In nature you will find African violets living in the moist, humid jungles of Africa. When we grow African violets at home, we should try to mimic these conditions the best we can. These plants thrive in temperatures between 70 and 75 degrees during the day with nighttime temperatures no lower than 60 degrees. In the winter, it is best to move them away from windows at night. To provide humidity, you can use a self-watering pot or a humidity tray. You can easily make your own humidity tray using a saucer filled with pea gravel. Add water to just below the gravel line and set the violet on top.
Watering is best done from below with a self-watering pot or with a watering can with a long spout so you can reach into the foliage without splashing the leaves. One of the biggest problems home gardeners have is white spots forming on leaves, which is usually caused by cold water splashes. The water should be room temperature or a little tepid.
The African violets grow best in east- and west-facing windows. They can grow in a north window, but that is only ideal in the summer months. To keep leaves free of dust you can clean them with a soft brush, like an artist’s brush.
African violets like rich soil. In the jungle the soil is alive with continually-decomposing organic matter. It is best to use prepared African violet soil mix because the mix has been scientifically prepared to the exact specifications for maximum growth. When transplanting , be sure the soil is not packed too tightly, as they like well-aerated soils in a roomy pot.
It is recommended that a specialty fertilizer be used which, like the African violet soil mix, has been scientifically prepared for optimum growth.
Pests and Diseases
The pests that attack African violets are mealy bugs (white bugs along the stems and undersides of leaves), red spider mites (very small reddish bugs that usually spin fine webs), and gnats (black bugs that fly out of the soil). All are a nuisance but can be controlled. It is best to use something natural like Neem oil. If you cannot find that, whatever you use should be listed as safe for African violets. Diseases commonly found on violets are powdery mildew (a grayish-white film on leaves and stem) and botrytis (rotting at base of stem and leaves). Powdery mildew can be controlled with Neem oil; with botrytis you would need to clean out rotted material and allow to dry.
The most common method of propagating African violets is by leaf cuttings. You will want to do these preferably in spring. This way, new plants can benefit from warm weather to grow. It usually takes 10 – 12 weeks for first new leaves to appear. A successful new plant will flower after 4 – 6 weeks from the initial leaves. You can also do tip cuttings in which case you can root them in water or soil. If you root in water, you will want to plant in soil when your roots are 2 – 3 inches long.