African Violets: Propagation by Leaf

African violets are very easily propagated from leaf.  Even inexperienced growers can quickly produce additional plants and expand their collection.

African violet propagation Step 1:  Remove and trim leaf.  Remove a fresh leaf from the plant that you wish to propagate.  It’s best to use a mature leaf, but not one that’s old and tough.  Using a sharp knife or razor, trim away the top of the leaf blade.  This isn’t a necessary step, but it will encourage faster production of roots and plantlets from the leaf when it’s rooted, and will stop the leaf itself from growing.

African violet leafStep 2:  Cut leaf petiole.  See photo at right. Cut the petiole (i.e. leaf stem) at a 45 degree angle, cut-side facing up, to about 1/2″ in length.  By cutting at an angle, this will encourage more root and plantlet production, and they will more likely appear in front of the rooted leaf, rather than hidden behind or underneath it.

African violet plantletStep 3:  Root the leaf cutting.  See photo at left. Fill a small pot with your rooting medium.  This mix should be very light and porous.  Our rooting mix is 1 part Pro-Mix (a soil-less peat an perlite mix) and 3 parts coarse vermiculite.  Any mix at least this light is acceptable (some growers use only vermiculite or mix with perlite).  The mix should be moistened (not too soggy, or the leaf will rot).  Make a narrow hole in the mix–we like to use a “swizzle stick” for doing this.  Push the leaf petiole into this hole, up to the bottom of the leaf blade (as shown), and firm-in rooting mix around it.  More than one leaf cutting may be rooted into a single pot, if there’s room.  Label the pot and place it into a clear, covered container or plastic baggie.  Then, place this in a bright place with moderate temperature–no direct sun or very warm locations, since this may cause the leaf cutting to rot or burn.

AFrican violet plantletsStep 4:  Plantlets at 12 weeks.  One or more plantlets will begin to develop from the cut end of the rooted leaf’s petiole, and will make their way above the soil.  Those pictured are ready to be separated and planted now, but we usually wait 4-5 months, since the extra time allows more plantlets to grow from the cutting.  The plantlets also will be just a bit bigger, easier to handle, and more likely to survive their transplanting.

African violet plantletsStep 5:  Separate plantlets from leaf cutting.  See photo at right. When plantlets are large enough for you to comfortably handle them, they can be separated from the “mother” leaf.  Remove the cutting from its pot, firmly grasp a plantlet, and gently pull it away from the leaf cutting.  If your rooting mix is light, and not overly soggy, this should be easily done without need for a knife.  Don’t worry too much if your plantlet doesn’t have many (or even any) roots–so long as the plantlet itself is healthy, it will produce roots when it is potted.

African violet plantletStep 6:  Prepare pot for plantlet.  See photo at left. Fill a small pot (2″ or 2 1/4″) with your regular soil mix.  Make a small hole deep enough to hold the plantlet to be potted–we like to use an old pencil to do this.

African violet plantletStep 7:  Pot plantlet.  See photo at right.Gently push plantlet into hole and firm-in soil around it.  Plantlet should be placed deep enough into soil so that none of the bare central stem or ‘trunk’ is exposed, but not so deep as to bury the tiny growing point in the center of the plant.

African violet plantletStep 8:  You’re done!  Label the plant and lightly water.  Larger plantlets can be immediately placed amongst your other violets.  If the plantlet is still very small and/or has few roots, you might want to place it into a clear, covered container or plastic baggie.  This will provide a small “terrarium”-like environment, and will protect it while it gets established.  Remove it from this container in a few weeks.

85 comments

  • I have a bunch of young African Violets that I propagated that are doing great and are on display in my bay window. They are on shelves that suction to the window, so they are next to the glass. I’m worrying (as Winter is Coming) that they may get too cold in zone 6. What is best to do with them in the colder months? The window is east facing, but gets dappled light from tree cover even in the am. I don’t have any other windows that get much sun.

    • Since I’m unfamiliar with your windows and your climate, can’t say for sure. Violets will survive into the lower 50s, but will stop actively growing once the temperatures approach 60f, and will suffer below that.

