African Violet

African violet is the herbaceous perennial flowering plants in the family Gesneriaceae. African violets are native to East Africa, stemming from the tropical rainforests of Tanzania and Kenya. In 1892, German colonial officer Walter von Saint Paul-Illaire identified these plants and sent seeds back to Germany. The genus came to be called Saintpaulia, though the plants have recently been re-categorized into a different genus, Streptocarpus. Despite their common name, they are not a type of violet, but they do produce vivid, violet-colored flowers.



The members of Saintpaulia are small perennial herbs with thick, hairy, ovate leaves. These dark green leaves have long petioles (leaf stems) and are arranged in a basal cluster at the base of the plant. The violet-like flowers are bilaterally symmetric with five petals and can be violet, white, red, blue or pink in colour. The tiny seeds are produced in a capsule. African violets are common houseplants, especially Saintpaulia ionantha, and can thrive in low light conditions and bloom throughout the year. Hundreds of horticultural varieties have been developed for their various flower colours and shapes, including half-sized miniatures.


Table of Contents


Height(Avg)

Under 6 inches, 6 - 16 inches, over 16 inches (Depending on variety)


Width-Circumference (Avg)

3 - 16 inches


Approximate pH

between 5.8 and 6.2


Growth Nutrition of African Violets


African violets need a certain percentage of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, plus trace minerals. The recommended ratio for African violets is 14-12-14. There are commercial formulas available specifically for fertilizing African violets, but many of these use urea as the nitrogen source.


Nitrogen is important for the growth and development of leaves and stems. Phosphorus is important for healthy roots and flowering. Potassium is required for the accretion and movement of carbohydrates throughout the plant.


Types of African Violets


They differ mainly in the colors of their flowers, which range from white to purple, though some varieties have variegation in their foliage and flowers as well.


African violets are typically classified by size, based on how wide they grow:

  • Miniature: less than 8 inches across

  • Standard: 8–16 inches across

  • Large: more than 16 inches across


African Violets can be divided in two main categories depending upon their type:

  • Rosette African violet plants

  • Trailing African violet plants


Rosette African Violets:

  • These plants have leaves which grow outwards from the center stalk in a layered radial/circular pattern.

  • They grow as a single crown (thick stem) plant.

  • The rosette plants main stem/stalk and its internodes are short in size.

  • The leaves of the rosette plant grow closer to the soils surface.

  • A single rosette plant can have as many as five symmetrical whorls of leaves tightly clustered at the base of the plant.

  • The blooms grow within the center of the rosette.


Trailing African Violets:

  • These plants have multiple stems growing from the same plant roots and are known as multi-crown plants.

  • Each stem has leaves which are in long in size and which also grow symmetrically in a radial/circular pattern. Since these stems are not strong enough to grow upright, they grow semi-vertically.

  • Often trailing African violets look as if they are growing sideways with cascading growth.

  • This growth pattern gives the plant it’s trailing /crawling / spreading characteristic.

  • The main stem and intermodal space of trailing African violets are longer in size.

  • Depending upon the size of the leaf, trailing violets can be miniature, semi-miniature or standard in size.

  • The blooms grow all around the plant from each crown, giving it a mini bonsai (bush) like look.

  • The first trailing violet was hybridized in 1954 and was known as “Wild Girl”.


African Violets Varieties:


Cherry Princess



Cherry Princess looks remarkable with its elegant pink flowers and deep purple variegation. It makes a great ornamental addition to ceramic planters.


Persian Prince



Persian Prince comes with beautiful pansy blue flowers and oval green leaves. It enjoys partial sunlight and can easily be propagated from cuttings.


Aroma of Summer


Though you cannot smell this lovely flower form this gallery, you can see the bright pink color of the blooms. Each one has a white interior that adds some contrast to the plant. It is undemanding and thrives well in partial sunlight happily with moderate watering.


