Plant and Garden

African Violets (Saintpaulias) Care and Information

African Violets (Saintpaulias) are in big trouble in its native habitat. Native to the Eastern Arc Mountains and coastal forests of Kenya and Tanzania, the forests are disappearing. The problem is largely impoverished local residents.

The human need for cutting down trees and pushing back the forest to clear the land for agricultural purposes happens at an at an alarming rate,

As the trees disappear, so does the canopy that shades the ground-hugging violets. The sudden exposure to unobstructed sunlight is more than the plants, which thrive in moist conditions in low and filtered light, can withstand. The result is that the Saintpaulias tends to literally burn up.

Discovered in 1892, the botanical name for African violets honors Baron Walter von St Paul-Illaire. (Saintpaulias)

Is The African Violet Going Extinct?

African Violet

Except for the species Saintpaulia ionantha as a whole, which is near threatened, all of the other Saintpaulia species and all of the subspecies of S. ionanatha are in one of the three threatened categories: vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered,” said Roy Gereau, an assistant curator of the Missouri Botanical Garden and co-director of the Tanzania Botanical Research and Conservation Program.

Gereau has participated in conservation assessments of all eight of the wild species and the 10 subspecies of Saintpaulia.

He helped prepare data about the status of wild populations of Saintpaulia for the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species.

This list is considered the world’s most comprehensive information source on the global conservation status of animal, fungi and plant species.

“Almost all of the species of Saintpaulia and all the subspecies of Saintpaulia ionanthaare in a perilous position,” said Gereau in an interview.  It’s possible that species not known to science are waiting to be discovered in remote areas of Kenya and Tanzania if villagers don’t destroy them first as they clear the forest to grow food and other crops.

Are All African Violets The Same?

  • There are some species that have foliage that will change color depending on the light condition
  • There’s a couple of plants that, as they’re exposed to longer days, their foliage will actually become almost stripped by the end of the day and then revert back to dark green overnight.
  • There are some species that have leaves with very short hairs so the texture is very velvety to the touch

Can We Control What An African Violet Looks Like?

Mr. Jeff Smith is a trained botanist and research scientist who has studied the genetics that controls the flower color of African violets.

He uses a strong species influence to breed award-winning African violets, and he thinks the species still have a very important role to play.

That’s because he contends, some species’ traits haven’t been fully developed or appreciated.

Commercial growers have one goal, creating plants that will appeal to the homebuyer. But there are some species of violets that only true collectors cherish.

African Violet Mths.

  • You have to water from the bottom.  Rain always falls from the sky.
  • Can’t get water on the leaves. It’s not the water that hurts the plants; it’s the temperature of the water. Water plants with room-temperature water.
  • Have to use blossom-boosting fertilizer.
  • Have to use self-water pots.

African Violets, like other plants, need light for photosynthesis. While photosynthesis is most often associated with a plant’s green leaves and stems, its most vital function is to convert carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen (in the form of carbon dioxide and water) into usable energy called plant carbohydrates. Even when all the essential nutrients are available to the plant, a complete absence of sunlight will literally result in starvation. 

Pinch off spent blossoms and blossom stems to encourage the development of new blooms. 

In general, African Violets need just enough water to keep the soil moist, but never soggy. Too much water will leave your African Violets susceptible to such deadly pathogens as Pythium, Root Rot and Crown Rot. Overwatering can also cause denitrification, a condition which prevents plants from getting the nitrogen they need.

African Violets

The water should be room temperature, or as close as possible in temperature to the air around your plants. When the water is too cold, it chills the roots of African Violets, causing leaves to curl down as the water is absorbed into the plant. Also, if watering from the top, cold water can cause leaf spotting. Such spots represent a form of necrosis and, as such, cannot be removed.

Note: Whether the water is the correct temperature or not, it is always important not to get water on the leaves. The only exception to this is when you are spray misting for purposes of quick-feeding or increasing the humidity around your plants. Such misting will not leave behind the large water droplets which, when exposed to the sun, will produce brown spots on the leaves.

How to grow African Violets book

Never use soft water. Soft water increases the saline content. This will alter both the pH and the electrical conductivity of the soil, thereby diminishing your African Violet’s ability to absorb water and nutrients. If you have soft water, you may be able to divert water before it reaches the softening unit. If not, you will need to seek an alternative source of water.

Avoid using highly chlorinated water. While some chlorine is actually necessary for photosynthesis to occur, African Violets need very little, i.e., 70-100 ppm. Such minute traces in the water will not be discernible by smell. In fact, if you can smell chlorine, then your water has too much.

The consequences of using water with too much chlorine in it include leaf burn and diminished flowering. If you have highly chlorinated water, and no alternative source is available, dispense water into a container and let stand overnight to allow the chlorine gas to escape.

Place plants away from floor vents, fans, or entrance doors to avoid air drafts and bursts of cold air.

To ensure correct watering, you are strongly encouraged to use a recommended self-watering device, such as the Optimara MaxiWell (for 4-inch standard Violets), MiniWell (for 1-inch super miniatures) or the Optimara Watership container, a spill-proof, self-watering device for 2-inch miniatures.

By providing the correct amount of water, a good self-watering device will greatly reduce the chances of getting any of the deadly fungi which cause plants to rot. In addition, because a good self-watering device waters from the bottom, it eliminates the potential hazards of watering from the top, i.e., leaf spots.

By providing the correct amount of water, a good self-watering device will greatly reduce the chances of getting any of the deadly fungi which cause plants to rot. In addition, because a good self-watering device waters from the bottom, it eliminates the potential hazards of watering from the top, i.e., leaf spots.

Finally, there are some self-watering devices which, while providing the benefits already mentioned, will also increase the humidity in the area immediately around your Violets. A self-watering device of this type, such as the Watermaid (for pot sizes up to 5-1/2 inches), stores water in an open saucer and draws water into the soil via capillary matting. All of the above self-watering devices are available online at the Selective Gardener, a mail order supplier that specializes in plant care products made specifically for African Violets.

The amount of light that an African Violet receives is important for its health and overall performance. They thrive in moderate to bright, indirect, indoor light. 


More common, of course, is a plant which simply does not get enough sunlight. In such circumstances, an African Violets will stop flowering and its leaves begin to turn yellow. It is also likely that the African Violet, which is not getting enough sunlight, will become rangy as it develops elongated leaves and stems.

While insufficient sunlight can be harmful, too much sunlight can also cause problems. Among other symptoms, too much sunlight will produce brown spots on the leaves and flowers. This is a form of necrosis analogous to sunburn. In addition, too much sunlight can cause the leaves to curl down and may turn variegated leaves entirely green.

Feed your African Violets

African Violets perform best when they receive a lot of indirect sunlight. While African Violets will tolerate direct sunlight very early or very late in the day, they should, in all other cases, be shielded from direct sunlight.

For best results, place your Violets in a window where they will receive light most of the day, i.e., a window with western or southern exposure. Adjust your blinds or use a sheer curtain to filter out some of the light. If you have access to a light meter, the correct luminosity for African Violets is 10,000 to 12,000 lux or about 900 to 1100 foot candles.

As an alternative, you can get a reasonable approximation of this light value by simply holding your hand over a Violet during the time when it is receiving the brightest light. If you can barely see the shadow of your hand over the Violet, then it is getting the correct amount of light.

Let us know your ideas and comments below!