Gardener's Tips: Growing African Violets

How to get a Violet from Africa to flourish in your home with abundant blooms year round. Tips on feeding, cleaning, and care.

It is common to hear gardeners bemoan the fact that they cannot keep African Violets alive in their homes no matter how hard they try! For as pretty as they look in the garden centers, many people bring them home never to see another bloom. Why is this? It can be one or a combination of several reasons.

BASIC CARE:

TEMPERATURE

African Violets are a tropical plant which does not stand up well under temperature extremes. It is suggested that the most ideal temperature for African Violets is between 62° and 78° degrees. If the temperature is considerably lower than 62 ° for several days, the plant will suffer, and likewise, if the temperatures climb above 80° for several days, the plant will become stressed and cease to thrive. Luckily for the home gardener, most home environments fall comfortably in-between these two temperatures, which is perfectly suitable for nurturing proper violet growth.

SOIL CONDITIONS

African violets seem to do best in a simple, peat based compost or potting soil. It is advised to repot if and when your violet becomes overly rooted to its medium, as the plant will not grow well if bound or if the medium has been allowed to harden.



WATERING

It has been argued that watering is the key to violet success. There are two ways to water, the most favored being watering from the bottom by emerging the pot in standing water until it is absorbed and the soil is damp to the touch. Contrary to popular belief, you CAN water violets from the top, but you have to be sure not to splash water on the leaves, or soak the crown of the plant. Either method is suitable. Use tepid water and ONLY water when the plant shows signs of needing moisture: slightly wilted leaves or very dry soil. This is key.

FERTILIZING

You want to fertilize your violets regularly, ideally once every month and a half, except during the winter months, where you can fertilize at the beginning and end of winter. (ex: feed at the end of November, and then again at the end of February) Use a fertilizer rich in phosphorous and potassium with a ratio of something near: 10-20-20. If you use a fertilizer too high in nitrogen (the first number) then you will have lots of leaf production and few flowers, which is the largest reason why gardeners grow violets to begin with! You can use granular, or liquid fertilize for your violets. You an also use feeding 'sticks,' which are pressed sticks of fertilizer which release its nutrients slowly over time.

SUNLIGHT

This is probably the most critical component of African Violet success. These plants need plenty of indirect sunlight to thrive and produce their spectacular blooms. Without enough light, violets will wilt, become leggy, flowerless, or simply refuse to grow at all. Home lighting is generally not adequate enough for you African Violets, so unless you are using grow lights, you must place the plants where they can receive several hours of indirect sunlight daily. Window sills or window boxes are ideal for this. If they are getting too much sun, the leaves will bleach out and the flowers will brown and fall off. If this happens, move the plant further back on the sill, or leave it on the sill for only a few hours at a time, moving it to a more protected spot for the remainder of the day.

Caring for and maintaining African Violets is quite simple once a gardener knows the rules, and the rewards can be spectacular blooms all throughout spring and summer and oftentimes well into the autumn months.

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