Crimson Ice



Crimson Icefall in the likes of every houseplant enthusiasts for its incredible crimson red flowers and undemanding nature. It does well in low light and adds a magical touch to contemporary home decor.


Summer Twilight



Summer twilight is one of the most popular African violet cherished for its remarkable appearance. It features magnificent lilac-purple flowers with a white border and well-variegated foliage.


Diamond Tiffany


The ruffled blooms on this variation of the African violet are gorgeous. It has tints of yellow and green along the outside edge of the petals.


World to Your Home


This is a variation that has a lot more petals than most in its blooms. They are white, and the petals all droop forward a bit as they grow inwards.


First Kiss Blush



These flower blooms have a soft pink color that looks like they were splashed a bit with purple paint. The centers are yellow as well, so there is a bit of contrast.


Gold of Scythians



The white blooms on this variety are tinted in color. The inside of the blooms have a yellow coloration, while the outside is a soft hue of pink.


RD’s Gleam


For a stand-out pink blossom, try RD’s Gleam. This variety has blooms with light-pink centers with a ring of dark pink surrounding the edge.


Valeska Viol


This African violet variety has flowers that are actually mostly violet with some areas of white on the petals.


Lonestar Snowstorm



The white blooms and yellow center make Lonestar Twilight stand out from other varieties. If you want to keep it thriving indoors, avoid overwatering, and protect the plant from direct sunlight.


Myakka Trail



As the name suggests, this is a rare African Violet variety with trailing nature. It blooms stunning lavender flowers and dark-green glossy leaves.


Julia



This unique African violet variety has purple blooms that are round, almost resembling a ball, and the edges of the ruffled petals are a little darker than the center. It’s a beautiful specimen that stands out from other African violets and adds variety to any African violet collection.


Little Maya



Little Maya is one of the most popular African Violet variety with remarkable crimson red flowers. It was first introduced in 1997 and has been on the favorite lists of houseplant enthusiasts since then.


Ruffled Romance


Ruffled Romance comes with flouncy pink flowers and beautiful tricolor foliage. It is one of the most beautiful African Violet varieties and thrives well with minimal care.


Peacock


Also known as VaT Pavlin, this charming specimen flaunts remarkable flowers with purple-pink petals and a yellow center.


Zephyr



If you are looking for an African violet with soft coloration, then this one has a delicate pink and white bloom. Each pale pink petal comes out from the center like a wisp of paint.


High School Sweetheart



This is a very colorful variation that has a bit of personality to it. It has a bright pink bloom with ruffled edges that are light green in color.


RS Vicomte


This is an African violet variation that is actually violet in color. The blooms are large and puffy with white tips on them to give them a bit of contrast.


Strawberry Wave



The blooms on this plant are a soft pink and look like they have been splashed with a darker pink shade of paint. As you move towards the center of the flower, the spots fade.


Shamahanskaya Queen


This variety has small blooms, but the impact makes up for the size. The blooms are bright pink/purple on the inside while the ruffled edges are white, giving the petals the appearance of being trimmed with delicate white lace.


PT Shah-Shahriyar


This is one of them more unique variations of this flower. It has a dark purple colored bloom that twists with a ruffle; it also has dark and light purple edges.


RM Visavi



This is a flower that has blooms that are nearly red in color. They are such a deep color, but since the edges are white, you can still see some purple where the colors touch.


LE Vega



Featuring red blooms with yellow centers, this variety also stands out from other African violets, displaying small petals that cluster together to create lovely, full flowers.


Silver Romance


This is one of the most unique variations that you will find in this gallery. The flowers on this plant are a soft pink color, but the edges of each one are outlined in white or light green.


Rare African Violets:


Some unique African violets are harder to find than others. These varieties aren’t any more difficult to care for than less rare varieties, but they have distinct features.


Dean’s Aquarius


This eye-catching semi-miniature variety has light-blue flowers with a darker-blue eye, and variegated leaves in lovely shades of green, white, and pink.


Humako No Name



A stunning variety, this African violet has flowers that are mostly white with a blue middle, coloring which gives each flower a purple star in the center.


