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African violets and collectible houseplants
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Growing Suggestions

Light.

Adequate light is important for good growth and bloom.  Plants may survive in inadequate light, but will grow more slowly and not bloom well.  Any window that has strong, bright, light is good.  Try to provide bright light, but not hot sun.  Which window provides this will depend upon climate, season, and your particular home--there is no one, best answer.  Keep in mind that natural light changes depending upon season, climate, and geographical location.  Your plants will grow and bloom better, or worse, depending upon the light available at any given time and this will vary more under natural light (which mother nature controls) than under artifical light (which you can control).

Grown under artificial light, plants may constantly bloom.  There are many choices when it comes to artificial light.  Here are some general guidelines--start here and adjust based upon how your plants perform:

Florescent lighting.  The "skinnier" the bulb, the brighter it generally is.  A thin, T5 bulb might be twice as bright as a T8, and three or four times as bright as a fat T12 bulb.  Brightness will be measured in "lumens".  For a 4 foot shelf, aim for a total of approximately 2,000 to 2,500 lumens.  Keep plants 12-18" below the lights for 12-13 hours a day.  "Full spectrum" light is preferable, and but don't get too confused over this or "kelvin" (K) values listed--this can get complicated.  Most important will be the light intensity.

LED lighting.  This is the most modern, efficient means of lighting, and it will come in many forms.  Tubes, or strips, are preferable, since they will light a larger area more efficiently.  Most won't list lumens but will, instead, list "watts".  As a guideline, for a 4 foot shelf (i.e. a 4 foot strip/tube), about 10 watts should be sufficient (same distance from lights and day length as above).   You may have many choices for the LED light color--"white", "yellow", "blue" or full spectrum  Full spectrum is best, though white is also a good choice.  Again, light intensity is more important than light color if you don't have the options you want.

For any method, you can achieve the proper light any number, or combination of, ways.  Your plants don't care how they get light, only that they get enough of it (and not too much).

Watering.

Use room-temperature water, watering when the soil suface is "dry to the touch".  Plants such as streptocarpus, petrocosmea, and chirita, don't like to be constantly wet.  Avoid letting thin-leaved plants, like begonias wilt.  Tap water is usually fine, assuming your town doesn't draw it from a well (see next) or overly treat it with chemicals.  "Well water" will depend upon the source and how it may be filtered or treated, if at all.  Overly hard (alkaline) or soft (acid) water can affect health of plants over time.  "Softened" water is generally usable, but plants may show effects (from accumulated salts that may not be filtered out) over time.  Regular repotting (with fresh soil) is more important if water quality is not ideal.  "Pure" water, such as distilled, or reverse-osmosis (RO) water is ideal, but this can be expensive or inconvenient and will not be necessary for most homes.

Plants may be watered from the top, from the bottom, or by using wicks or other "constant" watering methods.  If using a self-watering pot or wicking, you MUST use a soil containing at least 50% perlite (like the "wicking" mix we sell).  Most commercially sold "African violet" mixes will not contain enough perlite for SW methods.  If watering from the bottom (i.e. saucers), be careful not to overwater young plants or those will root systems much smaller than the pot they are in.  Your goal for any watering method is evenly moist/wet, but not soggy, not dry.  Be careful, also not to overwater after repotting plants or potting into larger pots.  Again, your plants don't care how they get watered, only that they get the proper amount of water when they need it.

Feeding.

Each watering, using a fertilizer with a "balanced" formula having relatively equal amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium (the three numbers on the label are approximately the same).  "Bloom boosting" formulas aren't necessary and deprive your plants of needed nitrogen.  Best to fertilize every watering, following the instructions provided on the container.  If using a self-watering method (AV pots or wicking), use fertilizer at no more than 1/2 the recommended strength.

Atmosphere.

Most African violets and gesneriads will thrive in the same conditions in which you are comfortable--not too hot nor too cold, with moderate humidity.  Ideally, this means between 60 and 80f degrees, though most will tolerate more extreme temperatures.  Streptocarpus, chirita, and petrocosmea will tolerate even lower temperatures and will be happy on a cold windowsill, while this should be avoided for episcia, which thrive in warm, humid, conditions.  Hoya, and many gesneriads like columnea and nematanthus, will bloom even better following periods of cooler temperatures.

Soil.

Use a peat-based, "soil-less" mix, consisting of at least 30-50% vermiculite and/or perlite.  "Violet" soils are not necessarily good for violets!  Go by the ingredients, not the label!  A  bag of good soil should feel like a nice, fluffy, soft, pillow.  Add more perlite to soil the wetter you plant on keeping the plant.  If wick-watering, using "violet pots", or other self-watering method, you must use a mix containing at least 50% perlite!  A general rule:  the wetter you keep the soil, the more perlite it should contain, and vice versa.   The exact formula is an individual preference--whatever works for you in your conditions with your watering habits. 

Grooming.

Except for trailing (and some species) varieties, do not allow extra crowns, or "suckers" to form on violets.  This will only spoil that natural, flat, round appearance of the plant, and prevent it from blooming to its full potential.  Remove these suckers as soon as they appear and you know they aren't flower buds.  Most violets look and bloom best with about 3-4 rows of leaves.  Most other generiads can be grown with multiple crowns and more leaves.  

To keep their appearance tidy and encourage blooming, don't allow excessive growth of stolons on episcia and alsobia.  Occasional pruning of spreading plants like codonanthus, columnea, aeschynanthus, nematanthus, and other gesneriads suitable for baskets, will make for a "fuller" looking plant.  When kohleria get too tall or leggy, cut them back and let them branch out for a fuller look.  When sinningias get old or unsightly, cut them back, leaving just a bit of stem or pair of leaves above soil level--the tuber will then produce new growth.  Trim brown edges on leaves of plants like streptocarpus.  Remove spent blooms and old, yellowed, or unhealthy leaves.  Never remove old flower bracts on hoya, since it will rebloom from the same bract.  Remember, a clean plant is more likely to be pest and disease-free, as well.

Potting.

If receiving a standard African violet, pot into a 4" pot when it begins to bloom or about 6 months after the date on the pot label.  Miniature violets can remain in their small pots.  Most plants will need repotting every 6-9 months.  Regular repotting will prevent the appearance of long "necks" that will become difficult to deal with later.   Use a pot no larger than 4 or 5" for standard violets, and no larger than 2 1/2" for miniatures.  Avoid deep pots.  For other, especially spreading, plants, pot into larger pots only as root growth necessitates.  General rule:  choose pot size based upon the size of the root system, not the size of the plant.  Only use larger pots when the root system of the plant is well established (not necessarily root "bound") in its current pot.

When repotting violets, eliminate the stem, or "neck", that appears above the soil by removing some soil from bottom of root ball, lowering the plant in the pot, then adding fresh soil at the top, covering the bare stem.  Other fast-growing plants that can develop longer stems, like episcia or kohleria, can be treated in the same way.  For all plants, never use pots significantly larger than their root system--this can lead to over-watering and root-rot.

Propagation.

Use very light rooting media, consisting mostly of perlite and/or vermiculite.  For violets, cut the leaf stem at 1/2" and push down into moistened mix.  For streptocarpus, remove midrib from leaf and firmly insert two halves (center side) down into media, like "slices of bread in a toaster".  Root tip cuttings of vining, shrub-like, plants, or upright-growing plants.  Root either tips, wedges, or leaves, of begonias.  Enclose cuttings in a clear, plastic bag or covered container until well-rooted.  Place in moderate light and pot "babies" when they are large enough for you to confidently handle.

Please refer to the "plant care" section of main web-site for detailed information!