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Pink and purple African violets in pots on the window sill
Emerging from a velvety posy of delicate foliage, the African violet’s bright, luxurious flowers are sure to add a marvellous pop of colour to your home.

 

What you need to know about African violets

Name: African violet, Saintpaulia, Saintpaulia ionantha.

Height: 5cm up to 40cm with a spread up to 25cm wide across the rosette of leaves.

Foliage: evergreen leaves that are delicate, sensitive to rough handling and excessive exposure to heat/sunlight and moisture.

Climate: suitable to most climates as long as they are grown inside with regular temperatures and increased humidity.

Potting mix: a light, porous, aerated and well-drained African violet potting mix to keep the roots moist, but not soggy.

Position: best indoors in bright light but avoiding direct sun, away from drafts and air-conditioning.

Flowering and fruiting: flowers all year round, but mainly in spring and autumn. Flowering can be enhanced by keeping them moist and fed with a fertiliser, as well as deadheading the dried-out blooms.

Feeding: use a controlled-release fertiliser upon planting. Alternatively, using a liquid fertiliser specific for African violets each time they are watered is beneficial.

Watering: ensure the compost is moist; continually water with tepid water each time the surface of the soil is dry. Avoid splashing the foliage, as this can cause leaf rot.

Appearance and characteristics of an African violet

Flowering all year round, with fragile evergreen foliage, this compact bloom is perfect for indoor terrariums, hanging baskets, or a pot perched upon a windowsill. There are trailing and miniature hybrid varieties from 5cm to 30cm tall and wide, with the vast majority of the species growing much wider than their overall vertical height. The flowers can be single, double, frilly edged or bicolour and come in shades of purple, pink, white and magenta.

Close up of purple African violet flowers

Climate

In the home environment, the an African violet does best in moderately warm and humid air (40–50%), positioned away from drafts and drying winds. Cooler temperatures can cause growth-stunting and limited flowering.

An African violet can be positioned in partial shade outdoors, but it will also thrive as an indoor plant and in a hanging basket. Humidity can be created indoors by elevating pots above trays of water, or enclosing the African violet inside an individual plastic bag or container. Alongside this, surrounding the plant with damp peat and placing in an outer pot (double potting) works well. Water whenever the topsoil is dry, using rainwater or room-temperature water suitable for drinking. Water at the roots, avoiding the foliage, to avoid leaf rot.

An African violet will require at least 8–12 hours of natural sunlight per day. This can also be achieved through the use of fluorescent lights. Place your African violet in a brightly lit spot close to the window pane, but out of direct sun, as this may burn the leaves. Ensure that plants are rotated approximately 90° every couple of days to assure plant growth is even on all sides.

Potting mix

An integral aspect of African violet care is soil or mix quality. Pre-packaged and specialised potting mixes for African violets are available, otherwise a combination of peat moss, horticultural charcoal, styrene foam, perlite, vermiculite and Dolomite lime is required. The mix should be light and easily penetrable by the plant’s fragile root system, while also allowing for adequate water circulation. The top of the potting mix must be kept relatively moist—the use of moistened peat moss or coco peat on the surface allows for this.

Caring for an African violet

Fertiliser

Select a fertiliser specifically for African violets, and use this every few waterings. Always be sure to dampen the potting mix before fertilising, otherwise the water will evaporate and won’t be absorbed into the soil. Conventional fertilisers must be used at quarter strength, otherwise root burn will occur.

How and when to prune an African violet

  1. Gently remove the bottom three or more leaves at the base of the plant every couple of weeks to ensure healthy regrowth. Do this by bending back the leaves until they snap, leaving no remnants at the foot of the plant.
  2. Deadheading the dead or dried-up blooms prolongs the longevity and abundance of the flowers.

Pest and diseases affecting an African violet

Though pests and diseases are uncommon for the African violet, mites, mildew and crown rot are some of the more likely problems encountered. Mites cause growth stunting, leaf greying and curling of flower stalks, as they thrive in humid environments. An easy prevention method is to spray with an insecticide, or to destroy badly affected plants.

Crown rot is often the result of over-watering or prolonged fluctuations in temperature and climate. As it is an infectious disease, the most effective solution is to remove the entire plant and start again from scratch.

Mildew occurs in stale air, so the most effective prevention method is to create an environment with warm, fresh and circulating air. Outbreaks can be treated with a copper-based fungicide as well as by picking off any of the infected foliage.

African violet propagation

How to grow African violets from cuttings

African violets are relatively simple to propagate.

  1. Propagation is usually undertaken during spring. Simply remove a healthy leaf with a petiole (the stalk that joins the leaf to the stem) from the stem of the plant at a 45° angle.
  2. For best results, cut back the petiole to around 3 or 4cm long.
  3. Place the petiole in a seed and cutting mix, or a peat and perlite mix, just up to the bottom of the leaf, then cover the plant with plastic or a clear container to increase humidity.
  4. At around 12 weeks, small plants will begin to shoot. Some African violets will produce suckers that may be carefully removed and potted up.

Growing African violets from seed

African violets can also be grown from the very fine seed sown on the surface of seed trays. Do not cover with mix, as the seeds need light to germinate. These seedlings will not come true to the parent type, as they are from hybrid plants.

If you like this then try

Cyclamen: compact dome-shaped plants with decorative green and silver leaves, and swept back flowers in bright and pastel shades.

Chrysanthemum: a colourful perennial with lobed foliage and masses of intricate daisy-like flowers in all types of shapes and sizes.

Azaleas: spectacular spring-flowering shrubs in an array of colour combinations for acidic soils. Some can even be grown indoors for short periods.

Start planting today

Check out our huge range of plants now and get your garden growing.

 

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Health & Safety

Asbestos, lead-based paints and copper chromium arsenic (CCA) treated timber are health hazards you need to look out for when renovating older homes. These substances can easily be disturbed when renovating and exposure to them can cause a range of life-threatening diseases and conditions including cancer. For information on the dangers of asbestos, lead-based paint and CCA treated timber and tips for dealing with these materials contact your local council's Environmental Health Officer or visit our Health & Safety page.

When following our advice in our D.I.Y. videos, make sure you use all equipment, including PPE, safely by following the manufacturer’s instructions. Check that the equipment is suitable for the task and that PPE fits properly. If you are unsure, hire an expert to do the job or talk to a Bunnings Team Member.