How to Grow Large African Violets

Question:  I recently visited an African violet show.  Many of the violets displayed there were very large, perhaps 18″ or more across.  Mine have never gotten that large.  Can you explain why?

Answer:  First, keep in mind that these are showplants.  A prize-winning plant is the result of good culture and plenty of TLC.  Serious exhibitors also usually grow those varieties that make the best showplants–i.e. large, symmetrical foliage, and heavy bloom.

The most important factor, however, is probably disbudding.  Our large showplants are disbudded (not allowed to bud or bloom) continually from 6-8 months to about 6-10 weeks prior to the show.  During this time, all of the plant’s energy goes into foliage growth, not blossom production.  As a result, the leaves grow much larger.  While large showplants are often grown in (shallow) pots 6″ or larger, violets that aren’t going to show do quite well in 4″ pots, where they continue to bloom and grow to about 10-12″ in diameter.  Most exhibitors also use leaf supports, or “rings”, which go underneath the outer row of leaves and keep them from bending down over the rim of the pot.  This ensures that the leaves are held flat, and are exposed to the maximum amount of light, which promotes more vigorous growth.  Besides these differences, culture is the same in virtually every other way.

10 comments

  • What causes the outer leaves of an African violet to turn yellow?

    • Could be many reasons–would need much more information. If no change in environment, might simply be time to repot in fresh soil.

  • Maureen Thieryung

    I have had African violets for years and they bloom beautifully. They just came down with powdery mildew,,and I sprayed they with baking powder but it didn’t help,I had to throw a few away. If I restart do I have to discard the dirt the others were in?

    • Not necessarily, but it is always a good practice to use fresh, not previously used, soil when repotting.

  • I just repotted a plant to a larger size. I noticed that the heavy stock looks to be in 3 sections and I think if I seperated them into seperate pots the plants would do better. Can I seperate/cut through the stock without killing the plant.

    • Yes. If you haven’t any, or much, roots after this is done, you can restart/reroot them. See our lesson on restarting or restoring African violets.

  • Tony Castineiras

    I have a one year old S. ionantha (from Violet Barn) that grows very fast and blooms constantly. It has developed a two-inch stem above the pot. Should I repot it and treat it as a regular hybrid?

    • View our lesson on “african violet necks”. This is what you are describing, and repotting your plant will be needed.

  • Cleo Castillo

    I would like to know how to get larger flowers more regularly on my A F’s

    • Cool temperatures, good light, otherwise good care. Some varieties simply produce larger blooms. Disbudding will help too.

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