Yard and Garden: African Violets

December 21, 2011, 11:49 am | Richard Jauron, Willy Klein

While African violets are relatively easy to grow, they do require consistent care and attention to light, temperature, watering and fertilization. Find out more from ISU Extension horticulturists. 

What would be a good location for African violets in the home? 

Place African violets in a location that receives bright, indirect light. A site near an east or north window is often a good location (do not place African violets in direct sun). If a suitable window isn’t available, place African violets under a fluorescent light fixture containing two 40-watt fluorescent tubes. Suspend the fixture eight to 12 inches above the plants and leave the lights on for 12 to 16 hours per day. The ideal temperature range for African violets is 60 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. In winter, keep African violets away from cold drafts and heat sources. 

African violet flower

How much light does an African violet need? 

African violets need the proper amount of light to grow and bloom well. Plants that receive insufficient levels of light have thin, blue-green leaves with long petioles. They also don’t bloom well. Plants that receive too much light are stunted and produce small, crinkled, yellow leaves borne on short petioles. Generally, sites near north or east windows are best for African violets. However, if these sites are not available, African violets can be successfully grown under fluorescent lights. A fluorescent light fixture suspended eight to 12 inches above the plants and left on for 12 to 16 hours per day should provide sufficient light for African violets. 

My African violets aren’t blooming well. Why? 

The African violets may not be receiving adequate light. The proper amount of light is essential for good bloom - whether that is natural light or under fluorescent lights as described above.

Excessive fertilization could also be responsible for the poor bloom. African violets need to be fertilized to promote bloom. However, excessive fertilization leads to vigorous vegetative growth and poor flowering. Using a complete, water soluble fertilizer, apply a dilute fertilizer solution once every two weeks in spring, summer and fall. Fertilization usually isn’t necessary during the winter months. 

The lower leaves on my African violet have turned yellow and become droopy. What could be wrong? 

The symptoms suggest the African violet may have root rot. Root rot symptoms initially develop on the lower leaves. The lower leaves turn yellow and droop. As the root rot progresses, affected leaves turn brown and become mushy. Over time, the symptoms spread upward. Plants may eventually die if growing conditions are poor and no corrective actions are taken.

Root rots are usually caused by overwatering. African violets prefer an evenly moist soil. They don’t like wet or dry potting soils. In wet situations, root rot fungi gradually destroy the African violet’s roots, causing the plant to decline. Prevention is the best defense against root rot. Allow the soil surface to dry to the touch before watering African violets. Also, select a light, well-drained potting mix when potting or repotting African violets.


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