you. One more question: Some of my older, larger plants have outer leaves which have very long stems and rest on the pot rims, then seem to droop and die. Do you have this problem? Any ideas for a remedy? Well, that’s all for now. Keep up the fascinating life you lead!

  26. Becky – Yes, Tanzania. Glad that’s settled!

    Naomi Shelton – Petiole rot is a common problem with stems that rest against the rim of a pot. If you use clay pots, as I do, it helps to dip the rim of the pot in melted paraffin. Paraffin not only keeps the rim dry, but provides cushioning for the stems. A ring of aluminum foil along the rim works, too, whether the pot is clay or plastic.

  27. Bill Watson says:

    I have had similar problems as KimH: After a few years my AVs seem to whither and die. I am fairly sure the cause is a build-up of salts in the soil from fertilizer and calcium in the water. My solution is to flush out the soil by slowly running water though the pot for several hours. After a week or so, my AVs will perk up and blossom again.

  28. Maggie Reynolds says:

    Kevin High on a ridge in the Ozarks… I took the backs off 2 glass bookcases and set them at windows which seems to work well…can’t build deep sills in an apt. :-) For Winter I have them at a West window diffused by miniblinds during strong afternoon sunglight, North and East windows worked until Winter. Switched to AV food like you use which increased blooms. My standards and semis are flourishing, but the minis are not reblooming for months. I have an abundance of pinks but none as bright as those on your bathroom window so am scouting. Would be wonderful to make your tours next year. Am so glad I found your site. Maggie

  29. eunice says:

    My violets have not bloomed in a long time. They are in light,I water and fertilize. What am I doing wrong and what can I do to get blooms?

  30. trillium says:

    my violets don’t look healthy at all, and I’ve debated tossing them, which seems so harsh. After reading your instructions, I feel that they have a chance to flourish and am looking forward to implementing them. Thanks so much!

  31. Michele says:

    Kevin I have my mother plant in a self watering African Violet pot. It is upstairs in a south facing window with bright light and has been doing fine. I went to my other home for 9 days and watered it when I came back as it was dry to the touch but within a day the leaves fell down but flower stems still standing tall. Outer leaves are rotting off. What did I do wrong? Too much water? And are those self watering pots really good for African Violets?

    Michele

  32. Kathy D. says:

    I love your violets…never quite thought of them in quite that way though…it will probably be a line forever in my mind now.

  33. mckatie says:

    Beautiful! I use to have a window full until I moved down South. Now I’m home again I’m going to work on sprucing up my window area.

  34. susan says:

    thank u for the information.. i do hav some african violets in my balcony, there is plenty of bright light, but no direct sun.. hope they ll bloom as beautiful as yors..!!!

  35. Jokha says:

    I love African Violets and have no problem getting them to bloom. But can anybody tell me why my plants are too leafy because the ones I see in photos have few leaves

  36. Abby says:

    Kevin – thanks for the info. I already have a couple African violets but you have inspired me to get more! By any chance, do you have a favorite source for plants? I would love to be able to find some plants which are specific cultivars rather than just the typical no-name varieties found at my local garden center.

  37. Jokha – Probably your African violets have produced suckers. You can remove these off-shoots and create new plants this way.

    Abby – My favorite mail-order source for named varieties of African violets is Lyndon Lyon Greenhouses. Paul Serano, who owns the business, is a world-class hybridizer. I visited the greenhouses one frigid January day, and thought I’d stepped into the Garden of Eden. Amazing!

  38. Kimberley says:

    I enjoyed this post. I have one violet, inherited from my grandmother ten years ago (no idea how long she’d had the plant) that is an absolute powerhouse! It is in nearly perpetual bloom, and it produces new side plants regularly. I separate the plant every two years, and share the babies with friends. I was glad to read that you put plants in a north window. That’s where mine live, and they do great. People react almost violently when I tell them that!

    I have other violets as well, which do not thrive as well as my grandmother’s. Some have leaves which have curled under, and I wonder if they are more sensitive to the cold temperature I keep the room. I’ll try to be more careful about using warmer water for them. My grandmother’s violet, in the same room and conditions, does not have curled under leaves.

    I enjoyed your post and lovely pictures!

