(Oh, Baby, Baby!)
Propagating your houseplants is an easy, inexpensive way to multiply your collection and grow thoughtful gifts for others. And you’re in luck! African violets are one of the many species of houseplants that easily propagate. Not sure where to begin? This novice-friendly guide breaks down everything you need to know.
Note: This post focuses on propagation in potting mix. Interested in African violet propagation in water? Skip to the end of this guide for a start-to-finish checklist!
African Violet Propagation: Step-By-Step
First and foremost, you can’t grow a healthy violet baby without a healthy violet mother. If your African violet appears to be struggling, nurse it back to health before attempting to propagate. (Our Beginner’s Guide to African Violet Care can help!) Once your mother plant is thriving, follow these simple steps to grow infinite new plant pals.
Propagating African Violets in Potting Mix
What You Need
- A healthy, mature African violet
- African violet potting soil
- A sharp knife or pair of shears
- Rooting spray (optional)
- Small plastic pots
- Small plastic or paper plant tag (for support)
- A plastic bag, container, or cover
Step 1: Select Your Leaf
The best leaves for propagation are fully developed but not showing any signs of poor health or aging (brown spots, holes, curling edges). We recommend selecting a few more leaves than you’re hoping to multiply to boost your chances of success.
Middle-row leaves are excellent candidates for propagation. African violets grow new foliage from the inside out, meaning the upper layers may be too fresh and the lower layers too old and tired to propagate.
Step 2: Preparing to Plant
Once you select your leaf, pinch it off the parent plant. Using a sharp-bladed knife or pruning shears, cut the stem at a 45-degree angle down to about 1½ inch. Slicing the stem, or petiole, diagonally increases the surface area available for roots to sprout.
Trimming the leaf: Removing the top half of the leaf can force the cutting to put more energy into sprouting roots, reducing grow time. Your cutting will propagate fine without this step, so consider it optional.
Step 3: Planting Your Cutting
- Mix: African violet propagation requires lightweight, well-aerated soil. Our guide to selecting and home-mixing African violet potting mix tells you everything you need to know.
- Boost: Consider giving your cutting an extra boost with a houseplant propagation promoter. Add 1 teaspoon of the liquid promoter into the soil before planting to reduce time to new roots.
- Bury: Repot your cutting by burying the stem up to the base of the leaf. Use plant tags or another small, firm item to prop the leaf upright.
- Water: Shoot for moist, not damp. Overly wet soil can cause the leaf to rot. Overly dry soil can give you a hard time creating “greenhouse-like” conditions in Step 4.
Step 4: Growing Your Cutting
Place the plant near a bright window but away from direct sunlight or other heat sources. Overheating can cause the delicate leaf to burn or rot.
Cover with a clear plastic bag, or place in a plastic container (used pastry and cookie containers work great!). The plastic will allow light to permeate and capture the moisture in the soil to create a mini-greenhouse effect.
Pro tip: Don’t let the cover or bag touch your cutting; trim the leaf or prop up the bag if necessary.
Inspect your setup every few weeks. Droplets inside the bag/container indicate adequate humidity. If the inside of your mini greenhouse appears dry, check the soil. If it’s bone-dry, add a small amount of water to the potting mix and reseal.
The next step? You wait…
How Long Does it Take to Propagate African Violets?
Tiny plantlets will start to make their way to the surface within four weeks. But hold your horses! At this point, they simply aren’t strong enough to be separated from the mother leaf.
African violet propagation takes eight weeks, at a minimum. We recommend waiting for a month or two (or even three!) longer to ensure your plant babies are vigorous enough for replanting. The longer you wait, the more durable your rooted plant will be.
Once you see three or four leaves growing from a single plant, you’re good to go.
Step 5: How to Separate African Violet Babies
Ready to repot? Remove the cutting entirely from the pot, dirt and all. (The mother leaf may have died by this point, that’s okay!) Don’t be alarmed if your plantlets don’t have many roots yet; they’ll grow more vigorously once repotted.
Prepare a small, well-draining plastic pot with African violet soil and a little propagation booster, and then plant as you would any other houseplant. In a few more months (around 6-7 from the original propagation), your plant is ready to move to a traditional African violet pot and start producing beautiful blooms.
Propagating African Violets in Water
If you’re a houseplant lover, chances are you’ve propagated plant babies in water. If you’re wondering, “Can I propagate an African violet in water?”—the answer is YES!
In fact, it’s quite simple.
- Fill a wide-mouthed container with lukewarm water. Pull a piece of cellophane taut over the top and secure. (Cling wrap works excellent!)
- Select and prepare an African violet leaf following Steps 1 and 2 above.
- Poke a hole in the plastic wrap with a chopstick or skewer. Stick the leaf in the plastic so that the stem touches the water.
- Make sure you place the stem in water immediately after cutting; African violet leaves will start to harden up within a few minutes of exposure to air.
- Place in bright, indirect sunlight. Avoid exposing the cutting to excessive heat or cool air.
- Change the water every 7-10 days to keep it fresh. Never use cold water, always lukewarm or room-temperature water.
- Roots will begin to form within a few weeks. A small drop of liquid fertilizer can be added to the water at this point, but it is not necessary.
- Within 4-6 weeks, the mother leaf will start growing plantlets. Wait until the baby plant is about half-an-inch big and move to a small pot, following the directions in Step 5 above.
- And there you have it! African violet propagation—the water way!
What’s Your Favorite Method of African Violet Propagation? Share your tips and tricks in the comments below!
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Whether you’re a green or seasoned grower, African Violet Resource Center has everything you need to help your plant (and plant babies!) grow vibrant and strong. Explore our other articles, visit our online shop, and connect with other houseplant lovers in our Facebook group to learn everything you need to know about this rewarding hobby!
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