African Violets: Make More Plants

This article by Eric Johnson originally appeared in the January/February 2020 issue of Northern Gardener.

African violets. Could a name sound more magical? Even though they have suffered an identity crisis of late—sometimes being pegged as stuffy and old-fashioned—they are enchanting, easy-care bloomers. They are a colorful addition to the houseplant landscape, with countless varieties of color and texture.

I’ve had one violet for decades and a large part of keeping them alive and thriving is to regularly divide them. One violet will soon be several, but first, how do you keep them happy?

Light

African violets are native to Tanzania and Kenya and favor a tropical habitat. They love bright, but indirect light. Find the brightest location you can for them, without having sun directly striking their leaves. Bright light is necessary to get consistent and full blooms, which is the reason to grow them in the first place.

Water

African violets do best with regular watering that allows them to dry out a little in between sessions. There are special African violet pots designed to provide water below the roots, but I have always had good luck with a regular pot with good drainage and making sure to water at the base of the plant. You don’t want to get the leaves wet. African violets love humidity. A quick and easy way to get this is to group several plants together or tuck them among your other houseplants.

Soil and Fertilizer

Use a light and porous potting mix. Blends designed for African violets are available or you can amend a standard mix with peat moss and perlite. Fertilizing African violets is necessary for regular blooming. Use a mix specifically for them, following the directions.

Dividing African Violets

Over time, plants will produce babies, as they basically divide themselves into more plants. I recently divided a two-year-old plant into four smaller plants. The process is easy, with the violet doing most of the work for you. It’s easiest to do when the plant is on the dry side, so wait to water until you have repotted the new plants.

To divide, lift the entire plant out of its pot and set it on a flat surface. You will be able to easily see the natural division among the plants. Gently break them apart from one another, while trying to keep each individual root ball somewhat intact. When you have the individual plants separated, repot in a light, porous soil and water. You can either grow your own little colony of African violets or give them away and let your friends discover what a joy they are to have in the house.

 

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