  39. Abby says:

    Thanks for the info about Lyndon Lyon. The only problem is that now I have to CHOOSE which cultivars I am going to order and, given my plant obsession, I will probably order more than I should. I have already propagated lots of Begonias and it looks like they have to make room for some neighbors. If you hear about a woman who has been swallowed up by her plants, you will know whom they are talking about!

  40. Patricia says:

    Hi Kevin,

    I was given an African Violet for Easter last year and it was beautiful. Now the leaves are great but it hasn’t bloomed since last year. By the sounds of everything here I’ve read here I may be overwatering it. It is stil in the original 4″pot that has drainage. The pot is in a bowl that I’ve been putting about 2 inches of water in every week and just leave it. Actually I just did that this morning and noticed the soil is saturated and the bowl still has water in it. If I allow the soil to dry out and begin watering as suggested above will the plant bloom again?

  41. Hi Patricia – Yes. If you keep the soil moist but not saturated, and if you follow all other cultural directions described above, your African violet will most definitely bloom again.

  42. Dorothy B. says:

    I purchased 1 violet last fall & it was blooming, but it has NOT bloomed again. I heard once that violets need companions. Is this true? Also are there male & female violets & do you need one of each?

  43. Kevin, I have read all blogs about not blooming African violets, I purchased one in March 2013 with plastic container , blooming, then of, now of course blooming has stopped, I water underneath,bottom, and every now and then I have a 5cc syringe to water the top to remove white desidue top of soil, I named her Lucy, I did see one sprout looking like about to bloom go in to the light and I was excitied ,but wittherd and died. Lucy is a beautiful Plant under whats called an Intellegent Light(fluorescent), I keep her in my bedroom….I have researched and researched I would be SOOOO HAPPY if a single bloom would appear, should I just be patient? dunno why that new stem abut to try to bloom died, huge beautiful leaves , beautiful crown , no suckers…no matter what happens she will live with me I just want her to bloom….

  44. Hi Conrad Horst Jr – It sounds like you are doing everything right. However, you did not mention food. Try feeding Lucy a high-phosphorous formula (sold as “blossom booster”). I feed my violets with every watering. Plants under lights receive 1/2 teaspoon formula dissolved in one gallon of room-temperature (or slightly-warmer) water.

  45. Suz says:

    Thank you so much for this page! I have an African violet from my mother’s funeral that is not doing well, though I’ve given it indirect light and kept the leaves from getting wet (my sole knowledge of African violets before now). I have a lot of info on them now; again, thank you so much for your helpful page.

  46. Suzanne says:

    Years ago, I found what worked best for me is that I plant my AVs with a couple of inches of athletic shoe shoe string up into the dirt from the base of the clay pot hanging out the hole at the bottom with several inches of string extending down into a watering area. The watering area is always separate from the pot and below it, for example a small plastic margarine tub with a hole cut in the top and the string going through its hole, or a gravel-filled dish. Then the watering area is always kept full of fertilized water (I also like 10 30 20) which wicks up into the pot soil through the shoe string, keeping the soil constantly moist without ever directly watering it. I just make sure that the watering area constantly has enough water. Then I put the margarine tub or gravel dish inside a basket or larger pot with the clay pot with violet sitting on top. My secret is hidden and the plants flower bountifully! And I’ve found Northern windows work well for constant indirect light.

  47. Diane says:

    Can I leave the violets in the same size pot as I bought it in ,can I just leave it in the same soil also Diane

  48. Suz – Nice to meet you. So glad you found this information helpful.

    Hi Suzanne – Wick-watering (which is what you described) is wonderful. Love that you keep your reservoir hidden for the purpose of display.

    Diane – No need to shift to a larger pot until the diameter of the plant’s leaves exceed 3 times the diameter of the pot.

  49. Jackie Peschong says:

    Thanks for all the pictures and wonderful information. I snapped a couple of African violet leaves off as I was repotting the plant. I put RO water in small styrofoam cups, covered the top of the cup with plastic food wrap, put a pencil hole through the wrap, put each leaf in its own cup, and set them under my fluorescent lights. I watched the leaves for a couple of months, both getting many roots; I added a tiny bit of fertilizer as I replenished the water as it slowly evaporated. As I got busier and busier, I forgot to pot them. Imagine my surprise when each leaf grew a plant; still not having the time to repot, I left them in the cups. I was thrilled when each clone bloomed!! One of the fun trends now that I have noticed is growing Tillandsias in hanging glass shapes. I found an egg-shaped glass and now have an African violet in it with the depth of the glass just deep enough to hold water and roots of the violet. It too is blooming. I love experimenting with growing plants.