  • i HAVE BEEN able to .root leaves, but have a problem with mealybugs at leaf axils. they seem to attract mealies. what can I do to get rid of mealies and why do they seem to come from nowhere?

    • Best solution to rid yourself of mealies is to discard the infected material/plant. If you must root leaves from an infected plant, would advise washing leaves in dish soap and water, then segregating plantlets produced even once potted, until certain that they are pest free. Check our FAQ section, or search “mealy bugs” on our site for more information.

  • I just started this fascination with African violets last December. I have tried propagating from leaves with several plants with mixed results.

    The successful plants have resulted in multi crowned plants. Do I need to separate these? And if so, do I need to do that now (they were just placed in their regular pots two months ago) or should I do it on the next repotting ?

    I have to say I’m thrilled to have been able to do it at all (no green thumb here) and I’m looking forward to having little sisters of my favorite varieties. I Propagated mine without cutting the leaf because the cut leaves were the ones that failed. Could airborne bacteria or spore have caused those leaves to die? Thank you Rob and Olive for your support!

    • That’s possible, but it’s never been an issue for us. As for the multicrowned plantlets, you will need to divide them an pot them individually.

  • I started 4 AV leaves in one pot, which is staying in a plastic bag, started about 5 weeks ago. The leaves all look healthy. I can see some very fine hair size roots atop of the soil. But no sign of plantlets or baby leafs – but the stems themselves of the leaves are growing! I cut the stem about 1/2″ and inserted them in the soil right up to the edge of the leaf. But now, the stems have grown and 2 of the leaves are about 1/2″ above the soil, the other 2 the same, but not as much. My question is, is this normal or ok? Do you think they will still form plantlets? About how long before plantlets usually appear? I also want to thank you – I had no idea about the care needed for AVs. I had 2 I inherited from my mom who passed away in 2015. The cat killed one, the other grew a large neck and was on its last legs, but I was able to save it using your instructions, and hopefully will produce a new plant or 2 to carry on as well.

    • This is normal. How long it takes to see plantlets will depend upon many things, including the condition, age, and variety of leaf being rooted. Should see something within a few months, if not earlier, but can take longer. One trick to speeding things up and keeping the rooted leaf itself from growing is to trim the top of this leaf when rooted. This keeps the leaf from growing up and forces its energies into producing roots and plantlets.

    • thank you so much for your answer and help. I hope you don’t mind another quick question. I’ve been opening up the ziplock bag about once a week to check on the leaves, and then I blow some air into the bag and zip it back up. As per your instructions, I started with a moist, not soggy, mix – and have not added any water. Because I open the bag (usually less than a minute) and you say it may take a few months for this process – will I need to add water at some point? Or is it unlikely to need to be watered? Thanks again. BTW, I did cut off about 1/4th to 1/3rd the top of the leaves off when I prepared them.

    • Don’t think you will have to water.

  • I bought 4 leaves from eBay in April. I used African violet potting mix. Two have produced plantlets so far. I use produce bags to make minuture greenhouses, I uncover them once a week to check on the soil. This is my first try at growing African violets from leaves, so far so good.

  • Thank you for all this info. I started my AV from two leaves and new growth is coming and looking good. It has been about two months. Can I just snip the starter leave off or do I need to seperate them?

    • You can keep the starter leaf, or not. It won’t matter much either way. When you pot the plantlets, you can remove the “mother leaf” then.

  • Hi, I am poised to remove the parent leaf from some new plantlets. I feel compelled to simply sever the leaf at soil level to avoid having to uproot the whole plant.

    They were started in African Violet potting mix, which is how I have always done it. My Aunt started me off with a violet 40 yrs ago! I usually leave the parent leaf on, ad infinitum, but I wish to gift these on so they need to look neat. Is there any harm likely from cutting off the leaf?

    • No harm in removing the “mother” leaf. It has already served its purpose in producing new plantlets and is no longer needed.

