Achieving a Vibrant African Violet

12 Sep 2021

The African violet is an absolute beauty. It has a bit of a reputation for being fussy and finicky, but once you follow the simple “rules” and “demands”, it is fairly forgiving and straightforward to care for. It makes the perfect gift or addition to any home.

Its lifespan and array of colorful blossoms make it a highly popular and sought-after indoor plant.

An African violet can be intimidating for the new houseplant collector but have no fear, this article will clearly guide on you all the best practices and tips.

Main Features

Just like the ZZ plant, the African violet is native to Tanzania as well. The best aspect of this houseplant by far is that it’s an all-year-round bloomer, and these vibrant colored flowers are absolutely gorgeous.

The plant belongs to the Gesneriaceae family and is native to higher elevations as it was discovered in the Nguru mountains.

This East African flower was founded by a German colonial officer, Walter Baron von Saint Paul-Illaire in 1892. He sent the specimen back to his home in Germany where it was grown and propagated. The botanical name of this houseplant; Saintpaulia, is derived from the founder’s surname.

Did you know that this tropical plant’s genus is comprised of 6 species of flowering plants?

How Big Do They Get?

There are three main types and sizes of an African violet; miniature, standard and large.

The miniature grows up to 3 to 6 inches (7.6 – 15.2cm) in diameter, and a petal measures around 0.75 inches (1.9cm) wide, with a leaf blade being 1 inch (2.5cm) long.

The standard African violet has a diameter of 8 to 16 inches (20.3 – 40.6cm), with its flower petals growing around 2 inches (5cm) in diameter, and the leaf blade measuring around 3 inches (7.6cm) in length.

The larger African violets are about 16 inches (40.6cm) in diameter, with a flower’s petal being 3 inches (7.6cm) wide, and a leaf blade measuring up to 6 inches (15.2cm) in length.

Growth Speed

The saintpaulia has a moderate growth rate, taking around 2 years until it reaches its mature width and growth.

Its growth slows down remarkably during the colder winter and autumn months, and once it reaches its mature size.

The rate of growth is highly dependent on the care your plant receives and the environment it is in.

How Long Do They Live?

In a suitable environment, this houseplant can be gifted through generations with an average lifespan of 50 years.

Are They Poisosnous to Cats and Dogs?

The African violet is non-toxic to pets as well as humans. No wonder this houseplant is so popular!

African Violet - size, lifespan, toxicity, growth speed (infographics)

How to Care

We mentioned earlier that the saintpaulia has a bad rap for being difficult to grow, however, in the right environment with the right care, it’ll be a happy, blooming houseplant.

Let’s take a look at how to show your African violet some TLC to ensure it flourishes year-round.

How Often to Water

There are few things to note when watering your African violet. The water should be distilled, lukewarm, the soil must be kept moist, and how you water this plant matters.

Let’s explain a bit further. Just like the prayer plant, the African violet is sensitive to the chemicals in tap water. Water your houseplant with either distilled water or leave the tap water outside for 24 hours, so that the chlorine can be evaporated.

This houseplant doesn’t enjoy cool temperatures and that includes the water temperature. Lukewarm and tepid water is perfect because it’s a good temperature and also creates a humid environment for the plant.

Water your houseplant every 5 to 7 days to keep it moist. The roots are very delicate and sensitive, so they can be easily impacted by over or underwatering, simply make sure that the potting mix is moist and not overly saturated and damp.

You can check the top 1 inch (2.5cm) of the potting mix to see if it’s too dry or too damp.

When watering it you mustn’t get their soft, fuzzy leaves wet as this will lead to fungal infections. You can water from the top but just remember to not wet those leaves, however, another effective method is to place your plant in a saucer of tepid water for about 4 hours.


The saintpaulia like most houseplants, such as the ponytail palm, requires good drainage. Poor or inadequate drainage will cause fungal infections and root rot as the plant becomes waterlogged. The type of pot and soil will impact your houseplant’s survival, and its potential to bloom.