  50. Julie says:

    Kevin, I’m curious as to whether (or how often) you exchange the old soil in the pots for fresh soil. I have a couple of violets that have been in the same 4″ pots for 3.5 years. I do feed them but have begun to wonder whether it might be a good idea to refresh the soil and I’d be interested in your thoughts.

    Thanks!

  51. Susan L. Espersen says:

    Kevin, you got me on the road to African Violet heaven! I got teased constantly about saving the plastic containers in which fruit and lettuce come, but they are perfect for propagating violets! I have never had such luck! I thought that the leaves would rot, but they didn’t, and I have baby plants peaking up everywhere! Thanks so much for the great tips! Plants are expensive and this makes it possible for me to have as many as I want! Keep giving us the fantastic ideas!

  52. Lauren says:

    My violet is in a plastic pot with no drainage hole. Its not doing so well and is looking a bit wilted. Do you think I should swap it into a different pot? Also what causes the leaves to get yellow spots? I had that problem a little while back, I though it was maybe too much sun (I’m in Australia). Your plants look amazing by the way!

  53. sue says:

    Hi Kevin. very interesting and informative article. here’s my problem. both of my pretty good size african violets also bloomed constantly. one in purple, the other in pink. (2 are enough for me). I have had them long enough to have needed repotting 3 times. 2 years ago i moved into a new home. my pink one hasn’t bloomed since and i have done nothing different…help? thanks.

  54. Marilee says:

    Hi Kevin:
    I have an XTC violet, that is pink with purple splotches. I propogated one, and the bloom came out just purple.

    A year later, I propogated another leaf, and just a pink bloom with no purple.

    So do you have any idea how this is happening? The mother is healthy but many years old, and has had many babies that were the correct bloom.

    Thanks!

  55. Linda says:

    Hi Kevin,

    I have an African Violet that had blooms and rebloomed then earlier this year then the blooms died off and I was hoping once the.spring I’d see some blossoms. I got new leaves but they stayed small in the middle and no.blooms. I’m.wondering why? I’ll have to try to propagate like you showed in a plastic bag.

    Thanks

  56. Marie says:

    Hi!

    I’ve referred back to this page several times on caring for my african violets. I brought two AVs with me to university in the fall and they did not like the dorm very much and stopped blooming and got yellow patches on their leaves. since moving from my dorm the leaves have been looking fantastic and there is always new leaf growth but never any flowers anymore. they seem to get plenty of light. i have started to try schultz african violet fertilizer. do you have any other recommendations? thank you!!

  57. Alicia says:

    Hi Kevin,
    Thanks for all the good tips. In the midst of moving preparations I accidentally let my lovely African Violet get too dry and the flowers died. The leaves are still healthy looking. I did not remove all the dried up flowers…unsure if they were needed to allow for further blooming. Should I pull them off or not? Once they have died, can they come back with the care and treatment you describe?

    Thanks much!

  58. Hi Marie – I’d try a different food, such as Jack’s Classic Blossom Booster.

    Hi Alicia – Pinch off the spent blooms, provide food and water and the other cultural conditions described above, and you’ll have blooms in very short order.

  59. Kristy says:

    Hello!
    I bought my violets at the grocery store for $1 each! At the time, they were in blooms and quite beautiful. Now–over a year later–no more blooms but the leaves still look fantastic! I’m so happy to find this advice and can’t wait to try everything.

    Is it recommended to plant more than one plant in one pot?

  60. Hi Kristy – One plant per pot is best. Otherwise, leaves will create too much shade and bloom will suffer. Have fun with your violets!

  61. Apryl says:

    I got a surprise at one of my local supermarkets. It has a tiny plant/cut flower section. They have surprised me twice in the past few years. Last year a rarely seen curly Hoya and yesterday ~
    a miniature African Violet. Of course I couldn’t leave it there. The last time I saw one was at the New England Flower Show in Boston. It’s in a pot with no drainage so I will propagate some leaves just in case.
    I confess to causing crown rot in one of my older plants. Took a chance a peeled all the rot off and stuck the little bit of healthy crown into the soil. It lived and has a flower. Doesn’t hurt to try.