IAN Minuet



This showstopper is a standard variety featuring large pink flowers with wavy red edges. The African violet produces an abundance of blooms with medium-green foliage. This variety is so sought-after because it produces beautiful blooms so readily.


SK Apple Orchard



This semi-miniature variety has small white flowers with rose-pink edges on its petals. Even though the flowers are small, it’s a heavy bloomer, and you’ll enjoy almost continuous blooms with medium-apple-green foliage.


Zivay (Morev)


A lovely miniature variety, this African violet has an abundance of pink frilly blooms. The leaves are variegated with a dark-green center that transitions to white around the edges.


Planting African Violets


How to Plant African Violets

  • You can use an actual African violet potting mix or an all-purpose potting soil, as long as it is well-draining.

  • Keep African violets planted in small pots and repot every few years to mix in fresh soil. Being a bit pot-bound encourages African violets to bloom more, so don’t be too quick to give them more space.

  • The soil should be loose and well-drained, and high organic matter content is a plus.

  • When repotting African violets, don’t plant them any deeper than they were already planted and be careful not to bury the crown of the plant. African violets’ stems can be susceptible to rot if kept too moist.


African Violet Care


Watering

  • Keep the soil lightly moist, but be careful not to overwater, as African violets’ soft stems are very susceptible to rot.

  • Use room-temperature water, as chilled water can leave marks on the leaves.

  • Leaves are susceptible to rot and fungal spots if kept in high humidity, so water African violets from the bottom to avoid getting excess water on the foliage.


Lighting

  • African violets prefer bright, indirect light. Avoid direct sunlight and keep them at least a few feet away from bright south- or west-facing windows. An east- or north-facing window gives them the best lighting without the risk of burning their sensitive foliage.

  • Artificial lighting works well, too. Use fluorescent or LED bulbs to supplement natural lighting.

  • Thin, dark green leaves and leggy stems tell you that the plant is getting too little light; light green or bleached leaves indicate too much light.


Fertilizing

  • During the active growing season (spring and summer), fertilize every 2 weeks with a high phosphorous plant food. Only start to fertilize when the plant appears to need an extra boost (slow, thin growth; pale or yellowing leaves).

  • Over-fertilizing is a more common problem than under-fertilizing, since most soil mixes come infused with plenty of nutrients.


General Care

  • Many varieties prefer warm conditions (65°F/18°C or warmer) though some are more tolerant of cooler conditions. In any case, keep them away from drafty windows in winter.

  • Plants should be shifted to larger pots as they grow, but keeping African violets slightly root-bound can encourage them to bloom. One sign that your violet needs repotting is wilted leaves.

  • The fuzzy leaves have a tendency to collect dust and dirt. Brush them off gently with a small, soft-bristled paintbrush.


Propagating African Violets


African violets can be propagated from leaf cuttings or from offsets. Adult plants occasionally produce small plantlets or shoots from the side. Remove these and pot up independently. Removing them also encourages better blooms on the parent plant.


Potting and Repotting African Violets


African violets do better when they are slightly under potted. Repot only when necessary into a pot that is one size up. To repot these plants, simply grab the plant as a whole, lift it, and replace it with a larger container, making sure not to damage their root systems in the process. Common signs that a plant is stressed out and needs to be repotted include falling leaves and overcrowding, as well as roots that protrude from the surface of the soil. Keep an eye out and repot if you think it'll help.


Pest and Diseases


Insect pests


Cyclamen Mites: Mites are not insects but are more closely related to spiders. Cyclamen mites (Steneotarsonemus pallidus) are one of the most serious pests of African violets. They are extremely small (approximately 1/100 inch long) and cannot be seen with the naked eye. Typically, damage to plants is the first indication of their presence. They feed on new growth (i.e., leaves in the center of the plant). Symptoms may include severe stunting of leaves in the center of the plant, sometimes with leaf curling. New leaves are often very hairy, making them appear grayish. Flower buds may also be stunted and misshapen or even fail to open.