The container should have a large hole or multiple smaller holes at the bottom to allow for excess water to flow out. Remember to place a saucer underneath to catch the excess water, and always empty it out, so that your plant isn’t sitting in a puddle of water.

Clay pots are perfect to enhance drainage, as their porous material drains water well. Plastic containers are suitable as well, but they must have a drainage hole.

To ensure excellent drainage try adding a layer of sharp sand or gravel at the bottom of the container or mix in some vermiculite or perlite to make the soil airy.

How to Prune

Pruning and trimming can be done throughout the year to encourage growth and improve the appearance of your plant.

One should always remove any dying flowers, leaves, or stems as soon as possible to encourage new growth. Removing older flowers ensures that energy isn’t directed to them anymore.

When pruning make sure to use a clean pair of scissors, and cut as close to the base as possible without cutting into the main stem, or use your fingers to gently remove the leaves at the bottom.

You can remove 3 or more bottom leaves on a monthly basis to enhance the look of it, and make sure that it gets all the light and air that it needs.

Clean your pruners, shears, or scissors by wiping the blade with a diluted bleach solution or rubbing alcohol mixture.


Repotting may only be necessary about once a year or if your plant is suffering from root rot or being pot bound. You can tell if your plant has become root-bound because its roots will begin to grow out through the drainage hole.

The best time to repot it is during the spring or early summer months, while it is actively growing. You also want to repot it before it is likely to bloom.

Keep in mind that the root systems and leaves are tender and can be easily broken, so handle them with care. Don’t shake the plant too much in an attempt to try to remove the excess soil, as this will only damage the stems, leaves, and root system.

Follow the simple and easy steps below.

  1. Remove your plant by gently sliding it out or loosening the soil with a blunt object that you slide around the perimeter of the pot.
  2. Use your hands or a gentle stream of water to remove any excess soil attached to the roots.
  3. Take a quick look at the roots and cut off any unhealthy or diseased tissue. Additionally, you should remove any dead leaves.
  4. Partially fill the new container with a moist, well-draining potting mixture and place the crown about 0.5 inches (1.2cm) below the rim of the pot.
  5. Carefully firm the soil by patting around the rootball with your hands.
  6. Water and care for your plant as you usually would, in a bright home where it’ll receive indirect light.


Now that you know exactly how to care for your African violet, we need to look at how to make sure its environment is optimal and encourages blooming.

Light Requirements

Unlike the desert rose who thrives in full sun, the African violet prospers in ample amounts of bright, indirect sunshine.

Remember that the African violet does best in tropical conditions so direct sun rays will cause your poor houseplant’s leaves to burn and shrivel up.


It flourishes in moist, well-draining, and aerated soil. Just like the lucky bamboo, the saintpaulia prefers lightweight soil with excellent drainage.

If the soil is too heavy, it’ll smother the roots and cause a soggy environment, as the potting mix will retain too much moisture. This can lead to fungal infections and even root rot, which if left untreated will be the demise of this houseplant.

The addition of some peat moss, vermiculite, or perlite to a cactus or succulent potting mix will enhance the drainage, and make the soil airier.

Here’s a quick tip; mix 1 part of vermiculite with a special African violet soil mix for the perfect potting mix.


Feeding your saintpaulia will encourage frequent blooming, but the roots are slightly sensitive to the build-up of soluble salts which can damage the root system, so don’t overdo it.

Fertilize your houseplant with a balanced 20-20-20 liquid or water-soluble fertilizer. Ideally, your houseplant should be fed every 4 to 6 weeks.

Here’s a quick tip on how to flush your African violet when the fertilizer salts build-up. Simply run a gentle stream of lukewarm water through the soil for 5 minutes, and let the excess water drain out.


The pot your plant is kept in should be 1 or 2 inches (2.5 – 5cm) wider in diameter than the roots of the African violet.