  62. Dear Kevin, love your newsletter. Do you have any info regarding streptocarpus? Their care is quite different from that of their cousins, African Violets, isn’t it… Any hints you can share about propagation would be appreciated!
    Thanks,
    Michele

  63. Lois says:

    Kevin, your directions were doable instead of daunting, and because of them I now have 6 (had 7,gave one away) beautiful African Violets from one plant. After dividing, they spent time under a fluorescent light fixture in the basement until they were blooming beautifully. I have now placed those beauties on my Victorian violet stand and divided two more, plus replanted one that had a stretched neck. I am looking forward to having a “stable” of blooming violets to rotate onto the violet stand following their spa vacations in the basement! Heck, I may need to find ANOTHER stand! Thank you for your great information!

  64. Emily Stubbs says:

    I had been mistakenly keeping my violets away from all windows because I was towould be too much light. But my 2 violets hadn’t bloomed for yrs. The ONE I had from my grandma who had passed away, had not bloomed in so long I couldn’t even remember what color the blooms had been! And I couldn’t get rid of it of course because of the sentimental value. But thanks to you it’s blooming almost continuously! And the blooms are extra special to me, because of my grandma of course, but also because theyare different from all the other violets I have now, and from any of the ones I see in the stores. They’re a single petal bloom that’s a very pale pink which really shows of the sparkling or shimmer quality violets have.
    Anyway I just wanted to say thank you. I never would’ve gotten it, or any of them to bloom if it weren’t for you. And I just came back to re-read this totoday ecause I picked up a pink & green variegated leaf violet, but it hasn’t bloomed for me yet. And again thanks to you,I noticed it has 2 centers. So now I know it needs to be split. I’m getting ready to follow your directions on that now. Thanks for all your help!

  65. kimble johnnie says:

    my violet nevers blooms but it is beautiful just doesn’t bloom

  66. Little D says:

    I have a mini AV given to me as a gift with lots of blooms. After the flowers died off it bloomed again once, but I didn’t pinch off the dead flowers since I didn’t know any better then. Now it has plenty of healthy green leaves but no blooms for about 9 months. It’s in a bay window facing northeast. I water regularly once a week or when soil is dry, and fertilze with Miracle Gro AV food (7-7-7). I even cut off some of the older leaves in hope of diverting nutrients to incite bloom, but to no avail, of course. New leaves are sprouting yet no bloom. It does not have any sucker plants. What else can I do?

  67. yvonne moram says:

    MY SISTER HAD AN AFRICAN VIOLET, FOR 20YRS SHE ALWAYS KEPT IT IN ONE PLACE ON HER FIRE PLACE SURROUND, BUT SHE ALWAYS WATERED IT WITH HER TEA POT,SHE SWORE THAT IS WHAT KEPT THE PLANT GOING, THE TANNING FROM THE TEA.WHEN SHE DIED THE PLANT WENT AS WELL!! LOVE YOUR WEB YVONNE

  68. Hi Little D – Miniature AVs need even more light than standard varieties. Try moving the plant to brighter spot, if possible, or place it beneath fluorescents. Also, better to use a plant food which is high in phosphorous. You might like to use the same food I use (it’s mentioned in the article above), or something similar. Look for a high middle number.

  69. Juanita says:

    Kevin
    I have three AV in one long tray I noticed one is kinda growing above or pushing up from the soil I see the roots what is going on and how do I “fix” it?
    Also how can I tell if my AV needs divided or separated? I have one large AV with variegated leaves in the center and the outer leaves are pure green.
    Thanks for your help.
    Juanita

  70. Mary Ann says:

    I need your help. I read your advice and was very happy with what you teach. I noticed that you use a fertilizer much higher than mine and am wondering if that’s the cause of my violets not blooming as terrifically as yours. I have been using Dyna-Gro, liquid Bloom, plant food – 3-12-6. Your fertilizer is 10-30-20. Do you think I should change to your kind?

  71. Lou says:

    Love my African violets! My grandmother, mom and I all have the knack for growing some beauties. Yet my sister and mother in law have no luck at all. Your info was great and i will try a few ideas I picked up on!