Cyclamen mites develop most rapidly with high humidity (80 to 90 percent) and cool temperatures at or near 60 ° F. To avoid light, they favor the plant crown or leaf folds located in the area where the petiole (stalk that attaches the leaf to the stem) joins the stem. As such, damage is usually seen there first. Mites feed by sucking sap from the plant. During feeding, they inject a toxic chemical that disrupts normal growth patterns. With heavy infestations, leaf and flower buds may die. If ignored, the entire plant or just the center of the plant may die. Even after infestations are controlled, some symptoms will remain. A return to a normal appearance requires time and a gradual pruning of distorted leaves.


Prevention & Control: Space plants so that they do not touch to prevent the spread of cyclamen mites. Also, be careful not to touch infested plants before working with non-infested plants. Isolate infested plants. Badly infested plants should be discarded. Pots of discarded plants should not be reused until they have been thoroughly scrubbed clean and then soaked for 30 minutes in a solution of 1 part household bleach to 9 parts water.

For valuable plants, spray with a miticide that is labeled for use on houseplants. Take the plant outside during mild temperatures and spray with insecticidal soap or products containing sulfur or tau-fluvalinate. Two or three sprays at three-day intervals may be required for mite control. See Table 1 for examples of brands and products. Follow label directions for use and safety of all products.


Mealybugs: Several kinds of mealybugs are pests on African violets. They include the citrus mealybug (Planococcus citri) and the Comstock mealybug (Pseudococcus comstocki). Mealybugs are about ¼ inch in length. They have soft bodies and are covered with a white waxy material that makes them look cottony. They are found on leaves, stems, and leaf crotches. They feed by sucking plant sap. Their feeding causes stunted and distorted leaves. Heavy infestation can cause leaf and plant death. As they feed, they excrete honeydew (a sugary material) that can coat the leaves, making them sticky.


Prevention & Control: Avoid bringing these pests into the house by inspecting a new plant carefully, including the bottom of the pot, for mealybug eggs. Light infestations of mealybugs can be controlled by removing them with a cotton swab dipped in rubbing (isopropyl) alcohol. Repeat as needed.


Heavy infestations are more difficult to control. The waxy material that covers mealybugs protects the adults from insecticides. The immature nymphs are susceptible, however. Houseplant insect sprays, such as insecticidal soap or pyrethrins, are the least toxic insecticides, but sprays with acetamiprid, cyfluthrin, or imidacloprid will control mealybugs. Take the plant outside during mild temperatures to spray. Two or three sprays at three-day intervals may be required. Alternatively, soil-applied insecticide granules containing imidacloprid will also control mealybugs. See Table 1 for examples of brands and products containing these active ingredients. Follow label directions for use and safety of all pesticides.


Diseases


Crown & Root Rot: One of the most serious fungal problems of African violet is usually first noticed when the crown and roots of the plant turn soft and mushy. The older leaves droop, and the younger leaves in the center of the plant appear stunted, turn black and die. The fungi Pythium species and Phytophthora species can cause this problem, especially when plants are watered excessively, have poor drainage, or are planted too deeply. Any of these conditions can contribute to rotting of the crown and roots.


Prevention & Treatment: Prevent disease by always using sterilized potting soil mixes and clean containers when planting. Do not plant African violets too deep. Discard severely affected plants. Pots of discarded plants should not be reused until they have been thoroughly scrubbed clean and then soaked for 30 minutes in a solution of 1 part household bleach to 9 parts water.


Botrytis Blight: Botrytis blight is caused by the fungus Botrytis cinerea and often first appears as small water-soaked lesions on the underside of the leaf. Leaves, stems, or flowers appear blighted and turn dark brown to gray, often with a fuzzy coating on the surface.


Prevention & Treatment: Collect and discard all dead and dying plant material. Provide better air circulation, and avoid getting the flowers and foliage wet. Botrytis often follows mite injury, so controlling this pest aids in controlling this disease.


