By Debbie Roland, Master Gardener
I prefer to grow my plants outside, but I have to say that African violets are beautiful indoor plants.
If you grow African violets, you will have to resist the temptation to touch them. Just like everything in West Texas they will probably get dusty. Use a soft (very soft) bristle brush and lightly dust them. They are one of the most popular houseplants and require very little, but very particular, care. This plant comes in many varieties and colors. Although we typically think of purple they also come in pink, white and red violet. Each will bloom several times a year, flowering just above the foliage.
African violets, as the name says, are native to Africa and require a well-drained but moist soil. Each plant will grow 6-9” tall and wide and are usually each grown in a separate pot. Don’t put them in too large a pot since they like to be “cozy”. Many gardeners grow their violets in teacups. They have a reputation for being somewhat difficult to grow but if you follow some guidelines your success rate will improve.
Balance is required when watering. They thrive in humid conditions but don’t like water on their leaves which can result in brown spots. Keep them moist and don’t let them dry out. If brown spots appear, remove that leaf. Water from below, but don’t let the plant sit in water. Some gardeners water by inserting the waterspout on a watering can directly into the soil.
African violets do not like the house to be below 60 degrees and they don’t like a draft. Indirect sunlight is best.
They should be fertilized every other week in the spring and summer and there are special products just for this plant. Always follow label directions and remember that more is not better. Once they bloom and the blooms fades, deadhead them to encourage growth.
When your violets are established, you will be able to propagate new ones from your plant. Use scissors cut off a leaf at the base of the plant at a 45-degree angle. Simply stick the cutting in a new pot. There are potting soils especially for this purpose or you can mix your own using vermiculite and peat. When potting any plant always mix water into the potting medium before using it. Potting soil that has been sitting on a shelf either at your house or at the store may have become hydrophobic (which is a tendency to repel and not absorb water). Soaking the medium in water before planting can eliminate that problem.
These plants can grow and bloom year-round if properly cared for and can live for twenty to fifty years so be prepared to make a commitment!
If you have questions, call the AgriLife office in Odessa at 498-4071 or in Midland at 686-4700. Additional information, and our blog for access to past articles, is available at westtexasgardening.org. Click on “Resources”.