FAQ - General Care


Question: I live in a town that the closest African violet club is over an hour away so I don't have a group to ask questions. I was wondering if there was a book that dealt with more than just the basics that would help me with some of my questions.  Also, I have a membership to the African Violet Society on my Christmas list and am wondering if the magazines will be a good source of information when dealing with growing problems. It will help you a lot. On this web site I can't figure out if you can actually get to articles in the African Violet Magazines or if it just a guide to what issue of previous magazines you would find information.

Answer: YOU CAN Grow African Violets: The Official Guide Authorized by the African Violet Society of America, Inc written by Kent and Joyce Stork is available at the AVSA web site. You might also benefit from Growing to Show by Pauline Bartholomew, which focuses on competitive growing but has many excellent tips for everyday growing too. The African Violet Magazine is an excellent source of growing information. The Index of Articles is designed to help you locate articles but the articles are not on the AVSA web site. You may purchase individual copies of previous magazines with articles that interest you, providing that there are still copies of the issues in stock

Question: What a wonderfully informative site! It has been very helpful in answering so many questions on how to care for my African violets- thank you! I have about 40 new plants which I grew from leaves potted in soil & a few in water. What I would like to know is: 1) How long before I see blossoms? 2) Is there any feeding schedule I should be following to nurture healthy plants? Currently, I feed them every time I water, which is in 8-10 days depending on how dry the pot is. I let the bottom part of the pot soak for at least 2 hrs till I see the top soil wet - is that too long? Any additional advice would be helpful.

Answer: 1) You are like to see blossoms about one year after putting the leaf cutting down. This can be greatly affected by the size of the pots (smaller pots result in earlier blooming), light, humidity, etc. 2) You should be fertilizing African violets on a weekly schedule once the plants begin to show some mature growth. Very young African violets, recently separated from the leaf clump, often develop problems if they are fertilized at the same rate as mature plants. In my experience, they grow just fine on straight water. 3) I'm a little concerned that you may be allowing the soil to become too dry before watering, which can result in root rot. It would be better to water a little more often, watering into the top of the soil occasionally too. Since you didn't indicate where the leaves are in the process of propagation, please look for the article on propagating leaf cuttings on the AVSA web site to find a good method for putting down African violet leaves. Happy Growing! Joyce Stork

Question: Is it true that the African violets only requires minimum care to survive?

Answer: If surviving is all you want, African violets can survive under very difficult circumstances such as droughts, but African violets will not survive in conditions that are too wet since they are very susceptible to root and crown rot diseases. If you want a plant that is blooming with minimal care, African violets can be a perfect choice, providing that the right environment is in place. They need a bright light location where the temperature stays between 65 and 80 degrees F. They need to be kept lightly moist at all times to stay in bloom and to thrive. They prefer a very light porous potting mix and a pot that is smaller than the overall diameter of the plant. Humidity is helpful to keep flower buds developing to a full open blossom. Fertilizer is also helpful in keeping them in bloom. If you have this environment, you will be able to grow African violets easily. If you don't have these key components, your African violets will struggle and look pretty sad... but they will usually survive unless their roots are too wet. Happy Growing! Joyce Stork

Question: I put my African violet outside to get some light. I forgot it, and now the leaves are burned. Some are limp. Are there any way of saving them?


How sad that it got forgotten! African violets really tend to do best left in one good bright location, so it really isn't necessary to try to move them around. The burned and wilted leaves should be removed promptly. Those leaves will not recover and could allow bacteria or fungus to enter the plant if left in place. You may find that you are removing a lot of leaves! You will be okay as long as the center most leaves are still firm and fresh. You will find that the plant will begin to grow very quickly once those leaves are gone which is its way to survive. You may have a neck under the leaves once you have cleaned it up. If so, wait a few weeks to give the plant time to stabilize, then transplant it following the directions in the article on Repotting on the AVSA web site. Happy Growing! Joyce Stork


General Care - Suckers

Question: I would like to have step by step information on 'How to Remove Suckers From African violet Plants'. 

Answer: The most difficult part of removing suckers is learning how to identify them at an early stage when removal is much easier. Suckers appear between the leaf axils (the place where the leaves attach to the main stem of the plant). Since flower buds also appear in the same places, it is necessary to allow the sucker to develop four leaves before it is removed. Flower stems will only have two leaves. It requires regular looking to spot the suckers at this early stage, because they do not disrupt the pattern of growth or give you an other signal.

