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African Violets (Saintpaulia Ionantha) Care Guide

Small, colorful, and easy to care for, African Violets are one of the most popular houseplants out there. And for good reason! Not only they are fit for a beginner indoor gardener, but also ready to flower all year round.

First discovered in 1982 by a German colonial officer named Walter von Saint Paul-Illaire, African Violets were shortly introduced in Germany under the Saintpaulia genus. However, due to a recent recategorization, the Saintpaulia genus became a section within subgenus Streptocarpella of the genus Streptocarpus.

Even though these plants are commonly known as “violets”, they are actually not closely related to true violets, despite their vividly colored flowers. They also flower multiple times a year, even in winter, so filling your windowsill with different African Violet varieties sounds like a good idea.

1. General Information

Scientific name:Saintpaulia Ionantha (after Walter von Saint Paul-Illaire), Streptocarpus sect. Saintpaulia
Common names:Violette d’Usambara
Native to:Eastern African Rainforests
Toxicity:Non-toxic to humans, cats, dogs, and horses
Mature size:8-16 inches (20-40 cm) wide

2. African Violet Care Guide & Growing Requirements

Despite its sensitive appearances, African Violets can easily thrive indoors and won’t require a lot of attention. You just have to find the right spot for them.

» Water requirements

Moderate watering is key to growing a healthy looking African Violet, which means you’ll want to wait until the top of the soil dries out before watering it again.

Use room-temperature water and avoid overhead watering, as it can cause rot and fungal spots. The best way to make sure your African Violet remains healthy is by watering it from the bottom.

» Lighting requirements

African Violet does best in bright, indirect light. The amount of light it receives also influences blooming, insuficient lighting resulting in less flowers or no flowers at all. On the other hand, direct sunlight comes with the risk of scorching its leaves.

During the cold months, when the days become shorter, your African Violet might need the lighting boost provided by artificial lighting in order to produce flowers.

» Soil and fertilizer requirements

Preventing your African Violet from sitting in water is essential in this case, so you’ll have to use well-draining soil that provides air circulation for the roots and also moisture retention. You can opt for a special mix like the Miracle-Gro African Violet Potting Mix, that’s blended for the specific needs of your African Violet or make your own. 

There are also fertilizers specially created for your African Violet’s needs. One of the best products out there would be the one from Miracle-Gro. Make sure to follow the package instructions before applying it.

» Temperature & Humidity requirements

A warm environment is recommended for your African Violet. The ideal temperature would be somewhere between 65ºF – 70ºF (18 – 21ºC). 

When it comes to humidity, this plant is native to the tropical rainforests of Tanzania and Kenya, where the humidity levels are quite high. However, your African Violet will be happy if you provide at least 50 percent humidity.

3. Repotting and Pruning Your African Violet

Your African Violet should be repotted when it becomes rootbound. The procedure is also quite easy, since you will have to just put out your plant from the old pot, add a layer of soil at the bottom of the new pot, in case the new one is deeper, place the plant in the middle of the new pot, and then fill the empty space with new soil, while making sure not to hurt the roots or the plant in the process.  

This way, you’ll minimize the effect transplant shock can have upon your African Violet. 

Pruning is quite easy too. Since your African Violet will constantly produce new leaves, you’ll have to remove a few from the base of the plant from time to time. You’ll also have to remove the spent flowers.

Conclusion

In a nutshell, caring for an African Violet is quite easy as long as you make sure to respect its needs. If your soil is well-drained, the humidity and light levels are adequate, and the leaves stay away from water, everything should be just fine.

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