  • I have started 4 leaves in water in plastic disposable coffee cups, covered with plastic wrap. The roots and plantlets have appeared, the water looks good still, but there are a couple black spots and gold spots on the inside of the cups. The gold spots almost looks like burn marks. Should these be moved to another cup with fresh water? I love watching the roots and plantlets grow so was in no hurry to place into potting mix, but don’t want them to rot because of mold.

    • We don’t root leaves in water ourselves–eventually they’ve got to go in soil anyway. There’s no reason you can’t move them into fresh water–they won’t notice the difference.

  • Hi Everyone,

    I just “discovered” this thread so I am not certain that this query has not already been addressed, but have you tried rooting leaves in perlite by keeping it moist rather than rooting them in water?

    Also, I recently read that the flower stems can also be used to propagate AVs but which is the more successful method of propagation, leaves or flower stems?

    • You can root leaf cuttings in perlite. You’ll just need to keep them constantly moist, since perlite won’t retain water like peat or vermiculite will. See our lesson on propagating chimera violets by blossom stems–this can be done for any violet. Propagation by leaves is still much simpler, easier and more efficient, which is why most growers (commercial and hobbyist) still prefer this method.

  • I was trimming dead leaves off of my mature African violet, and the foliage broke away from the thick root. I am trying to root the entire green plant in water, will this work or should I give up and just cut the leaves off and start with plantlets as you describe with individual leaves above?

  • I am trying to propagate my current African violet plant. I followed the instructions you have on cutting the leaf. I put them in a plastic container with a lid. Yesterday I looked at them and the leaves were turning dark and wilted. Before placing them in the container I put the tiniest amount of water in them. Can you help me figure out what I did wrong? I also used root growth hormone if that makes a difference. Thank you!

    • You won’t need root hormone to root violet leaves, since they are tender and it can sometimes do more harm than good. If they were overhandled or stressed to begin with, or the soil was too wet (though this doesn’t seem the case), this can also cause these symptoms.

  • This is ,I guess, not the place for this question, please answer anyway, as growing African violets is my dream. I constantly end up in a situation where a new plant loses its’ blooms, the leaves turn black and moldy, and finally the leaves separate from the stem, and then death. This is a constantly occurring problem, so I have a bad habit of doing something wrong, as your plants arrive in beautiful condition. Thank you.

    • Without knowing more, guessing the soil is being kept too wet/overwatered.

    • The leaves don’t like being wet when watering, which kills them. I only water the soil or the bottom dish.

    • Water on the leaves won’t kill the leaves–both mother nature, and many large commercial greenhouses, water from overhead. The temperature of the water is more important. Avoid water much colder, or warmer, than room temperature.

  • My mother had violets for 50 years….from my childhood till her passing 2 years ago. I “inherited” one of her purple violets and took great care till it looked better and better…just gorgeous, actually. Then I overwatered or somehow sent it into shock and it disintegrated until I was faced with only a leaf or 2 left. So I read your article and most comments, and now I have tiny plantlets from a leaf petiole. Yet I do not know when to remove the baggie from my very tiny violets growing from the petiole I propagated about 2 1/2 months ago. There are perhaps 3, maybe 4 sprouts and they are approximately 3/4 to an inch tall…certainly clearly visible. Can/will you advise me on what to do next? I am determined and optimistic about growing a new beautiful violet from my remnant-turned-petiole.
    Thanks so much.

  • I would like to know if Ma’s Pink Beetles can be rooted from a leaf cutting. I have ordered violets from you, and the plants were wonderful. They have all grown to sizeable plants. Thank You!!!

  • I just tried to propagate my violet about 1-2 weeks ago. The leaf became soft after a few days (I think I waited too long to water). Now, it doesn’t appear to be getting worse but it is still soft. Do you think little plantlets will be able to come out still or should I start over?

    • Hard to say. Once it produces roots, it should recover. This is why we like to put our cuttings under cover–in a baggie or clear plastic container. You won’t have to worry about watering and it will keep the cuttings from wilting prior to producing roots.

  • I have a nice “baby” from my leaf cutting about 12 weeks old. When do I cut off the “mother leaf”?

