The African violet, known botanically as Saintpaulia, is one of the most popular flowering houseplants. African violets are easy to grow for the beginning gardener, yet offer a wide range of cultivars to satisfy the serious grower. African violets adapt well to typical growing conditions found in the home. Because of their small stature, they also adapt well to limited space gardens such as those in apartments with just a few windowsills. Many cultivars of African violets are available, ranging from miniatures (plants 6 inches or less in diameter) to large (over 16 inches in diameter). Flowers come in blue, purple, lavender, pink, red, and white as well as bicolored and multi-colored forms. Flower shapes also vary from single, star-shaped blooms to double, semidouble, fringed, and ruffled. Even the leaves come in different types, including ruffled, scalloped, quilted, and variegated.
LIGHTING REQUIREMENTS: African Violet houseplants do best and flower more in bright indirect light, close to an east-facing window is ideal. When the light is too low, the leaves of African Violet Plants turn dark green, lose their plump appearance, and produce very few flowers. The leaves of African Violet Plants turn a pale yellow-green and the flowers fade quickly when there is too much light.
CARE INSTRUCTIONS WATER: Allow the top 1"- 2" of soil to dry out before watering an African Violet plant. Avoid using water that has passed through a softener or water containing chlorine or fluoride. Always water African Violet houseplants from the bottom to prevent water getting on the leaves. Remove any excess water that is still in the saucer after 15 minutes.
FERTILIZER: Special fertilizer for African Violet houseplants is available wherever plants are sold. In a pinch, you use any balanced, soluble, houseplant food at 1/2 the recommended strength. Fertilize African Violet Plants monthly when the plant is actively growing. Over-fertilizing causes leaf tip burn, poor flower production, leaf cracks, and may even kill an African Violet Plant.
TEMPERATURE: African Violets do well in temperatures 75-80 degrees during the day and about 10 degrees cooler at night. Keep African Violet Plants away from cold drafts and heating vents.
HUMIDITY: High humidity is preferable, but African Violets easily adapt to basic household humidity.
FLOWERING: Quickly removing dead blooms and stems from African Violet Plants encourages flower growth. Keeping the soil of African Violet houseplants on the dry side helps the plant bloom more often.
PESTS: Sspider mites and Mealy Bugs are two houseplant pests that attack African Violet Plants. Use a Qtip dipped in alcohol or Neem Oil to treat these insects as soon as they appear. Since the leaves of African Violet Plants are easily damaged, only use commercial insecticides that are recommended for African Violets.
DISEASES: African Violet houseplants are susceptible to botrytis, powdery mildew, and Erwinia Blight. Preventing African Violet Plants from getting these diseases is easier than treating the diseases once they appear. Providing good air circulation around African Violet Plants and never getting water on the leaves helps prevent diseases.
SOIL: African Violet Plants like a rich, airy, potting medium. Special African Violet soil is available at most garden centers. African Violets should be re-potted every 6-12 months using fresh soil to prevent unwanted salt build-up.