How I improved my green thumb
African Violets have to be the most beautiful houseplant I have ever owned, hands down. and I own around 100 plants. Native to Eastern Africa’s Tanzania, African Violets bloom almost all year and can flower in a variety of colors. At first glance, these guys seem temperamental, demanding, and hard to maintain. Now that I have researched their origins and learned what they need, they actually aren’t hard at all to take care of.
African Violets aren’t your typical houseplant. If you just throw it in a pot and stick it in a sunny windowsill, you’re going to have a bad time. Trust me, I’ve been there. It wasn’t until I looked up their native environments until I learned what they actually need. These herbaceous plants grow in Tanzania, a mountainous area in Eastern Africa. Filled with beautiful wonders like Mount Kilimanjaro and 3 of Africa’s Great Lakes, Tanzania is a one of a kind. It makes sense, then, that African Violets need to be treated with special care in order for them to thrive.
First thing you need to know about African Violets is that they don’t typically grow in the ground. In fact, if you ever go to Tanzania and want to see these guys in their natural habitat, you’ll actually need to look up. Thats right, these flowering beauties grow on mountainsides! Now, obviously when they’re in your home, they are going to need to be in a pot. However, now that we know how they grow in nature, we get a couple hints on how to keep them alive. If a plant grows on a mountain side, its save to assume that they don’t get water directly from above, like other plants. This is confirmed once you take a look at its felt covered leaves.
Take a look at the leaves in the white pot. This African Violet was bought before the twin to its right. Originally, I top watered them, occasionally accidentally splashing the leaves with water. This caused unsightly brown blemishes on the delicate leaves. These leaves never died as a result, but they were permanently damaged. after learning that these plants grow on mountainsides, I bought the plant to the right and immediately began bottom watering. In fact, I bought a self watering pot. These special pots store water below the plant. The plant is actually put in another layer of the pot, so they are never sitting in the water, preventing root rot. However, whenever they get thirsty, their roots can simply draw the water up from the reserve located in the lower layer of the pot. This is much like when they sip on the water that slips down their native mountainside, allowing them to keep their green, fuzzy leaves in perfect condition.
Next, lets talk about how much light these fake violets need (oh, did I forget to mention that African Violets aren’t actually Violets? Oops!). In addition to being mountainous, Tanzania is also home to dense forests. You’ve probably noticed that African Violets never seem to get huge. This is because they actually appreciate the shade they get from their taller plant neighbors. Instead of stretching towards the sky to catch their rays, they prefer to get filtered sun and partial shade. Remember how I said that if you stick these guys in a pot and plop them on a windowsill, you’re going to have a bad time? I know from experience. I have a south facing window in my office, and I sat them there for awhile. They didn’t die. They didn’t even show signs of stress. However, their blooms died. Seemed pretty normal at first. All blooms die eventually, and calling a plant a “year round bloomer” is technically lying as all plants need a break from blooming. The problem was that they weren’t getting any new blooms. After about two months, I grew concerned. Now, I know that the problem wasn’t lack of water or sunlight, but actually too much light! Once I placed them in an area where they get medium indirect light and added some fertilizer, the blooms came back rather quickly!
So, now that we’ve gone over all of that information, Here are some toplines on African Violet care:
– Medium indirect light/ partial shade
– They are day neutral plants, meaning they’ll bloom regardless of time in the sunlight.
– Get a self watering pot and keep it filled!
– I use a water soluble fertilizer once a month during the spring and summer.
– your average, everyday indoor potting soil should be fine. I used BumperCrop’s Gardener’s Gold, but I’d also recommend Espoma’s Indoor Potting Soil. Something well draining with lots of nice nutrients from worm castings and other natural microorganisms.
African Violets are amongst my favorite plants to own. They light up a room with their continuous blooms, look incredibly regal, and don’t take a lot of effort to maintain once you do your research. I hope you pick one out to see for yourself! Already own an African Violet? Take a pic for the comments!