Once you see the four tiny leaves, use a pointed object (I prefer a pencil) to gently prod out the sucker. If you can maneuver the pencil point under the lowest leaf of the sucker, it can often be popped out as a tiny plant with all of the little leaves still attached together. If it comes out in little bits, gently dig at the same spot to make sure that the growing point is gone. If the sucker isn't discovered until it gets larger, the leaves of the sucker may entangle with the main plant which makes it a little more difficult to remove.

Often you will be able to tell there is a big sucker present because it will push up against the main plant's leaves so that the leaves are not all laying flat in the ideal rosette. In this case, you must look closely to determine which leaves belong to the sucker. Again, try to maneuver the pencil (or whatever tool) so that it is behind the bottom leaves of the sucker and then pull the pencil toward you so that the sucker pops free.

Again, if it doesn't come out in one neat piece, dig gently with the point to remove any of the sucker that might remain. If the growing point isn't removed, it will regenerate. If the sucker reaches a size that is comparable to the original plant, you will have to divide the plant. This is done by cutting between the two (or more) plants. Typically a plant that needs to be divided will look like a disorganized bush with leaves going in all directions.

When dividing, you often must sacrifice leaves so that you can isolate each crown of growth (a crown has tiny leaves in the center surrounded by increasingly larger leaves that all formed from the same center). Each crown can be potted to grow on its own, even if no roots are attached. Simply place them on top of moist potting mix and place them inside a clear sealed container (I use a plastic bag) for about a month. Happy Growing! Joyce Stork


General Care - Temperature

Question: I am living in Iran in Isfahan City. It is very hot in the summer. I am very interested in growing African violets, and I want to know how can I have very beautiful African violets, in spite of almost 41 centigrade in summer? 

Answer: African violets are much happier at 20-22 centigrade, so you may have a hard time solving this problem. At 40 C you are likely to see leaves collapse and become water-logged rather suddenly. There are some things you can do to help however. 1) As much as possible, keep the plants nearer the floor where it will be several degrees cooler. If you have air conditioned spaces that have adequate light, use that space for your plants. 2) If you can obtain clay pots, you will find that the evaporation from the clay is very cooling. The soil must be kept damp, and at those temperatures, you may need to water every day to keep enough moisture in the potting mix. 3) Some growers in other hot areas have found that suspending water-soaked fabric, such as muslin, around the plants creates additional cooling. This is messy, but it is effective. 4) Even though African violets need good light to bloom, it is better not to put them in windows where there will be additional heat. Growing under fluorescent lights may be a better choice, particularly if the light unit is turned on during the coolest part of the day (or night). 5) If none of these things are possible, then try growing the African violets with less water while it is hot so that the leaves are always a bit wilted. Less turgid foliage seems to tolerate the heat better. When it is time to water them normally again, water them lightly for two or three days in a row rather than soaking them on one day. This will revive the roots more gradually and your plant will be less likely to develop rot. The primary thing you want to do in these temperatures is to keep your violets alive. African violets are unlikely to bloom during very hot weather and blossoms that do appear are often very pale. When leaves fade or soften, remove them from the plant promptly to prevent disease. When it is cooler again, you will have happier plants that will bloom more freely. Happy Growing! Joyce Stork


General Care - Terrarium

Question: I have a 29 gallon fish tank with 2 strip lights. I would like to grow African violets in it. I tried once before and I wasn't successful. I don't think I had the plants close enough to the lights. I also think I may need a glass cover in order to keep some humidity in the tank. Has anyone tried this before?

Answer: Large fish tanks can be used for African violets but it does require some specific adjustments.

1) The plants should be positioned about twelve inches below the light tubes, which should be turned on about twelve hours a day. They can be slightly further away if the lights run longer (up to 15 hours a day). Miniature or semiminiature violets need to be closer yet (8") from the lights for twelve hours a day to get them to bloom freely.

2) The strip lights need to be fluorescent tubes, either cool white or warm white.

3) The African violets should be grown in their own individual pots rather than planted into a common garden.

4) Typically there will be enough humidity without a cover, providing that you are watering on a regular basis. Watering may be the difficult part, since it isn't easy to get access to plants that are set down in a deep aquarium.

5) The most serious problem I foresee is that you may have problems with fungal diseases, most especially powdery mildew, which tends to thrive in warm humid areas that have little air circulation. Keeping a small fan running may help prevent problems.

6) You may also have some problems with temperatures that are a little warm for African violets, which prefer to be grown at about 72 degrees with a slight drop at night. When grown warmer, the growth will be softer, the leaves tend to be less compact, and the colors of the blossoms will be less intense. Happy Growing! Joyce Stork



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