It will do well in either a clay or plastic container. Clay containers are great as they are porous which allows for good drainage. Plastic pots are also suitable, as long there’s a hole at the bottom to allow the water to drain out.


The saintpaulia prospers in warm temperatures between 60 to 72°F (15.5 – 22.2°C). During the wintertime make sure that it doesn’t wither in temperatures below 60°F (15.5°C).

The African violet cannot withstand prolonged periods of time in cool temperatures.

Do They Like Humidity?

The saintpaulia, much like the Christmas cactus, loves a humid environment. Your African violet will only flourish and blossom in high levels of humidity.

Simply place a humidifier in the same area as the plant or mist it with lukewarm water. Placing it in a kitchen or bathroom will also provide your plant with the perfect humidity levels. You can also create a humid environment by surrounding it with other houseplants.

If your environment is very dry, try adding some pebbles in a tray with water, and place the container on top of these stones.

Indoors vs. Outdoors

The saintpaulia thrives in USDA growing zones of 11 to 12.

Typically, this houseplant isn’t suitable for the outdoors. It has a few specific environmental requirements which can’t always be met outdoors, such as humidity levels, moist potting soil, indirect but bright sunshine, and adequate temperatures.

It’s much easier to grow your plant indoors and get it to bloom regularly, as you can control its environment more effectively.

If you are lucky enough to live in an area that suffices all these requirements then you can grow it outdoors, but please remember that this plant can’t tolerate direct sunlight or low temperatures which may be an issue during the cooler winter or autumn months.

African Violet - care, water, sunlight, soil, pot, temperature, fertilizer (infographics)

How to Get It to Bloom

The African violet adds a pop of color to any room, and flowers freely, year-round. There is an array of colors that the African violet blooms; pinks, purples, blues, and reds. The flower lasts for a few days and even up to a week before it falls off.

The environment is a huge factor when it comes to blooming. Flowering is encouraged by regular feeding, the optimal temperature, good lighting for at least 12 hours a day, and moist soil.

One must also ensure that the environment has a high level of humidity for blooming to occur. You can improve your home’s humidity levels by positioning the plant near a humidifier.

Incredibly, some experts have masterfully kept it blooming for 10 months.

How to Grow

Not only is this radiant houseplant beautiful but it’s fairly easy to propagate, it can be a breeze to grow from seeds as well.


You can propagate your African violet in soil and water by planting leaf cuttings. Always make sure that your shears, pruners, or scissors are sterilized by either wiping them with a diluted bleach solution or rubbing alcohol.

In Soil

Let’s get straight to the steps for how you can propagate it in soil, below.

  1. Prepare a small container with sand, perlite, or vermiculite. Water the medium, so that it’s evenly damp and moist.
  2. Use a chopstick or something of similar width, and poke a 1 inch (2.5cm) hole in the soil at a 45°angle.
  3. Cut off a healthy leaf or snap the petiole off from the base of the crown with your fingers.
  4. Trim the petiole until it’s about 1 or 1.5 inches (2.5 – 3.8cm) long, and dip the cut end in a little rooting hormone.
  5. Place the leaf-cutting 0.5 inches (1.2cm) beneath the soil, and carefully press the soil around the leaf-cutting.
  6. Find a clear plastic bag and place it over the container to keep the soil moist.
  7. You will notice tiny plants growing on the soil in about 3 months.
  8. Once the leaves on the new plants become 0.5 inches (1.2cm) long, then you can repot these little babies into a new home.

Expect new flowers to grow in 5 months after repotting them.

In Water

When propagating your houseplant in water, always remember that the jar should be clean and the water must be lukewarm.

