Stayin’ Alive! A Beginner’s Guide to African Violet Care

Stayin’ Alive! A Beginner’s Guide to African Violet Care

Stayin’ Alive! A Beginner’s Guide to African Violet Care

In the proper conditions, an African violet can live upwards of 50 years. Well-loved for its vibrant blooms, this tropical beauty can brighten a space year-round if it receives the right care; but its fussy reputation can scare off novice growers. 

Luckily, it’s really not all that hard to keep an African Violet alive. You just need to understand a few quirky characteristics. Regardless, you might be wondering, “Is it worth the extra work to keep an African violet alive?”  

Well, we certainly think so! Let’s take a look at what makes these beautiful flowers so worth it. 

What’s So Great About African Violets?

  • Year-round beauty: Unlike most blooming houseplants, African violets can produce vibrant flowers all year long. This is particularly appealing to anyone who wants a bright solution to the winter blues. 
  • Diverse colors: Naturally, when we think of violets, we think of purple. African violets, however, have been enthusiastically bred by herbologists to produce a range of colors, from pink to white and even blue!
  • Low-light friendly: The shy African violet thrives where other plants might shrivel. Averse to direct sunlight, this plant is happiest farther away from the window, making it a perfect choice to brighten up your shelves or dining room table.
  • Want more? Visit our post 7 Reasons You Need an African Violet Houseplant Now for a whole list of benefits

How to Keep Your African Violet Alive

We promise: it’s not hard! 

Although African violet care is a little different than for most houseplants, they are not hard to please. Master the key elements of potting, light, water, and temperature, and you’ll have a happy plant pal for years to come!

Potting Mix

Hailing from rocky outcrops in the Tanzanian jungle, this houseplant is poorly suited for traditional potting soil. You need a loose and well-aerated specialty mix to keep your African violet alive. Our guide to African violet potting mix digs into everything you need to know to select or make your own.

Pot Size

Keeping your plant slightly root-bound encourages it to bloom. Your African violet will be happiest in a container that is just a little too small for other similarly sized plants. Repot annually to introduce fresh soil and accommodate growth. 

Fertilizer

Your plant absorbs nutrients from the soil to fuel new growth. Replenishing these nutrients with fertilizer is an important part of keeping your African violet alive. We recommend using a gentle, urea-free liquid fertilizer every time you water. This method provides your plant a steady dose of food without the risk of burning or overfeeding. 

Light Requirements

Plants use light to power photosynthesis, the process which turns carbon, oxygen, and hydrogen into useful energy. African violets, however, are sensitive to direct sunlight. Too much exposure will cause your plant to spot or shrivel. 

Place your African violet in moderate to bright indirect sunlight for a happy houseplant.  If you live in a region with shorter days for part of the year, move closer to a window during the cooler months. (But keep it warm!)

Houseplant Pro-Tip: Rotate your plant ¼ every time you water to promote even light exposure and growth. 

Watering

Watering is probably the most notorious African violet quirk. The plant’s sensitive leaves will develop white spots or start to rot if exposed to light while wet. This, combined with a vulnerability to over-watering, leads most plant parents to adopt a bottom-watering approach. 

Bottom watering requires a special two-piece planter. Your African violet stays alive by regulating its own water uptake through its pot’s drainage holes. This spares its sensitive leaves and prevents over-watering.

Our guide to African violet watering digs into bottom watering and a few other popular methods. 

Temperature

African violets make great houseplants because they, like us, like to be comfortable. The best temperature to keep your African violet alive is a pleasant 70 degrees. If you’re one of “those people” and prefer your house on the chilly side, keep your plant a little closer to the window. This will help it capture more of the sun’s thermal energy (just remember, avoid direct sunlight!).

Cold is a much bigger threat to your plant than heat. If your space is too cool (beneath 65 degrees Fahrenheit) your plant will get moody. In these conditions, your plant will not bloom and its growth will slow to a snail’s pace. 

What Do I Do If My African Violet Was Exposed to the Cold?

If you’ve accidentally left your plant outdoors, or somewhere chilly, immediately move it to a warmer place. Cut or pinch any pieces that have begun to rot or die. If your plant is looking particularly bedraggled, you can create a containerized greenhouse by wrapping it in a plastic bag.

Encouraging African Violet Blooms

Year-round blooms are a big part of the African violet’s mass appeal. Not only will the care mentioned above keep your African violet alive, but it will also create the ideal conditions for your plant to flower. 

Once you’re certain you’ve created the ideal environment for your plant, you can encourage it to bloom brighter by “deadheading” or pinching off wilted booms and other stressed parts of the plant. This frees up more energy to put toward creating beautiful blooms!

Visit our post about indoor African violet gardens to learn more about growing a garden that blooms all year long.

How do you keep your African violet alive? Share your success stories and favorite “Pro-Tips” in the comments below!

Join the African Violet Club!

Whether you’re just starting out or are a seasoned grower, African Violet Resource Center has everything you need to help your plant 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!

More Great African Violet Resources

7 Reasons You Need an African Violet Houseplant NOW!

Bottoms Up! The Best African Violet Watering Methods for a Happy Houseplant

Making Sense of African Violet Potting Mix (And How to Make it Too!)

Visit Our Online Shop for the Best African Violet Products

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