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African Violet Saintpaulias

Growing African Violets: Tips at a Glance

The trick to keeping African violets alive? Get these houseplants to bloom with indirect light, moist soil, and fertilizer twice a month.

  • Type Tropical flower
  • Lifespan Perennial
  • Growing Zones 11-12
  • Light Bright, indirect
  • Moisture Craves humidity
  • Soil Moist, well-drained
  • Design Tip Terra cotta pots
  • Expert Advice Pinch suckers
  • Peak Season October-March

African Violets: A Field Guide

The trick to keeping African violets alive (and blooming)? Give them indirect light, keep their soil moist, fertilize them twice a month to promote flowering, and keep them in a humid environment. If you have steam radiators, set their pots on top. Otherwise, put a layer of gravel in a tray, nestle the African violets’ planters among the rocks, and pour water into the tray to a depth of half an inch. After it evaporates, repeat.

Unfairly maligned as a finicky houseplant, Saintpaulias are actually reliable winter bloomers if you treat them with the consideration due a tropical flowering plant. A year after they were discovered in 1892 in their native habitat by a colonial plantation owner from Germany (he was a vanilla tree farmer), Saintpaulias caught houseplant collectors’ eyes at an international horticulture show in Belgium.

By the 1940s African violets had become “America’s favorite houseplant,”  with experts offering tips on how to get the finicky flowers to bloo nonstop for at least months during wintertime. Thanks to cross breeding, today their five-petaled blue flowers have been joined by hundreds of new cultivars with pink, white, purple, and yellow blossoms.

Planting, Care & Design of African Violets

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