Are African Violets in Trouble? (2023)

One of America's most popular flowering houseplants, the African violet is struggling in its natural habitat.

Forests in the narrow geographic range of the Eastern Arc Mountains and the coastal forests of Kenya and Tanzania, where violets grow naturally, are disappearing. The problem is largely impoverished local residents; They are cutting down trees and receding forest at an alarming rate to clear land for agriculture.

When the trees fall to the ground, they take away the canopy that shades the ground-level violets, which are not violets at all but are called violets because their flower color resembles true violets. Sudden exposure to unobstructed sunlight is more than the plants can take, which thrive in humid conditions with low, filtered lights. The result is that theSaintpauliasAfrican violets, botanically named after Baron Walter von St. Paul-Illaire, the German district commissioner who discovered them in 1892, tend to literally burn.

"Except for the varietySantapaulia ionanthaas a whole, which is near threatened, all the othersantapauliaSpecies and all subspecies ofS. ionanathathey fall into one of three threatened categories: Vulnerable, Vulnerable, or Critically Endangered,” said Roy Gereau, associate curator at the Missouri Botanical Garden and co-director of the Tanzania Botanical Research and Conservation Program. Gereau has participated in conservation assessments of the eight wild species and the 10 subspecies ofsantapaulia. He helped prepare data on the status of wild populations.santapauliafor the Red List of Threatened Species of the International Union for Conservation of Nature. This list is considered the world's most comprehensive source of information on the global conservation status of animal, fungal, and plant species.

"Almost all kinds ofsantapauliaand all subspecies ofSantapaulia ionanthaThey are in a dangerous position," Gereau said.

(Video) Caring for African Violets : Avoiding African Violet Problems

hybrid focused

Are African Violets in Trouble? (1)

What does this mean for the person who just wants to buy cultivated hybrids of African violets at their local supermarket, department store, or garden center? That depends on who you ask.

For example, if you ask Ralph Robinson at The Violet Barn in Naples, New York, it doesn't mean much. Robinson and his wife Olive are among the leading growers of African violets for the consumer market in the United States.

"Modern hybrids are so distantly related to species that at this point there's not much to be gained by going back and hybridizing with species again," said Robinson, who has been growing African violets since 1975 and has been featured in major newspapers including The New York Times and was featured prominently in national magazines such as Martha Stewart Living and Better Homes & Gardens. "The goal of the last 60 or 70 years of breeding has been to eliminate undesirable traits [of the species] and get bigger flowers, double buds, more unusual colors and manageable foliage, the things you see in modern hybrids that you see. "not see in species".

He used dog breeding to emphasize his point. "He's like a dog breeder who has the perfect dog," she said. "They probably wouldn't come back to the species and breed with the same dog."

The value of the species

Are African Violets in Trouble? (2)

However, if you ask Jeff Smith, director of the Indiana Academy of Sciences, Mathematics and Humanities on the Ball State University campus in Muncie, Indiana, you'll get a very different answer. Smith is a botanist and research scientist by training who has studied the genetics that control the color of the African violet flower. He uses a strong influence of species to produce award-winning African violets, and he believes that the species still has a very important role to play. This is because the characteristics of some species have not been fully developed or appreciated.

(Video) What's Wrong with my Leaves? What's wrong with my African Violet leaves?

One of them is cold tolerance. African violets, he noted, grow at a variety of elevations, from sea level to more than 5,000 feet. "By crossing with species from the high mountains, it is possible to create plants that have the colors, shapes and other characteristics that current breeding lines have, but can withstand cooler temperatures," she said. This is important as many people keep their homes cooler during the winter to reduce heating bills. He believes this could expand the market for commercial growers within the grocery store market and could also provide commercial growers with significant savings on heating costs in their greenhouses.

