African Violet Watering Guide: How To Water An African Violet Plant
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By: Mary H. Dyer, Credentialed Garden Writer
Watering African violets (Saintpaulia) isn’t as complicated as you may think. Actually, thesecharming, old-fashioned plants are surprisingly adaptable and easy to get alongwith. Wondering how to water an African violet? Read on to learn more aboutAfrican violet water needs.
How to Water an African Violet
When watering African violets, the main thing to remember isthat overwatering is the number one reason a plant fails to thrive, or just upand dies. Overwatering,without a doubt, is the worst thing you can do for your Africanviolet.
How do you know when to water an African violet? Always testthe potting mix with your finger first. If the potting mix feels moist, tryagain in a few days. It’s healthiest for the plant if you allow the potting mixto dry slightly between watering, but it should never be bone dry.
One easy way to water an African violet is to place the potin a container with no more than an inch (2.5 cm.) of water. Remove it from thewater after about 20 minutes, or until the potting mix is moist. Never let thepot stand in water, which is a surefire way to invite rot.
You can also water at the top of the plant, but be carefulnot to wet the leaves. Actually, it’s a good thing to water thoroughly from thetop once in a while to leach out salts that can build up in potting soil. Waterwell and let the pot drain.
Tips on Watering African Violets
African violets tend to be sensitive to cold water, whichmay create white rings (ring spot) on the leaves. To get around this, let tapwater sit overnight before watering. This will also allow chlorine to evaporate.
A light, porous potting mix is best for African violets. Acommercial mix for African violets works well, but it will be even better ifyou add a handful of perliteor vermiculiteto improve drainage. You can also use a regular commercial potting mix mixedwith half perlite or vermiculite.
Be sure the containerhas a good drainage hole in the bottom.
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Read more about African Violets
How to Care For African Violets and Make Them Flourish
When Baron Walter von Saint came across a particular flowering plant in East Africa, he chose to name it Usambara Violet.
He took it to Germany in 1894, but little did he know that many people would eventually fall in love with the African Violet passionately.
However, some indoor gardeners are wary about growing this plant because its frilly and elegant nature requires special care.
The African Violet, otherwise known as Saintpaulia ionantha, does have some quirks. Learning about them and the right care can make growing the plant less intimidating.
Here is a guide on how to care for African Violets to produce a houseful of blooming flowers.
Related: Amaryllis Care | Spruce Up Your Garden With this Beauty
Light – Crucial When Learning How to Care for African Violets
The African Violet is a plant that flourishes very well indoors because of its low sunlight requirements .
Overall, these little plants are grown on windowsills. They do well in any window with exposure to excellent bright light. The key is that sunlight is indirect.
For a south-facing window, guard the violets against the hot sunlight in summer using sheer curtains or blinds. The plants do well in a south window during winter.
When it comes to the east- and west-facing windows, keep an eye out to ensure the violets do not become too warm. This can happen when the sun is shining in that region as the glass can amplify the heat of the sun.
North-facing windows provide adequate light to bloom African Violets most of the year. Always keep the plants near the window but out of direct sunlight for maximum exposure to the sun.
When putting on a table in the center of a room, the plant might appear beautiful, but it may not get enough sunlight to continue blooming.
Other than natural lighting, African Violets can also bloom under fluorescent light. If you don't have access to bright window light, you can use fluorescent fixtures.
One of the best grow light systems is by Sunblaster which can be purchased on Amazon. They come in both bulbs to use with your own fixtures or in Strip Lights ranging in size from 12″ to 48″.
The optimum distance to maintain between the pot to the artificial light should be 8-12 inches.
When most people ask about how to care for African Violets, they mostly want to know about the watering needs. These plants are very picky about water. Therefore you need to take additional care when watering them.
Generally, African Violets require just enough water to ensure the soil remains moist, but not soggy.
Excessive water can leave the plants susceptible to deadly pathogens. Too much water can also lead to denitrification, which is a condition that prevents plants from receiving the nitrogen they need.
Moreover, the water needs to be at room temperature. When it is too cold, it can chill the roots of the plant, causing the leaves to curl downwards.
