Monday, August 15, 2011

African Violets

Have you noticed the weary, nearly dead African violet plants that are sometimes in the discount basket at the supermarket? The market where I shop for groceries has a discount basket near the floral department. It often contains several sad looking African violets that are either ready for the trash bin or for someone to come and rescue them. It appears that I have made it my mission to save them from a sad ending. For 99 cents, a sorry looking little plant sometimes comes home with me and the work begins to restore it to good health. It doesn't take long to perk them up or even to get them to bloom, although they do need time to grow new leaves to look vibrant again.

The African violet, or saintpaulias, is a common houseplant that can provide beautiful blossoms in purple, lavender, white, and pink throughout the year. When conditions are right, continually blooming can result. The soil should be kept moist, but never soggy. Generally I allow the soil to dry completely before watering. To water, place the flower pot in a larger container, like a bowl or carton. Without allowing water to touch the leaves, drench the soil in water so that it drains into the container below. Allow it to sit in the water that pools for 10 minutes or so, then remove. The soil should be completely moist but the plant shouldn't be left sitting in water for a long period of time. If allowed to sit in water too long, the stems and leaves will get mushy and rot. I like to use fertilizer sticks that slow release into the soil so that blossoms result. A low level nitrogen fertilizer gives the best results. In the winter, sunlight from a nearby window seems to give me the best results when it comes to growth and foliage, but during the summer when it is hot, care should be taken to keep African violets out of too much direct sunlight. Too much light and heat can cause spotting of the foliage or wilting of the leaves. Books about caring for African violets all mention that they require a fairly high level of humidity to thrive. This is something I don't worry about too much, as my climate is fairly dry in both summer and winter. They seem to do alright without extra effort to humidify them as long as I keep them in the proper light and well watered and fed.

The process of restoring these little African violets plants has just begun. Before long I hope they will thrive, grow, and grace the room with abundant colorful blossoms! In the meantime, the journey of restoration is interesting and rewarding. African violets are not just your grandmother's living room plant!


  1. I have always found them particularly fussy...must have been overwatering them. My grandmother had a beautiful white, wicker planter, which she kept filled with African Violets in her front bay window. It's a happy memory and I haven't thought of that in a long time. Enjoy them!

  2. Yes, I see those sad african violets at the grocery store and want to rescue them. :o) I've found that lately, when I buy a healthy-looking african violet it blooms well and then...that's it. It doesn't seem to bloom again.

    In the past, I've never had this problem as they are very easy plants that usually keep blooming again and again. Maybe I need to buy one from a nursery rather than the grocery store?

  3. Funny, but I was thinking this was my grandmother's living room plant. Jim had one for awhile, but it finally bit the dust. Good luck reviving them.

  4. African Violets are beautiful, my Grandmother always had a green tumb for growing them.


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