He also cited other desirable traits that the species could contribute to breeding lines that could also have commercial applications. "There are some differences in foliage, such as foliage brightness, that are not well represented in modern varieties," Smith said. “These differences could be detected and found attractive by certain people if you had decent flowers. There are some species whose leaves change color depending on the light, and we didn't realize that potential at all. There are some plants whose leaves, when exposed for long days, look almost streaky at the end of the day, then turn dark green overnight. I think it's an attractive quality, but we're not. Varieties do not have it at all. There are some species that have leaves with very short hairs, so the texture feels very velvety, very different from modern varieties."

Commercial growers aim to create plants that appeal to the homebuyer, he said. “I am more of a geneticist or scientist. There's a lot of potential to do things we haven't tried yet. All things may not be worth it. But I wouldn't want to see plants go extinct before we have a chance to find out."

There is another reason not to underestimate the value that species can havesantapauliaBreed, Smith said. “There are people in the world of African violets who are always looking for the different, the unique, the strange; the more the merrier”. Count it in that group, he said. Commercial breeders, however, tend to focus their thinking in new hybrids on what will be the perfect show plant, which, not coincidentally, is the same plant species that appeals to the general consumer market. This is because the foliage of these plants and the color and presentation of the flowers represent what many consider the ideal "look" of an African violet.

But there are people who don't care, Smith said. These people look for an odd shape, different types of flowers, different forms of growth, and different types of foliage. These people, he readily acknowledged, are a niche market. But, he added, some of this group would like to see the African Violet Society add a competitive display category for the more unusual plants. "If these efforts gain momentum, it could be that the genetic material of these wild species becomes an important food source for them," he said.

There's something else about the species that worries you. He thinks species unknown to science may be waiting to be discovered in remote areas of Kenya and Tanzania if villagers don't destroy them first while clearing the forest to grow food and other crops.

Corte Usambaraveilchen

Several groups are working hard to ensure that doesn't happen. This includes the University at Buffalo, which isCrowdfunding of a project to sequence a Saintpaulia genome, probably starting withSantapaulia ionantha; die African Rainforest Conservancy in New York City; und die Tanzania Forest Conservation Group in Dar es Salaam, Tansania.

(Video) AFRICAN VIOLETS | A beginner guide for care, troubleshooting, and propagation of Streptocarpus

In the context of the two schools of thought on the implications of the disappearancesantapauliaHabitat, both Robinson and Smith said they are not aware of any groups collecting seeds.santapauliaSpecies for possible restoration projects in the future. "Basically, it's all live plants, and we deal with clones of that," Smith said. That's interesting, he added, because the original collections were probably grown from seed. "Growing from seed today is something that people just don't do. For one thing, the viability of seeds is only a few years." Also, he said, African violets are easily propagated from a leaf cutting.

Don't know how to do this? Well here we go.

How to Grow African Violets

Are African Violets in Trouble? (3)

To start a plant from a leaf cutting, choose a healthy leaf, remove the leaf and stem from the plant, and place the stem in a glass of water. After roots have formed, simply place the plant in a small (2 1/2-inch) pot. The best time for this is in spring. The process works with most African violets and produces exact genetic replicas of the "mother" plant. However, the procedure does not work with Chimera type violets. Be sure to label the pot with the name of the plant. If your plant ever passes into the hands of a collector, it would be of little value to the anonymous collector.

here is abasic guidelines for growing African violets courtesy of The Violet Barn.


Try to provide bright but not direct sunlight. If you are growing under artificial lights, place a double tube fluorescent light about 12 to 18 inches above the plants for 12 to 13 hours each day.


Use water at room temperature. Water when the soil feels dry.

(Video) Part1: These Methods Will Help You Save Your African Violets After Overwatering


A balanced formula is best with each watering according to label directions (relatively equal amounts of Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium). Avoid bloom enhancers.

the atmosphere

African violets like the same conditions you do: moderate temperature and humidity.


