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Thriving violets

African violets are colorful and widely available

THE AFRICAN VIOLET, Saintpaulia ionantha, is one of the few plants that will flower successfully in a bright windowsill. While its popularity has fluctuated over the years, it is widely available and fun to grow. 

There are multiple flower types, foliage forms and color combinations. The size of plants ranges from micro-miniature, growing less than 3 inches wide, to large, which can be 16 inches or wider. The most common sizes are either semi-miniature plants (6–8 inches wide) or standard (8–16 inches wide). 

African violets have a reputation for being difficult, which couldn’t be further from the truth. Plants should be grown in a bright windowsill. East is preferred for most of the year and south to southwest in the winter. Flowering requires more light, so if your plants are not flowering, increase the quality and duration of their light. 

Growing tips 

African violets need to receive even light to grow in a uniform rosette pattern, so give them a quarter turn every week to maintain a uniform rosette. Flowering originates in each row of leaves and each row flowers only once. Occasionally removing the outermost row of leaves gives the plant room to grow and flower. 

Plant in a loose, porous, well-drained soil. Water plants thoroughly, when needed, allowing the soil to dry between watering. Plants shouldn’t become waterlogged, which is a certain death sentence. Water from the top, bottom or with the wick system, whichever you find easiest. Avoid getting the foliage wet whenever possible. Fertilize regularly from spring to fall with a diluted solution of a balanced soluble fertilizer like 20-20-20.

African violets can thrive and bloom indoors. For me, having a balance of plants I can enjoy growing both indoors and out is what makes gardening such a joy. 

SHELLY NOLD is a horticulturist and owner of The Plant Kingdom. Send stories and ideas to her at The Plant Kingdom, 4101 Westport Road, Louisville, KY 40207.

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