    • You needn’t cut the mother leaf at all. It can remain until you’re ready to pot up the small plantlet.

  • Mary G. Douglass

    I had two sets of leaves that I rooted six months ago, but they never produced plantlets. I was going to discard them, but I turned them out of their pots first to see if I could see anything under the soil. To my surprise, one leaf had ghostly little white plantlets that seemed to be growing down instead of up toward the soil’s surface. I repotted the leaf shallowly so that the tiny plantlets will be exposed to light. Is this a common problem, and do you think my upside down plantlets will develop normally now?

    • It’s likely those (beneath the soil surface) plantlets would have worked their way upwards, though some never do. It is a good practice to root the leaf cuttings shallowly–cutting the petiole (leaf stem) no more than 1/4″ to 1/2″ long from the leaf base. This way the plantlets won’t have so far to go to reach the surface. Cutting the petiole at a angle (cut side facing up) also encourages plantlets to develop above the stem, rather than below, getting them pointed in the right direction.

  • Virginia Blodgett

    I started leaves in soil 9 months ago. Leaves seem happy but no plantlets. I have not had them under plastic. Should I just be more patient or give up on them? Also, I have pots that are self-watering- meaning they have water below that soaks into the upper pot. It is supposed to be for Aftrican violets. A white residue collects on the surface of the dirt and looks toxic. Does it really hurt anything? What do you think of that kind of pot?

    • Should have produced plantlets by now. If leaves used are old (taken from outer rows of plant) they can be a bit woody/tough and won’t produce plantlets as easily. Best to use young (but still mature) leaves. The white residue is likely just the salts from the water and soil leaching upwards to the surface. This can happen with SW pots, since soil is always wet and there is no means to water/drain these salts out of the soil.

  • A long time ago I was taught to root by laying a leaf on very slightly damp soil and using an anchor over the veins of the leaf onto the soil. Is done still?

    • It can be done this way, though it’s certainly more complicated and the success rate may be less. Violets, and most gesneriads, can be propagated numerous ways–one reason they are so popular as houseplants.

  • I personally find the information very helpful. I am just starting and I use potting soil is that okay? I will try to root some in water to see which works better for me. Thanks for you answer. Do we need to fitilize the plant Let’s? I use miracle grow for the two plants that I have bought and doing well. Thank you for your reply.

    Hannah

    • Potting soil will work–add some vermiculite and/or perlite to lighten it up for better results. Don’t pack the soil…use it somewhat loosely. We fertilize all of the time, though until plantlets begin to grow, this won’t be needed.

  • What do you think about using water beads instead of water for leaf propagation?

    • This would likely work, though we haven’t done this ourselves. In any event, we prefer to root directly into a potting mix–you’re going to have to transplant into this anyway.

  • I am 50 years retired as an Horticulturist. After retiring I have decided to grow some African Violets as I never grew any while working. I have bought several plants and they are all doing quite well. I am growing them in A. V. Pots where the plants only receive water from the bottom through the clay, and that is also how they receive their nutrients on a regular basis.
    I have stuck a few cuttings but before I stuck them I dipped them in a weak solution of IBA and now I have new plantlets all around the base of the petiole and up an down it. They are not ready to plant yet but when I do there will be a lot of them.
    Thank you

  • Must a leaf be potted immediately after being removed from the plant in order to be successful in producing plantlets? If it will be a matter of a few hours before it can be potted, should it be wrapped in a damp paper towel or not?

    • Fresher is better, but does not need to be done immediately. Can put leaves waiting to be used in a plastic sandwich bag–no need to wrap. To ‘perk up’ tired leaves you can leave them floating in a saucer of water–if you have it, add a drop of ‘Superthrive’ to the water.

  • Last time I tried to propagate by leaf, the leaves dried out and shriveled up, I think because the soil dried out and I was too afraid to water it because of fungus concerns with the plastic covering. I know you mentioned to another question that watering shouldn’t be necessary- but if the soil does dry out completely, should I still water the leaf cutting?