Use a peat-based "soilless" mix that is at least 30-50 percent coarse vermiculite and/or perlite. The "earth violet" brands are not necessarily good for African violets. As a general rule, the wetter you keep the soil, the more perlite it should contain to prevent root rot. The aim is to adapt the structure of the soil on which the plants grow wild, which is very loose and drains quickly.

personal hygiene

Except for pendants, do not allow extra crowns (suction cups) to come out. African violets should be grown simply covered. Most African violets look best with no more than five rows of leaves.


Transplant all plants every 6-12 months. Most standard African violets grown as houseplants will require a 4- to 5-inch pot at maturity. For minis and semi-minis, use a pot no larger than 2 1/2 inches in diameter.

old wives' tale

Robinson said there are some old wives' tales about growing African violets that just aren't true. Here are a few that have gained traction and his responses to them.

  • You have to water from below. "I always tell people, Mother Nature always pours water from above. Rain always falls from the sky."
  • You can't get water on the leaves. "It is not the water that harms the plants, it is the temperature of the water. Water the plants with water at room temperature."
  • A fertilizer that promotes flowering should be used. (See feeding above).
  • You must use self-watering pots. (See irrigation above).

"More people are killing African violets because they're doing things they've been told to do," Robinson said. "In other words, if you use an African violet pot, African violet soil, and African violet fertilizer, you'll be calling us to ask what went wrong with your plant."

(Video) African Violets............curling leaves, mistakes I made...


How do you rejuvenate African violets? ›

Brown spots on African violets are often referred to as leaf scorch, a form of sunburn. To encourage healing and new growth, move your African violet to a room that receives ample indirect sunlight or hang a sheer curtain between your light source and your plant to help diffuse the direct rays.

Are African violets hard to keep alive? ›

Although African violet care is a little different than for most houseplants, they are not hard to please. Master the key elements of potting, light, water, and temperature, and you'll have a happy plant pal for years to come!

Should African violets be watered once a week? ›

“How often to water African violets?” is perhaps the most pondered African violet dilemma. The best guide is to feel the top of the soil: if it is dry to the touch, then it is time to water. African violets should be allowed to dry out between each watering for best results.

What do you do when African violets get leggy? ›

The best way to combat leggy African violets is to repot to give it a fresh space and fertilize with Espoma's Violet! liquid plant food. This will help keep your plant growing new leaves to help keep it from becoming leggy and will enhance the colors of your flowers.

Why is my African violet not thriving? ›

Too little light can cause of African violets not to bloom well. They prefer bright, indirect sun. Too little sunlight causes them to stretch for the light and produce few or no flowers; too much sun can burn the leaves. An east-facing window is ideal, especially with a sheer curtain to block the sun's harshest rays.

What is the lifespan of an African violet plant? ›

Repotting these blooms is so important due to their long lifespan. "Remember that African violets have a very long lifespan and have been said to last up to 50 years," says Ryan McEnaney, public relations and communications specialist for Bailey Nurseries.

How long do potted African violets live? ›

Answer: Indefinitely, if properly cared for. Just keep providing your violet with good care and regularly repot it. Violets have incredible survival instincts, if given half a chance.

Do African violets outgrow their pots? ›

Many successful growers of African Violets recommend repotting with fresh potting soil, twice a year or more. At the very least, an African Violet should be repotted whenever the plant becomes rootbound, i.e., the Violet has outgrown its current pot to the extent that its roots are growing out and around the rootball.

Can I water African violets with tap water? ›

In most locations, tap water will be fine, but the quality of tap water can vary. Chlorine levels may fluctuate, depending on the season. In some areas, tap water may have high amounts of chlorine, chloramines, or dissolved solids. All these things may adversely affect your African violets.

Should African violets be deadheaded? ›

Deadheading. If you have success getting your African Violet to bloom, be sure to pinch or deadhead spent blooms. This allows the plant to continue to put energy into creating more buds/blooms and beautiful foliage.

Is Epsom salt good for African violets? ›

Epsom salts provide plants with essential magnesium and sulfur – two minerals needed to produce beautiful blooms and healthy foliage. What is this? Mix one and a half teaspoons of Epsom salts in a quart of tepid water and swirl to dissolve. Water your African violets (below the leaves) with this solution once a month.