In addition to that, if watering from the top can lead to leaf spotting. The spots represent a type of necrosis.
It is essential to note that whether the water is the right temperature or not, you should never get water on the leaves of the African Violet.
The only exception to this rule is when you spray misting for fast-feeding or raising the humidity around the plant.
Furthermore, you should avoid using soft water because it can alter the soil's pH and electrical conductivity. When this happens, the plant will not be able to absorb water and nutrients properly.
You should also stay away from highly chlorinated water. Although some chlorine is essential for photosynthesis to happen, African Violets only need a minimal amount, i.e., 70 to 100 ppm. Too much chlorine can cause leaf burn and poor flowering.
Well-drained soil is crucial when giving African Violet care for it to thrive in any conditions.
You can make your potting soil mix by using three parts sphagnum peat moss, two parts vermiculite, and one part perlite. The mixture will retain the correct amount of moisture and provide the roots with the best water to air ratio.
Since peat moss has an acidic pH value, incorporating some lime to the planting medium before putting it in the pot helps to counteract the acidity.
Or instead of making your soil mixture, you can buy a special African Violet soil mix formula. Such mixtures have exact specifications for maximum plant growth.
As you plant, fill the pot with the soil mixture and place the plant in the middle. Aligning its crown to the container's top ridge will also be helpful.
Similar to how there are special soil mixes, there are also specialty fertilizers for African Violets on the market.
The best fertilizer for African Violets is a water-soluble formula that contains equal portions of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.
You should not use fertilizers that get their nitrogen from urea as these can cause root burns.
Monitor the Temperature
African violets thrive well under temperature ranges of 18ºC-24ºC.
It’s essential to keep the plants in a place where you can maintain that temperature.
Also, do not keep them close to drafts or other elements that may bring sudden fluctuations in temperature.
Anything under 10ºC is not suitable for violets, and they will almost certainly die.
Related: Best Perennials for Bees to Plant in Your Garden
Avoid Pests and Pathogens – Important Tip on How to Care for African Violets
In this guide on how to care for African Violets, it is also worth mentioning that these plants are also prone to attack. These plants can be attacked by pests and pathogens if they are not cared for properly.
Common pathogens that attack African Violets include Pythium fungi (it causes root and crown rot) and Botrytis cinerea fungus (it causes blight).
Cyclamen mites and mealybugs are the most common pests that destroy these plants.
The best defense against such pathogens and pests starts with proper plant care.
You should disinfect all the tools and containers that come into contact with the African Violet plant. You can do this by using a solution of 5-10% chlorine bleach.
Moreover, avoiding overwatering, ensuring the air circulates appropriately. This prevents extreme temperature changes and trimming decaying or dead plant material will help to avoid attack by pests and pathogens.
If you were not sure about how to care for African Violets, now you know. The above points should help you have a healthy-growing houseplant.
Common African Violet Problems
While it might seem daunting to determine what’s gone wrong, you can usually narrow it down to a few key culprits. The list below covers common symptoms, pests, and remedies to help you get your African violet back to its best.
Houseplant Pro Tip: The best way to prevent African violet problems is to give them the proper care from day one. Check out 3 Steps to Mastering the Art of African Violet Care for a few valuable tricks and tips.
4 Common African Violet Leaf Problems
Pale or Bleached Leaves
If you notice your plant’s leaves are losing their lush, green color, get it out of the sun! These delicate houseplants are sensitive to direct light and will discolor when overexposed. Move your plant to a spot away from harsh, direct sunlight. (Just make sure it’s still well-lit!)
Long, Spindly Leaves
African violets usually stick pretty close to the soil. If your plant starts to grow tall, thin leaves, it is receiving insufficient sunlight. It is, in fact, literally reaching for the light. The solution: Move your plant to a brighter area of your home.
Spots on Leaves
Uh oh! Unfortunately, many novice gardeners learn the hard way that African violet leaves shouldn’t get wet. Exposure to moisture can cause a number of problems with your plant’s leaves, all marked by spots of different colors. For this reason, most people prefer bottom-watering methods. Here’s what you might see, and what to do about it:
- White spots: Wet leaves can develop white spots. If you notice this African violet problem, gently rub the leaves with a warm washcloth to remove the residue.