  72. Marcia says:

    After killing all my orchids, I tried African violets…and WOW. I must have the perfect place. SoI bought 25 leaves on the ebay. She sent doubles and only 3 died. It has been 9 weeks and I have babies all over. I thought I’d better get a video of how to transplant to these self watering containers I bought. Thanks for the video. Mine look like yours. When do I chop off the mother leaf? Mine are still doing well and green. This is a porch I have enclosed with windows on the north and east. They get a direct blast of sun for a short time in the morning. I have insulated it under the floor so it should be ok. The older plants have constant bloom. Thanks for the inspiration.

  73. Ellen says:

    Kevin;

    Can you tell me the name (variety) of your white and burgundy african violet in the last picture just before the Comments section? It’s beautiful and I would like to find one for my collection.
    Thanks.

  74. Lu says:

    I have many leaves on my plant, but no blooms. It is in a room with Orchids that are thriving and lots of light. I am wondering if it is my container. It is called an African Violet pot like they had years ago. Glazed pottery on the outside and pourus on the inside. The florist tag said to keep the plant moist and that pot seems to do that, but according to what I read in your information I think it might be getting too wet. Will appreciate your answer.

  75. Cynthia says:

    Thank you for the instructions. I followed your suggestions and started a dozen plants. Cant wait to do it again, thinking I might need to snag a leaf or two from a friends (love to have a variety). Have you ever tried to combine leaves to get a different variety?

  76. reeni says:

    hi, kevin, do you ever grow miniature violets? I’ve had limited success and several failures. They don’t seem to want to bloom often and the ones with leaves closer to the soil die off. I’m trying to keep glass pebbles on the soil for those.

  77. Hi Reeni – Miniatures demand more light than standard varieties. They bloom best when placed 2 inches beneath fluorescent lights.

  78. mimi staub says:

    I have 6 plants in 4in pots that are old and flower beautifully. I would like to transplant them in 5 in pots but I can’t find clay pots. Can you help?

  79. DianeVar says:

    My violet blooms all the time and I totally ignore it. I have it in a northeast window in one of those self watering pots. It’s quite lovely and I enjoy it very much. I think I need to buy a couple of new ones now :)

  80. Wendy Aycoth says:

    Hi Kevin, I just may have a new tidbit for you pertaining to African Violets! Each time you water, add 2 teaspoons of Hydrogen Peroxide to the water, you will be AMAZED in about seven weeks to see how many flowers you will have on your plants! I have shared this tip with many Garden Club ladies, and I get many letters telling me how fantastic their plants are now!

  81. Wendy Aycoth says:

    Kevin, I have a tip for you that will encourage more flowers than you have ever seen on your African Violets. When you water, add a couple teaspoons of Hydrogen Peroxide to the water. Seven weeks later you will be amazed. The leaves will be full and plentiful too.

  82. Rose Clark says:

    Hello..I have several violets..but my husband dropped one of my favorites..all I have is the whole crown plant with about an inch and half stub..can it be saved? Right now, I have it stuck in moist dirt..but, not sure of the outcome..help! Thanks!

  83. Hi Rose – Your damaged plant will probably recover. To hasten new growth, increase humidity around the plant. And as insurance, I’d take some of the broken leaves and propagate them to make new plants.

  84. Kathy says:

    I’m new to African violets having received one as a gift. I’ve had it for approximately 3 years. I thought it had outgrown its pot & transplanted it to a larger pots. Since that time, the outer leaves have become limp & are dying off. What can I do to help it survive?

  85. Hi Kathy – The stems, or “petioles” of the outer leaves can rot if they are resting against the rim of the pot. To rejuvenate, snap off the damaged leaves, and then shift the plant to a smaller pot. Trim some of the roots, if necessary, to accommodate the smaller container. And be sure to bury the “neck” of the plant deep enough so that only the stems of leaves are exposed. Hope this was helpful to you.