Other Problems


Failure to Flower: African violet flower buds may fail to open, turn brown, and fall off. Unfavorable environmental conditions such as low temperatures, poor soil aeration, wet soil, or excessively dry air contribute to flower failure. Blossoms will drop if there is the slightest presence of cooking gas.


Petiole Rot: The symptom of petiole rot is a rust-colored spot that appears where the stem of the leaf touches the pot. This is not a disease but is caused when fertilizer salts accumulate on the rim of the pot and the soil surface. Avoid over-fertilization of plants, and be sure to use a salt-free source for watering, such as rainwater. Tape or foil on the rim of the pot will prevent this problem. Leach out the remaining salts in the soil by flushing the container with plenty of freshwater.


Water Spots: Yellow or white ring and line patterns on African violet leaves can be caused by contact with cold water. Keep the leaves dry when watering to avoid this problem.


Reason to Grow an African Violets


Eye-Catching Blooms


The African violet’s vibrant coloring makes this houseplant a fan favorite. While the first color that comes to mind is often purple (of course), its full range of shades run the gamut. Enthusiastic botanists have developed several hundred varieties; you can find African violet houseplants in red, pink, white, indigo—even blue!


The sheer variety doesn’t end with coloring. You can find African violets in numerous leaf and flower shapes and couplings. This means you can fill your whole desk with a show-stopping range of superstars, all from the same family.


Year-Round Beauty


With the right care, an African violet houseplant can bloom year-round! This is a great remedy for the winter blues (and grays) that can come along with life in colder regions. If you give your plant enough light, keep it warm in cool weather, and provide the right soil conditions, these southern hemisphere beauties will brighten up any season.


Fewer Water Worries


Although African violets have a reputation for being slightly finicky, they will thrive in the right conditions. And the right conditions are not that hard to achieve!


Over- and under-watering are common culprits of the demise of the novice caretaker’s plant. With a picky soil preference and leaves that can discolor in moisture, it’s best to let the African violet houseplant water itself! All you need is a special self-watering pot.


Nontoxic to Pets


Speaking of furry friends, African violet houseplants are pet-friendly! Many houseplants can be dangerous to cats and dogs, so pet safety is a major factor when choosing a plant species.


The ASPCA has determined African violet houseplants are non-toxic to cats, dogs, and even horses! Although you still won’t want Garfield or Mr. Ed munching on those beautiful blooms, at least they’ll be safe from a stomachache if they do.


Easy Propagation


Nothing is more fun than turning one houseplant into two—or twenty! African violets are very easy to propagate.


Will Bloom in Limited Light


While some plants thrive in the sunniest window of your home, you can save that real estate for other species. African violet houseplants like bright, indirect sunlight and make great centerpieces or countertop companions.


Your plant will still struggle, however, if it’s not getting enough sunlight. Here are a few signs it might be happier in a brighter space.

  • It gets leggy: African violet plants tend to stick close to the soil. In dimmer spaces, your plant may start growing tall and thin to reach toward the light.

  • Slowed or stalled growth: If your African violet houseplant stops producing new buds and leaves, it may be unable to power new growth with the amount of light available.

  • Stops blooming: If you’re struggling to keep your plant in bloom year-round, try moving it to a location closer to the sun.

  • Thinner leaves: Your plant is putting more energy into increasing surface area to capture light, rather than producing hearty, dense foliage.


Small but Mighty


These small plants are excellent fixtures in efficiency apartments and well-lit cubicles. Unlike robust ferns or crawling ivy, African violet plants are easy to contain. They also prefer a slightly constrained environment, so a small pot is this plant’s happy place.


Uses

  • They are commonly used as indoor houseplants, but can also be kept as outdoor plants in certain climates.

  • Gazing at it helps stimulate the release of a small amount of adrenaline, which raises energy levels, and increases the flow of oxygen to your brain, which helps you relax.

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