Hints for Growing African Violets Successfully
Where to place your African violet
The rule of thumb is that African violets prefer the same living conditions humans like. Avoid draughty situations such as hallways and cold rooms, especially in winter. The ideal temperature range for African violets is 16°–26° C. Outside these temperatures flowering may be sparse or non-existent.
African violets like to grow in moist mix but they are not bog plants – they do not like continuously wet feet. There are many ways to water an African violet but the main thing is do not over-water your plant. Watering may be done by hand; either by standing in a saucer of water until the potting mix becomes damp or from the top using a long-spouted watering can that reaches under the leaves. Never leave the plant standing in water for any longer than
necessary or it will develop root-rot. Tepid water, or water that has been allowed to come to room temperature should be used for either of these methods. Cold water straight from the tap can cause marks to develop on the
leaves. The time to water is when the top of your potting mix feels dry. Care should be taken that no water is left on the leaves or in the centre of the plant. If the plant is in the strong light, water left on the leaves will burn the leaves while water left in the centre of the leaves will cause crown rot.
Another method for watering is the wick method. A wick of wet synthetic material such as venetian blind cord or nylon stocking is inserted in the pot and allow to draw water from a reservoir below the pot. Natural fibres should not be used for wicks because they rot with the constant moisture.
It is best to use a fertilizer formulated for African violets. A fertilizer with very high nitrogen content will produce lovely lush green leaves but not many flowers. There two forms of African violet fertilizer available. One is a powder, the other is a liquid. Both need to be added to water to make the required strength of fertilizer. Whichever form you choose, use according to the manufacturer’s directions. Too much fertilizer will cause fertilizer burn in the centre of the plant.
If you are using the wick-watering system, fertilizer may be added to the water in the reservoir. In general, the liquid fertilizers are very suitable for this as they are usually formulated for constant feed. However, if using one of the powdered forms, which are usually designed for application once a week, dilute the mixed fertilizer to one-eighth strength for use in a reservoir.
African violets require bright light to flower well. Direct sunlight should be avoided as the rays of the sun will burn the leaves. If the plant is grown on a window-sill a sheer curtain will provide sufficient screening from the direct sun. Insufficient light can be corrected with light from a fluorescent reading lamp placed alongside the plant.
African violets should not be over-potted. Squat pots of an appropriate size, up to a maximum of 115–125 mm (4.5–5″) should be used. When repotting the diameter of the pot should be not more than about one-third the diameter of the leaf span of the plant. Always use an African violet potting mix which should have a pH of 6.5-6.8.
Violets breathe through their leaves so brush the leaves regularly with a very soft paintbrush to remove dust and dirt, being careful to always brush in the direction in which the tiny hairs grow. For an even symmetrical growth turn the pot one-quarter turn regularly (daily if possible). This will prevent a ‘lean’ towards the light.