Here’s what to do (and what not to!) when you’re learning African violet plant care!
Any time you introduce a new type of houseplant to your home, there’s a lot to learn! Sometimes African violet plant care can be a little counterintuitive. That’s because these delicate plants evolved in a unique jungle environment, and have different needs than many conventional houseplants.
Worry not! This guide to African violet plant care breaks down why some methods don’t work, and tells you everything you need to know about the ones that do.
1. Mastering Perfect Placement
- Do This: Place your plant in a well-lit room, away from direct sunlight.
- Not That: Give your plant a sun-soaked home in a bright windowsill.
African violets need bright, indirect sunlight to survive. That’s because they evolved under the dense jungle canopy and are accustomed to soaking up the dispersed rays of light that make it to the forest floor. While it may be a real treat for some houseplants, placing your African violet in a sunny windowsill will scorch its sensitive leaves. Instead, keep it back a bit from the window in a well-lit room.
Learn more: This guide to African violets and sunlight can help you achieve the perfect balance of bright and mild lighting.
- Do This: Place your plant in a warm room that maintains a steady temperature.
- Not That: Display your plant on radiators, in drafty entryways, or on top of fireplace mantles.
One of the easiest things about African violet plant care is that they like their environments the say way we do: pleasant! That means they do best in spaces that maintain a steady temperature between 68 and 70º Fahrenheit. Unfortunately, unlike us warm-blooded mammals, African violets cannot tolerate harsh temperature swings. Placing your plant in a space where it will encounter intermittent heat or frequent gusts of cold air will stress it out. In the best-case scenario, this will cause your plant to stop blooming. In the worst-case scenario, the constant fluctuations will weaken your plant until it dies.
2. Nurturing Your Plant
- Do This: Plant your African violet in store-bought or self-mixed specialty potting mix.
- Not That: Make use of that conventional potting soil you have laying around by using it for your African violet.
Selecting the right soil is possibly the most essential part of African violet plant care. Unlike many houseplants, African violets cannot endure dense traditional potting mix. In fact, they don’t like much soil in their pots at all! That’s because, in their natural environments, they simply cling to rocky mountain outcrops, using their roots to soak up water from the moist moss that grows beside them.
Instead of using standard potting soil, plant your African violet in a mix of perlite, vermiculite, and peat moss. If making your own blend seems too complex, we recommend this specialty African violet mix.
Learn more: Our guide to African violet potting mix unpacks everything you need to know to buy or mix your own.
- Do This: Use a bottom-watering method to keep your African violet quenched and healthy.
- Not That: Give your plant a thorough top-to-bottom soaking at bath time—bottoms up!
While many houseplants love a good drenching when it’s time for a drink, your African violet isn’t one of them. That’s because their leaves are exceptionally sensitive to water. If exposed to sunlight while wet, they will burn and discolor. Unfortunately, once this happens, the damage is irreversible.
Instead of watering from above with a standard watering can, try bottom watering. While there are numerous bottom-watering techniques, each allows your plant to soak up water from below, sparing its sensitive foliage.
Learn more: Our guide to African violet watering highlights three common bottom-watering methods and what you need to know to successfully water from above. Check it out!
- Do This: Use a gentle, urea-free African violet fertilizer every time you water.
- Not That: Fertilize intermittently with whatever you have laying around.
Your plant depletes nutrients from the soil to power new growth, and it’s up to you to replace them! Using the right fertilizer is an essential part of African violet plant care. Many conventional fertilizers use a chemical compound called urea as a nitrogen supplement. The problem? Urea can be tough on root systems, and your delicate African violet is particularly vulnerable. Instead, we recommend adding a water-soluble, urea-free fertilizer every time you water your plant.
Whatever approach you take, make sure you follow the directions! Different fertilizers require varying frequencies of use; make sure you follow the instructions for your unique product.
Learn more: Our guide to feeding your African violet makes fertilization fun and easy!
3. Ongoing Maintenance
- Do This: Deadhead spent blossoms to encourage your plant to direct energy toward new blooms.
- Not That: Leave spent blossoms on your plant to keep as many blooms in tact as you can.
When our African violets aren’t blooming as boldly as we’d like, it can be tempting to try to keep as many blossoms as we can. Unfortunately, this can do the opposite of the desired effect. If you don’t trim dead and dying blooms, your plant will continue to send energy to flowers on their way to the great garden in the sky. Pinch off spent blooms with your finger or trimming shears to give your plant more space to create new, healthy blossoms.
Learn more: Use these 7 Tips to Keep Your African Violet Garden Blooming to encourage your plant to blossom year-round.
- Do This: Periodically remove dying leaves near the soil, burying your plant’s exposed neck as needed.
- Not That: Panic! Your plant’s lower leaves are dying and it’s growing a trunk-like neck. What gives?!
African violet plant care requires understanding how your plant grows. When it comes to foliage, your plant produces new leaves from the crown outward. That means its leaves get older the closer they get to the soil base. Nipping leaves that are nearing the end of their life cycle has the same impact as deadheading dying blooms: it helps your plant power new growth!
As your plant loses its lower leaves, however, it may develop a bare neck where they once attached to the stem. This is completely normal! Simply repot your plant, trim the root system if necessary, and cover with soil up to the bottom layer of healthy leaves.
- Do This: Pot your plant in a container that is just slightly too small, encouraging mild root bind.
- Not That: Give it tons of space to grow big and strong by planting in a large container!
It may be counterintuitive, but African violets bloom better when their roots are slightly constrained. Keeping space tight below ground encourages mild root bind, which helps your plant create healthy new blossoms. Repotting annually with fresh soil helps replenish spent nutrients in limited space. If your plant has grown considerably since its last repotting, consider upgrading to a larger container. Just remember: keep it tight!
Learn more: Pick the perfect African violet pot with our helpful starter guide!
What have you learned about African violet plant care along the way? Share your tips and tricks in the comments below!
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