  86. Westland says:

    Well it seems that someone has had a small success or at least success as far as they can tell. African violets do need light but it also depends on if the tubes are new, or if they’re T12s, T8s or T5s. Also I grow large standard African Violets for show. It is not uncommon for plant to be 18 to 26 inches across. Leaves are as big as 5 to 7 inches not including the petiole(stem of leaf). Violets have fine fibrous roots and need a light porous soil. We call these soiless mixes. A combination of peat and perlite. Many show growers use ProMix BX and then mix it 2 parts ProMix Bx to 1 part perlite. Plastic pots are used to maintain and evenly moist mix. Show plants are kept disbudded for months while the foliage is allowed to grow. About 8 weeks before the show we induce budding. Want to know how to really grow an African Violet? Check out the African Violet Societ of America (AVSA). http://www.avsa.org. Find a local club and join. Clubs love getting new people who want to learn how to grow African Violets. Please check it out and don’t believe every thing you read online. Do a search for African Violet Show Plants and see what you find. You will see what a really good African Violet. Watch out for those clay pots. They dry out fast and harbor disease. Find a club in your area that is having a show and go. You will see what they are suppose to look like.

  87. Westland — I’ve grown African violets for nearly 40 years, and, like you, was an active member of AVSA. Perhaps you’ve read some of the articles I wrote for African Violet Magazine (the AVSA presented me with an award for one such article in 2009). These days, I grow Saintpaulia exclusively for pleasure — not for show. I can’t tell you how much fun it is to enjoy the constant parade of flowers without going through the extremes of disbudding, etc., in hopes of winning a blue ribbon. And as for pots, I’ve used both clay and plastic over the years. Based on my own experience — not endlessly repeated hearsay — I’ve discovered that both types are acceptable for the best little houseplant in the world.

  88. Jake says:

    Great site Kevin….. I like your laid back approach to growing African Violets…
    As for myself, I am new to the AV world… I recently rescued 2 AVs from the clearance rack @ Lowes in the dead of a Louisiana winter… :) They are currently in ceramic s/w pots, and are still alive for now….
    I recently bought an Oyama pot and a MoistRite pot to try… I also may try a clay pot….

  89. wendy says:

    hi i loved your ideas but I have a violet we have had for years and it has always done good but now the leaves are just limp and I’ve tried everything I can think of except transplanting it to bigger pot got any ideas?

  90. joyce says:

    The African Violet Society of America http://WWW.AVSA.org has s very helpful page called Violets 101. You’ll find some great tips there for how to repot an older violet. With regular repotting they can live 50 years!

  91. Susan says:

    I have a question about lighting. I have cool whites like your setup. My African violets are not thriving however and I’ve had to cut them back quite a bit by removing dead leaves. Many are like babies (only a few inches across). Should these be treated like minatures for lighting purposes ?

    FWIW, I think they may be failing because I’ve been using tap water which contains chloramine in my area.

  92. Hi Susan – If all other cultural conditions are satisfactory (sufficient humidity, not-too-large pots, etc.) then yes, move the plants closer to the lights. And if there’s any chance your cool white tubes are old, definitely replace them. You’d be amazed at how plants respond to fresh fluorescent tubes!

  93. Deb says:

    Kevin- So glad to have found your site. I had a friend who became a member of ASAV with a local chapter and there’s no way I’d follow some of her ideas- like sitting pots on top of plastic water containers with long wicks, to me, look hideous. I love your laid back way of growing AV’s. And like you I’ve previously had wonderful luck for many years. My problem is- usually my small garden of AV’s (in an east facing bay window) are all in bloom every winter here in New England. This year I got nothing, except one large one that my sister sent me a few months ago. That gorgeous thing won’t stop blooming! I’ve even lost a couple I’ve have for a few years. I can’t seem to see any evidence of bug infestation, and I’d spray them if my husband hadn’t used the last of my bug spray, and I was able to find some more. The temps have been colder than ever before so I keep telling myself that that is the problem. I do have a plant light mounted in this window that I turn on faithfully every afternoon and shut off when I go to bed (late). Any ideas on why all this is happening- no blooms and failing plants?
    PS- You might want to delete #84 I think it’s an ad.

  94. Sandra D in Joliet says:

    I just discovered your site and I love it. The window with glass shelves are just lovely! I overlooked a 2nd crown growing (and discovered 1 sucker) so I separated them yesterday following your instructions. I always heard not to get the leaves wet, use a brush to clean the leaves, etc but tried the shower according to your instructions. They look awesome and so happy (grateful too) today. Thanks for sharing your knowledge and great photos.

