African violets produce beautiful, delicate flowers. Although they demand quite precise growing conditions, they can be successfully grown in Australian homes.
Where to Grow African Violets
Australians generally grow African violets indoors, as they are very sensitive to sudden changes in temperature and are also badly affected by pests and diseases when grown in the garden. African violets can grow happily in quite small pots, as long as they are given plenty of light. A sunny north-facing windowsill is the ideal location for an African violet, although gardeners must turn the plant regularly to ensure even growth.
Temperature and Humidity
African violets thrive best at temperatures between 15 and 26 degrees Celsius, and prefer a humidity of at least 60 percent. Gardeners can create a locally humid environment by placing a saucer of water underneath the plant; as the water evaporates, the air around the plant takes on more humidity. If the plant gets too cold, it may not flower, so it's important to make sure that the temperature stays above 15 degrees Celsius, even at night. African violets also dislike sudden changes in temperature, so gardeners should keep them away from drafts and never move them outdoors.
How to Water African Violets
African violets are quite particular about their watering needs. Gardeners should always water from the base, as the leaves can develop discolored blotches if they are splashed with water. The best approach is to give African violets small amounts of water regularly. Gardeners can test whether the plant needs watering again by checking to see whether the soil is dry. African violets should never be given cold water, as it chills the roots and causes the leaves to curl down.
How to Feed African Violets
African violets need regular feeding in order to thrive and produce flowers. Gardeners should add a small amount of liquid fertiliser every time they water the plant. It's also important to use the right potting medium for this type of plant. The African Violet Association of Australia recommends a soil-less potting mix of peat moss, perlite, vermiculite and charcoal.
How to Prune African Violets
African violets require very little pruning, but gardeners should remove flowers after they have died. The plant can also be kept as a neat and densely flowered crown by removing side shoots from the main stem as soon as they appear.
How to Propagate African Violets
Gardeners can create a new African violet by taking an almost mature leaf from their original plant and trimming its stem to about 2.5 cm in length. The next step is to insert this stem into potting mix, which should be kept moist but not wet. A new plant should appear in around two to four months. Young African violets should regularly be given a fertiliser that is high in nitrogen, as this encourages leaf growth. Until the plant is around 15 to 20 cm in diameter, gardeners should remove flower stems as soon as they appear. This encourages the plant to use its energy on growing bigger and stronger, rather than on flowering.
African violets make precise demands of their owners, but the beautiful flowers that they produce make all the hard work worthwhile. Gardeners interested in growing African violets should follow the tips given here to make sure their plants thrive.