Growing African Violets by Sylvia Leeds
Would you like a little color in your house in the winter? Do you like to grow things? Do you have an empty window sill that does not get direct sunlight? If you answered YES to any or all of these questions, why not try an African Violet? African Violets are the perfect houseplant to brighten up your home during the winter doldrums. These little plants are easy to grow in the right conditions and can reward you with a beautiful display of blossoms and healthy foliage if you give them enough, but not too much, attention. Here are some suggestions to get you started.
African Violets require plenty of bright light, either natural or fluorescent. If you choose natural light, place plants near a window that receives filtered light throughout the day, but avoid direct sun. Turn the plants every few days to encourage even growth.
If you use fluorescent lights, give plants 10 to 12 hours of light each day.
There are many ways to water African Violets. The most common methods include top or bottom watering, wicking and self-watering pots. When the top of the potting mix feels slightly dry, add room temperature water. Don’t let plants sit for more than ten minutes in water, but make sure they don’t completely dry out. Watch out for over-watering. It’s the most common mistake people make while trying to grow African Violets.
A regular application of fertilizer helps African Violets develop strength and produce plenty of blossoms. Some fertilizers provide a balanced diet for overall health while others encourage blossoms. Dilute the fertilizer to one-fourth tsp. to one gallon of room-temperature water, and fertilize each time you water. Consider alternating different brands in order to meet the plant’s needs.
Soil-free commercial potting mixtures especially made for African Violets generally hold too much water, so add a cup or two of perlite for drainage before potting your violets. Avoid swampy conditions at all costs. Repot your plants at least once or twice a year to stimulate growth and encourage the bloom cycle. Choose pots that are about one-third the size of the plant. A mature plant will rarely need larger than a four-inch pot.
Temperature, humidity and air circulation each play a critical role in a plant’s performance. Temperatures should remain around 70-75 degrees, with humidity at approximately 50 percent. Good air circulation discourages mold and fungus.
Regularly inspect your plants for insects to avoid infestation. Common pests to African Violets include thrips, mites and mealy bugs. Treat with commercial pesticides according to directions at the first sign of pests.