  • Lauren Wustenberg

    Hello – I started propagating an African violet leaf in water back in February. It started to produce small roots at the end of April and it was moved to a light potting medium. Strangely enough, it now has new leaves growing, but they’re growing on top of the base of the mother leaf itself – not from the petiole (but near it). I have never seen anything like it in my life. It has 3-4 very small leaflets growing from the top of the leaf in a cluster. Have you ever heard of this happening? How does this change the propagation process?

    • This is not unusual, though these plantlets tend not to be as strong or developed as the ones appearing from the petiole as they are often shallow-rooted. When large enough, you can pot them up the same as the other plantlets.

  • There are white specks onto of my violets. It is spreading. What can this be?

    • It could be many things–may be pests or may be something harmless. Need to know much more than this. Email us a photo with a more complete description, or better yet, call us during business hours.

  • I started a leaf cutting in soil. It is about a month old. It has yet to produce a plant let but the root system has grown up and out the sides of the cup? Is there something I should do differently?

    • Wouldn’t worry about the roots. If the leaf was healthy, will will produce plantlets in time. Younger, fresher, leaves will produce plantlets sooner.

  • I rooted several leaves in a small jello container…like a mini terrarium. They grow many plantlets. When I transplant them to individual 2-inch pots, they start off well but I am now struggling to keep them alive. They are in a cupcake container to help with humidity. Where am I going wrong?

    • Would need more information to give an educated answer. Be sure not to overwater them when very young–their root systems are small and they don’t need, no can use, much water. If you’re keeping them in an enclosed container, just water them lightly once potted (damp, not soggy), then you shouldn’t have to water again until removed from the container in 4-6 weeks.

  • I have one leaf cutting that is not growing plantlets in the soil, but rather 1/2 way up the stem.
    will these root, or is this a bum cutting?

    • This sometimes happens, and they can be planted. Another trick to encourage this is to make extra small cuts part way up the petiole–often you’ll get plantlets both at the cut end and along the cuts.

  • I have a purple African violet plant which is 6″ wide and I was adding soil and the leaves and neck came away from the root. Amazingly it was only one strand of the root keeping the whole plant alive. I re-potted with extra soil and watered through the bottom and also the top. Was this correct or should I have put the neck in water and waited for roots to reappear? It is flowering but the leaves that are under are wilting. I would appreciate your help as my local nursery suggested I check on line which is where I found you.

  • I have rooted a leaf in water and there are roots and tiny leaves. What do I do next to ensure success? My last attempt succeeded for a while and then the plantlet died. I had planted the plantlet in African Violet potting soil. Maybe the soil was too dry or too moist?

    • When plantlet is large enough for you to confidently handle it, pot it into a small (2-2.5″) pot. Keep soil moist, not soggy. You can place in clear container or bag if you worry about it, until it shows growth. Best to root leaves directly in a rooting mix rather than water, since this avoids having the plantlet adapt and produce leaves for a different medium.

  • I have a very old violet plant (guessing 15 years+) that has not bloomed in several years. Have tried African Violet fertilizer when watering, and have repotted it a few times to see if the soil was to blame. The leaves look healthy, but there are very few roots. Thinking of trying to propagate some leaves and see what happens. Any suggestions though on if the original plant can be revitalized and bloom again?

    • African violets can live “forever” if taken care of and repotted when needed. Use a light soil and proper size pot (discussion of this found elsewhere on these pages)–see our “restoring an African violet” lesson, for example. If you have good light and otherwise good care, it should bloom.

  • I tried to propagate a leaf with the stem back in August. The leaf still looks healthy and strong, but I haven’t seen anything sprouting yet. Is there a chance something will still come out of it or should I give up?

    • It’s been nearly 5 months. It may still produce plantlets, but it should have already by now. Root leaves that are not old and tough–young, but mature, leaves are the best. Most people tend to use very old, outer leaves, that they would normally discard anyway, for propagation. These tend to be the slowest to root and produce plantlets. Environment is important, too, but start with younger, fresher, leaves to improve your chances.