  1. Prepare a wide jar with some tepid water, almost filled to the top. Tautly cover this jar with some clear plastic.
  2. Use a clean pair of shears or scissors to remove a healthy-looking leaf. Try to cut the leaf’s stem as close to the base as possible without cutting into the main stem, so that the leaf’s stem is at least 2 inches (5cm) long.
  3. Find a wooden skewer and poke a small hole in the plastic, and gently stick the stem into the plastic until it’s fully submerged.
  4. Position the jar in a bright area where it’ll receive ample amounts of indirect sunshine.
  5. Change the water every week, to prevent the build-up of algae.
  6. After about 2 or 4 weeks, you’ll notice some roots forming. Once this happens, add a drop of liquid fertilizer.
  7. You can gently remove your little baby African violet once a new leaf has formed and is around 0.25 inches (0.6cm) in size. This will most likely occur after 2 months after the roots have developed.
  8. Plant it in some moist potting soil, and care for it as would any other African violet.

How to Plant Seeds

The saintpaulia is incredibly simple to grow from seed. The relatively straightforward steps below will guide you through this easy process.

  1. Prepare a small container with damp peat moss.
  2. Evenly sprinkle the tiny seeds over the peat moss. There’s no need to cover them as they’re so small, so they cover themselves as they fall into the potting mix.
  3. Lightly mist the seeds with lukewarm water, and place a plastic cover over the container.
  4. Position the container in a bright windowsill where it’ll get plenty of indirect light.
  5. Make sure to keep spraying the peat moss as it shouldn’t dry out.
  6. The seeds will likely germinate in 1 to 9 weeks, and once their largest leaf is 0.5 inches (1.2cm) wide then you can transplant it into a new pot.

How to Revive

Don’t worry if you’re noticing that your African violet is looking slightly peculiar or diseased, we’re here to help guide you on what’s going on, and most importantly how to fix it.

Leaves Drooping

This may be due to improper watering. Your saintpaulia is trying to tell you that it’s either being over- or underwatered. Touch the top 1 inch (2.5cm) of the soil to feel whether the soil is too damp or too dry.

If the potting mixture is dry, all you need to do is water your houseplant until it flows out through the drainage hole, and remove the damaged leaves.

A saturated environment will cause fungal infections and root rot. Remove your African violet, and cut off any diseased or infected roots. Repot it in a new, slightly moist potting soil.

Keep in mind that your pot should have a drainage hole to prevent your plant from retaining too much water or sitting in soggy conditions.

Why Are the Leaves Browning and Curling?

The African violet prefers warm and humid environments, so it thrives when watered with lukewarm water. Your plant’s leaves may become brown and curl inwards when cold water is used or if the environment is too dry. Always remove the dead or damaged leaves.

Switch up the water that you’re using, and make sure it’s lukewarm, and try to place a humidifier near the plant.

Avoid positioning your plant around an air vent or draft, as this will cause a dry environment.

Leaves Turning Yellow

Your African violet leaves begin to yellow when it’s placed in an unsuitable environment, where it receives too much direct sunlight, the humidity levels are too low, or you may be overfeeding it, or it’s either being under- or overwatered.

You will have to make a few changes and adjustments. Make sure that your plant is receiving bright yet indirect sunshine, and that the soil is kept moist but not saturated.

You can create an environment that is humid by placing stones in a tray with water and positioning your houseplant on top of the stones. Additionally, your plant should only be watered with tepid water.

If your houseplant is overfed, refrain from fertilizing it for a month and then dilute your fertilizer before feeding it again.

Root Rot

Root rot causes the saintpaulia’s roots to become mushy and squishy. This is caused by overwatering and poor drainage.

Repot your houseplant immediately into dry soil and water a few days later to moisten the potting mixture. Always throw out excess water from the saucer underneath the pot to prevent overly moist and damp soil.

Try making use of a clay pot with a drainage hole if you suspect that the root rot is caused by poor drainage.

Let’s Quickly Recap

There’s no doubt that the saintpaulia is a must-have for houseplant fanatics and people who are looking for the right plant to add a burst of color to their homes.

When controlling and perfecting your plant’s home and environment, you’ll be thoroughly rewarded with stunning flowers either pink, purple, blue, or even red. Just remember that it’s sensitive when it comes to water, humidity, sunlight, and potting soil.

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