Do African violets like to be Potbound? ›

It's important to know that African violets prefer to be root bound and usually won't flower until they are, so don't just do the typical move into a larger pot. If your plant is starting to look like a fuzzy version of a palm tree with a bare stem and all the leaves at the top, it's time to do some surgery.

How often should you change the soil in African violets? ›

African violets should be repotted about twice a year, or every 5-6 months. One mature, this simply means repotting the plant with some fresh soil, into the same size pot.

Do African violets like to be crowded? ›

It's a bit of a conundrum: African violets like it a little crowded above ground and below, but they can start to struggle if it gets too tight. In fact, an African violet with too many leaves might even withhold its beautiful blooms—or stop growing altogether!

What do Overwatered African violets look like? ›

If your African Violet plant has been over-watered, the soil will retain too much water. This retention of water will cause the leaves and /or leaf stems to turn soft, limp or mushy.

Should African violets be watered from the top or bottom? ›

The best way to water an African violet plant is from the bottom up. Place your plant in a shallow tray of water for 30 minutes, allowing the soil to soak up the water through the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot.

Can I use Miracle Grow on my African violets? ›

Promote more blooms (versus unfed plants) on your houseplants with Miracle-Gro® Blooming Houseplant Food. The formula instantly feeds all blooming houseplants, including African violets.

Is coffee grounds good for African violets? ›

Are coffee grounds good for African violets? Coffee grounds are slightly acidic and contain nitrogen, which helps plants grow healthy foliage. Occasionally sprinkling used coffee grounds on top of your African violet potting soil can be good for the plant.

Do African violets prefer morning or afternoon sun? ›

They need bright to moderate indirect or filtered light to thrive. They can grow in direct light, but only early in the morning and late in the afternoon.

What is so special about African violets? ›

African violets are perhaps the most popular flowering houseplants grown in the world today. There are many reasons for this: The plants generally flower the year round, giving an almost continuous display of blooms. They require the same temperatures humans find comfortable, making them easy to raise in our homes.

How many times a year do African violets bloom? ›

African violets can bloom nearly year-round. If you are able to provide the correct conditions, expect your African violets to bloom 10-12 months each year. Each bloom lasts for about 2-3 weeks.

What is the easiest African violet to grow? ›

Trailing African violets are perhaps the easiest to grow and bloom, especially for the novice. They are naturally branching, spreading, plants that can left to do their 'own thing'. No need to remove suckers to keep symmetry or encourage blooming.

Do African violets need shallow pots? ›

They like breathable, shallow pots

African Violet roots don't go very deep; they like to go sideways, so don't use a deep pot. Your pot must have suitable drainage holes so you can water from underneath.

What kind of potting soil do African violets need? ›

African Violets are sensitive to change in the soil content and ingredients. Use ingredients like perlite, vermiculite, and peat moss coco coir, and coco peat. A mix of peat moss with vermiculite and perlite in the ratio of 50:25:25 is optimal.

Should I fertilize African violets year round? ›

Your African Violet needs fertilizer to stay healthy throughout the year. During the spring and summer, you should fertilize your African Violets once every 14 days. In the fall and winter, you shouldn't fertilize the plant at all to prevent over-fertilizing.

How often should an African violet be watered? ›

Water when the top 1 in (2.5 cm) of soil feels dry.

Stick your finger 1 inch (2.5 cm) deep into the soil and check if it's dry or still a little damp. If it feels completely dry, then your African violets need more water. Otherwise, leave your violets for another day before checking them again.

Where is the best place to put an African violet? ›

Place African violets in a location that receives bright, indirect light. A site near an east or north window is often a good location. (Do not place African violets in direct sun.) If a suitable window isn't available, place African violets under a fluorescent light fixture containing two 40-watt fluorescent tubes.