  • I tryed to start leaves in a covered plastic cake container, but al they did was rotttttttttt. What did I do wrong, I heard the humity was good for them.
    Victoria

    • Probably kept soil too wet. Soil should be moist, but not wet or soggy. Also, keep at room temperature and not overly warm.

  • I inherited my grandmother’s green thumb when it comes to African violets. At present I have 15 plants, all blooming beautifully. I have a “nursery” window with 5 pots of cuttings I rooted in water & am patiently waiting for babies. 5 plants I grew from leaflet cuttings are also doing great . How long before my plants start to bloom that I grew from cuttings ?

    • For us, it’s between 3-5 months from rooting leaf cuttings to potting plantlets. Another 3-6 months until blooming. Much depends upon the variety, environment and care.

  • Dear VB
    I have been given a fresh violet leaf in beautiful condition but it is without a stem. I have put it in water anyway and my question is – am I wasting my time or if I look after it will it eventually take?

    • You can “create” a petiole (stem) from the leaf blade. With sharp knife/razor cut away the lower part of the leaf blade on either side of the main rib. Now root as normal–better to root in moist soil or similar medium rather than water.

  • I have 4 leaf cutting which I rooting in soil, 2 from plant A and 2 from plant B. It’s been just over 5 months since I began these leaves. The cuttings from plant A have several new leaves each but they are just barely above the soil. What is going on? Are these viable?
    The cuttings from plant B, one is doing great and the other is doing okay. I did this last year from plant C and everything worked great. All 3 plants were gifts so I don’t know their origins.

    • Not sure of the question exactly. How soon plantlets appear from leaf cuttings, and how well they grow, will depend greatly upon the variety being propagated (genetics) as well as the condition of the leaf being rooted. As a general rule, green (nonvariegated) leaves, and mature, yet not old leaves (not from the old, outer row) will root and produce plants more quickly. The depth, and angle, of the rooted leaf in the soil also plays a part–obviously, if you root the leaf deeper into soil, it will take plantlets longer to make their way to top. Of course, care and environment are important, as well.

    • So these “ground huggers” may be viable and given more time may get taller? So I wait until they do get taller to transplant?

    • Would need to see plant to know exactly what you mean, but yes. Transplant whenever they are large enough that you are confident in handling them.

  • Paulette Shaddy

    A friend gave me a violet leaf I thought it would come up from the bottom as usual but after several months I added some fertilizer balls not many to the water I have sprouts up and down the stem. And the leaf got damaged at some point I have a sprout comming from it nothing has come from the bottom yet

    • Not sure if this is a question. Plantlets typically sprout from the bottom of the rooted petiole, but not always. One trick, that some use, is to create additional small cuts or “nicks” along the petiole to encourage additional plantlets to sprout from these as well. The idea is to increase the number of plantlets sprouting from the leaf. We’ve tried this but, usually, the few additional plantlets tend not to be worth the extra effort in preparing the leaves.

  • This will be my first attempt at starting new African violets from leaf. I have a question about watering the pots with the cuttings while you wait for plantlets to appear after the initial moistening. Do you need to water during that time? Do you ever remove them from the plastic covering during those weeks before separating and potting the new plants?

    • You shouldn’t need to. If the soil is moist (not soggy) and under cover, it shouldn’t dry out much if left covered. Ideally, it will be slightly dry, or beginning to, by the time the plantlets are ready to pot.

    • Hello,
      I have followed your instructions about planting a leaf to create new violet plantlets. I put 6 small pots, with one leaf each, inside a gallon size zip lock bag. I then closed the bag. I am now noticing that the environment inside the bag is creating humidity inside the bag. There is no water on the bottom of the bag, but tiny droplets are forming on the interior of the bag. Is it too wet in there? Should I leave the bag open? Thank you for your help and all your words of wisdom :)

    • Some condensation is normal. If you’re worried, you can open the bag, but unless you see the leaves rotting, should be OK.

  • Lorraine Arnott

    I use the rooting method in water, but I did not know it takes 4-5 months for them to develop into a plant.
    Just love them and really battle to get them to grow. Have just started another 5 leaves and they are looking good.

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