- Brown or yellow spots: Think of this symptom like frostbite or sunburn. Brown and yellow spots can be caused by cold water (again, this plant is sensitive!) or by wet leaves being exposed to the sun. Unfortunately, there’s no recovering from this African violet problem. Trim dying leaves—and stay dry in the future!
Curling, Brown Leaves
Fertilization is critical for your plant’s health. Over-fertilization? Not so much. Overfeeding can burn your African violet’s vulnerable root system, causing its leaves to curl and brown. If you notice these symptoms after fertilizing, immediately flush the soil with room-temperature water, taking care to avoid the leaves.
Providing African Violet Fertilization
Applying a gentle, liquid African violet fertilizer every time you water your plant is an excellent way to provide constant nutrients without the risk of over-fertilizing.
African Violet Problems: Pest Prevention & Treatment
African violets are susceptible to a number of plant pests. That’s why you should always keep enough distance between plants so that their leaves don’t touch. If you suspect one of your African violets has been infested, immediately isolate it from your other plants. This prevents the infestation from spreading and causing total houseplant chaos.
The best treatment is prevention: ALWAYS thoroughly clean and inspect new pots and plants before introducing them to your home. You should also wash your hands thoroughly before tending to your plants—yep, every time!
Mites are a common African violet problem. You may notice fine hairs growing from your plant’s leaves, leaves curling up around the edges, and new leaves growing pale instead of deep green. Grab a magnifying glass and look for tiny white, brown, or yellow insects in the crown or leaf creases.
Treating African Violet Mites
If you suspect your African violet has mites, immediately isolate it and treat with a houseplant-certified mite spray or natural insecticide.
Mildew thrives in humid spaces with poor airflow. This white, dusty fungus looks like powdered sugar and can slow your plant’s growth or keep it from blooming.
Treating African Violet Mildew
First, remove all heavily infected buds and leaves. Dip a Q-tip in a 50% diluted rubbing alcohol solution and gently apply to any remaining infected areas. Another option is to apply a gentle fungicide to the rest of the plant. Prevent future mildew problems by placing your plant in a more aerated environment or near an oscillating fan.
Yikes! What’s that sticky goo on your African violet’s leaves? It’s honeydew, my friend, and your plant has an aphid infestation. Where there’s honeydew, you’ll probably find small green, brown, or black aphids on your plant. Treat this African violet problem quickly: ants love honeydew, but houseplants don’t love ants.
Treating African Violet Aphids
Luckily, treating an aphid infestation is quite easy. Simply clean your African violet’s leaves gently but thoroughly with warm water and dish soap. (Check the undersides too!) If the problem persists, try a houseplant-friendly pesticide to finish the job.
Have an African violet problem we didn’t mention? Leave a comment below! (And take a deep breath it’ll be okay!)
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Avoiding Crown Rot on African Violets
Crown rot is the main killer of African Violets and it sets in when the soil is left too wet for too long.
A tell-tale sign of crown rot is when you notice the plant looks limp, but the soil feels moist. If you notice an African Violet looking limp, the first thing to check is the soil as it’s usually a sign that it needs to be watered.
If the soil is moist, it’s probably been over-watered. This can happen easily when you top-water the plant too frequently, but with bottom-feeding, it lessens the risk because you only need to sit the plant in standing water for up to 30-minutes. Any longer than a half-hour can be too long, causing the plant to be over-hydrated.
An over-watered African Violet is at risk of crown rot, and it can kill the plant. If you catch it early enough, you may be able to start a new plant with one or two healthy leaves.
When crown rot sets in, it’s almost always fatal on an African Violet. This is because crown rot is a fungal disease. The Phytophthora fungus attacks the plant’s roots and the crown of the plant.
The cause of the disease is the soil being left too soggy for too long. This is why it’s best practice to allow the soil to dry completely between watering rather than sticking to a set frequency.
By letting the soil dry out between watering, and sticking to bottom-feeding with a regular frequency of flushing the soil, you’ll be able to keep your African Violet in bloom and thriving for longer.