When should an African violet be repotted? ›

For best results, repot violets growing in pots smaller than 3” every 2-3 months; repot violets in 4” or larger pots every 6-12 months.

Do violets like coffee water? ›

Yes, coffee grounds are a great homemade fertilizer for African Violets. Make a mixture of dried coffee grounds and dried egg shells, then work the coffee ground mixture into the top of the soil. Replenish every couple of months.

Why do African violet leaves get limp? ›

Reasons Behind African Violets Drooping:

The most common cause of drooping leaves on African violets is overwatering. The leaves will droop if the soil is allowed to get too wet or if it's not watered often enough. Therefore, make sure you keep the soil moist but not wet at all times.

Do African violets like to stay moist? ›

They should be kept in moist enough conditions that they don't dry out, yet still exposed to a fresh breeze to avoid letting them get too stuffy, and exposed to sunlight without damaging their leaf tips. Don't be discouraged if your African violets suffer some damage—it's all part of the process.

How often do you water African violets in the winter? ›

Water in the bowl seeps slowly through the pot and into the soil, keeping the plant evenly – but not overly – moist. Adding water is only necessary every two or three weeks.

Can I sprinkle Epsom salt around plants? ›

Adding Epsom salt is a simple way to increase the health of their blooms, and is something that you can include easily as a part of a normal routine. For potted plants, simply dissolve two tablespoons of Epsom salt per gallon of water, and substitute this solution for normal watering once a month.

What does Epsom salt do for African violets? ›

Epsom salts provide plants with essential magnesium and sulfur – two minerals needed to produce beautiful blooms and healthy foliage. What is this? Mix one and a half teaspoons of Epsom salts in a quart of tepid water and swirl to dissolve. Water your African violets (below the leaves) with this solution once a month.

How do I get my violet to bloom again? ›

The most common reason African violets don't bloom is because they aren't getting enough light. African violets need indirect sunlight, direct can burn the leaves. Choose a north- or east- facing window for best results. Keep plants away from cold glass and rotate the pot once a week so all leaves receive light.

Why is my African violet dying? ›

The flowers on an African Violet will die if the plant gets too much or too little water. Harsh sunlight or a nutrient imbalance can scorch the blooms, while dim light or dry air may stop them from opening. If you find what's out of whack with your care routine, you'll know why your African Violet flowers are dying.

How many times a week should you water African violets? ›

With a self-watering system, water usually needs to be added every 5-7 days. A water level indicator or marking will be present on the outer container. When using self-watering containers, remember to add a layer of perlite at the bottom of the inner container.

How long do African violets live? ›

When to Repot Your African Violets. Repotting these blooms is so important due to their long lifespan. "Remember that African violets have a very long lifespan and have been said to last up to 50 years," says Ryan McEnaney, public relations and communications specialist for Bailey Nurseries.

How long does it take for African violets to rebloom? ›

How often do African violets bloom? With the right growing conditions, a healthy African violet produces flowers—usually several at once—that last several weeks. If you disbud your old flowers (see above), new flowers should bloom within 6 to 8 weeks.

Should African violets sit in water? ›

It's important that the pot itself is above the water, not in the water. If the bottom of the pot is sitting in the water, your African Violet will get way too much water. Much like the self watering pot, the wick will gradually provide your African Violet with the water it needs.

Can you spray water on African violets? ›

Fill a spray bottle with room temperature or tepid water. Spray the African Violet leaves with water and clean the leaves using your fingers rubbing the top and bottom part of the leaves. You can also use the spray bottle method to clean the African Violet leaves with liquid soap.

Will an African violet come back? ›

How Often Do African Violets Bloom? One of the reasons African violets are so well-loved is that they can bloom nearly year-round with the right care. Each healthy flower will last two or three weeks. A happy plant can continue producing new blossoms regularly for 10 to 12 months out of the year.

Can a dead African violet be revived? ›

If you're worried that your African violet's dying, know that relatively few things wipe this sturdy plant out. In most cases, sickly African violets can be revived.


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