  95. Karen says:

    Hi Kevin, Our city water has ph 8.5-9.0 alkaline with little chlorine. I fill containers and let sit for 2-3 days, then I have been adding 18 drops of vinegar to make the ph 6.6-6.8, and add 1/2 tsp. per gallon of Optimara 14-12-14 fertilizer. My violets are looking good and have many flowers, but is this the appropriate way to water. I’m fairly new at growing AV’s. Please help!

  96. Rose Ann Konkler says:

    Hi Kevin,
    Lots of great information. Could you tell me what I am doing wrong. the leaves of my plantsare very compact. They do not reach up tall like I thought they should.
    The shower you talk about also. Do you mist the plants with water? And how does that get rid of the dust?
    Thank you for your help
    Rose Ann

  97. Klynt says:

    I have read many site on African Violets, but I really like yours. IT gives off a vibe that tells me you really know what you are doing. Thanks!

    I wanted to share my story quickly. I had a few african violets for about 5 years after rescuing them from the building’s laundry room. They bloomed a few flowers here and there, but I didn’t think much of it as they were still healthy and beautiful, and the ones my mom had growing up never bloomed either. I thought that perhaps they don’t all bloom, or don’t do so very often. Well, after a friend of mine came over and told me that such healthy plants should be in bloom year round, I was excited! So I did some research (before I fund your site) and did a few alterations. I already used liquid African violet fertilizer every time I watered, but added a pinch of epsom salts to it back in january, started watering from the bottom, and put them directly in the south east window sill. (my only window) Within a few weeks I could see little bumps forming near the roots on one plant. Within a month it was in full bloom. And I mean FULL! This one has 3 individual plants in one pot and each one bloomed, but one of them had more flowers than leaves (and they were quite dense in leaves, even though I keep thinning them out). It wasn’t long before the other two followed and are growing flowers like crazy. The funny thing is that they are completely different from the ones they produced before! More colorful, vibrant, and larger. One went from producing dull white flowers, to soft pink ones. They are getting too big for their pots now but as long as they are happy, I will leave them alone! I think I will get a few more! My new favorite plant!

    Cheers,
    Klynt ;)

  98. Brenda says:

    I have a purple African violet that is 45 years old. It is my baby and I love the way it just keeps blooming and blooming and blooming. I like to feed it just African violet food. I do have to separate it every once in a while so that I get more than one plant but the mother plant is actually 45 years old. It was a gift from one of my college friends when I was first married. Every time I stop and think how old it is I am very surprised.
    Since I’ve moved to Florida it likes it here much better than Connecticut. Wishing you all lots of success with your plants.

  99. Carol says:

    I have an AV that’s over two years old. I have repotted it several times, merely moving into bigger pots without cutting any shoots off. It is now in an 8″ pot, and has a 15″ span and 8″ height. I read that AVs should only be kept in 4″ pots. I guess I will need to perform surgery, but am very nervous. Did I mention that I am not a plant person? I honestly ignore it and water from the bottom —- and it is in near constant bloom! I’m afraid that I will kill it if I try to help it. Any insight would be appreciated!
    .

  100. martin says:

    Hi One question,

    I had a Violet for over 11 years she died about 4 months ago I could not saved her. I wonder if there is a way I can bring her back, I have not town away the pot, I was wondering if there could be a seed or something I can use to bring her back. I got attached to her.

    thanks.

    martin

  101. jeanne says:

    HI KEVIN

    I FINALLY WAS ABLE TO GET A PLANT FROM ROOTING ONE LEAF STEM. I NOW HAVE 2. THEY HAVE OT FLOWERED YET AD I HAVE THEM ABOUT 8 MONTHS. I ALSO HAVE 2 OTHER VIOLETS ABOUT 2 YEARS NOW. IN THE BEGINNING THEY ALWAYS BLOOMED. SO I PIT THEM IN AFRICAN VIOLET POTS. I STILL HAVE N BLOOMS. THEY RE IN FRONT OF A NORTH WINDOW I FEED THEM ONCE A MONTH. CAN YOU GIVE ME SOME ADVICE HOW I CAN GET THEM TO BLOOM. THANKS

  102. Melesita says:

    Thanks for the great info! I had to repot my violet because of its trunk being too long. How long do I need to keep my violet in the plastic bag?

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