How to successfully grow African Violets

The African Violet is a favourite house plant, with good reason! It tolerates average house conditions and can be made to bloom almost continuously in any window exposure.

The original plants were found in the cool, hilly areas of East Africa, growing in soil rich in humus, in filtered light, even temperatures and high humidity. If you provide similar conditions for them, they will thrive and flower year around.


  • Proper lighting is essential for growth and flowering. African Violets need to be grown in strong light, usually within a foot of an uncurtained window, or just on the edge of sunshine. Hot sun must be avoided, but winter or morning sun is ideal. Although high light intensity is needed for growth and flowering, too much light causes the foliage to yellow, become tight in the plant centre, curl down and become generally unattractive. Too little light produces long-stemmed, spindly growth, with few or no flowers. Light is so important that you may need to experiment with different windows and locations to find the best spot for continuous flowering.

  • The amount of light also varies with the seasons. Although violets never need directnshine, it can be very helpful from November until mid-February when the sun is not as strong. For the rest of the year full sunlight is too much. Thin curtains may be used to cut the light or the plants can be moved further back from a bright south or west window. North and east windows are usually best.

  • Plants can be grown entirely under artificial light if available natural light is not sufficient. Any regular tube can be used if suspended approximately 25cm (10″) over the plants. A single 40 watt tube will light an area approximately 45-120cm (18-48″), a double tube fixture, 75-120cm (30-48″). The fluorescent lights may be turned on for 12 to 16 hours or they may be used to supplement natural light.
  • Water

    Keep your plants lightly moist, but never soggy. When the top of the soil is dry to the touch, add water. Water from the top and never allow the water to remain in the saucer for more than 5 minutes. The frequency of watering depends upon the size of your plants; small plants naturally requiring less watering than large plants. No exact schedule can be set because of the changing conditions; you must check every day or two. Severe wilting will damage the plant and must not happen. Watering too much, or too often causes root rot. Use lukewarm water. Rain water is excellent. Wet foliage does no harm unless the sun is too bright.
    Temperatures and Humidity
    • Violets grow best at an even temperature that stays between 18-22° C (64-72° F) with night temperatures not below 15° C (60° F.). If the humidity is above 40%, the flowers will be larger and last longer. Bud blast may be due to very low humidity.

    • Humidity can be increased by placing the plant on a tray of moist pebbles. Fresh air is also important for plant growth, but cold drafts will cause spotted, brittle leaves.
    Pots, Soils and Fertilizers
    • African Violets may be grown in plastic, clay or ceramic pots, although watering will vary with each type. Unglazed clay pots will need to be watered frequently. A hole for drainage is recommended.

  • Coarse, loose potting soil that contains a good percentage of humus (peat moss, leaf mold, compost) to hold the moisture is preferred. This allows the roots to penetrate easily. The Grower’s Choice African Violet Soil is ideal. A good mixture contains sterile garden soil, humus and vermiculite or coarse perlite.

  • Many plant foods are prepared especially for African Violets. Fertilizer will help to promote plant growth and blooming and should be used according to the instructions on the package.
  • Propagation from Leaves
    • Violet plants are reproduced from leaf cuttings. The leaf selected should be healthy, vigorous and small in size. Large, old or yellowed leaves should be avoided. Remove the leaf from the plant with a sideways pull. Cut the petiole (leaf stem) with a sharp knife, leaving a 2.5cm (1″) stem. Fill a flat or pot with about 7cm (3″) of vermiculite or other rooting mix. Insert the petiole straight down, covering the whole stem, and about 6cm (2.5″) of the leaf blade. Moisten the medium and keep it lightly moist. Place in bright light and the mother cutting will produce identical new plants in 2 to 6 months. Placing the entire pot inside a plastic bag will usually speed up the process. A healthy leaf may produce from one to ten or more plants. The original leaf will eventually wither. When individual plants have 4 to 6 leaves they will be ready to divide. Remove the whole clump from the pot, pull apart individual plants and pot separately in approximately 2″(5cm) pots.

    • Grow for 2 or 3 months until the plant is budded, and then transplant into a 7-10 cm (3-4″) pot. This pot is a good permanent growing pot for standard sized violets. It will maintain an attractive plant and continuous blooms. For those who want to grow larger plants, 12-15cm(5-6″) pots may be used. Miniature violets are maintained in 6cm (2.5″) pots and semi-miniatures in 7.5cm (3″).

  • All violets should be transplanted at least once a year. At this time, remove the plant from the pot. If changing to a larger pot, the soil ball should be left intact. New soil is filled in around the ball and up to the lowest leaf of the plant. The plant should be placed about 6mm(1/4″) below the lip of the pot to allow room for watering. If the plant is old, and has a “neck”, remove enough roots from the bottom so that the plant can be positioned 6mm(1/4″) below the lip of the pot. Roots will grow from the “neck” when it is covered with soil. The potting soil should NEVER be packed down hard. Tap the outside of the pot with your hands to settle the soil gently. Water only lightly after potting, and then again in a day or two.
  • Courtesy White Rose Nursery.