11 Tips To Keep Your African Violets Blooming Indoors
Keeping your African Violet's blooms going indoors can be a challenge if you aren't setting yourself up for success. Luckliy, there are things most indoor gardeners can do to improve their blooms. In this article, gardening expert Madison Moulton examines her top tips for keeping your African Violets blooming indoors as long as possible!
No flowering houseplant collection is complete without African Violets. They flower in clusters of striking heart-shaped blooms, adding a splash of color to any space. These showy flowering plants are known to flower all year round, adding to their allure.
African violets are easy to grow, and you can usually find them just about anywhere. They can make great desk companions, and can tolerate a little more neglect than other houseplants. But to keep their white, pink, or famously purple blooms vivid and bright, you’ll need to make sure your plant’s needs are being met.
However, they can struggle to reflower once you’ve brought them home from the nursery. There are several factors that could stop your African Violets from flowering. Luckily, with these tips, you can keep them blooming indoors all year long!
Choose the Right Pot
The journey to a healthy, blooming African Violet begins with the right pot. Pot choice is often overlooked and deemed an unnecessary fuss. But it’s a vital choice that can make or break your African Violet blooming habits.
A pot or container may pair perfectly with the plant’s striking blooms, but if it doesn’t have sufficient drainage, it won’t do. Excess water in the soil leads to several issues, namely fungal growth, and root rot. These issues can wreak havoc on your African Violets, preventing them from blooming and eventually killing them.
Always opt for a pot with at least one drainage hole, but more is always better. Depending on the material of your pot, you could drill your own drainage holes.
The material of your pot is of no great concern but know certain materials cling to water better than others. Depending on the pot you choose, you may need to adjust your watering habits accordingly.
Size matters when it comes to choosing the right pot. Unlike other houseplants, African Violets need a relatively small pot to thrive indoors. They enjoy being root bound, often blooming better when they are.
Make Your Own Soil Mix
When it comes to planting and repotting African Violets, any old soil won’t do, especially garden soil. Garden soil doesn’t drain efficiently and often harbors pests and diseases which can easily spread to your indoor plants. A houseplant mix isn’t necessarily the best choice for these slightly fussy plants either.
African Violets thrive, and flower better, when their soil is light, loose and airy – never heavy, dense, or easily compacted. While houseplant mixes are light and airy, they don’t measure up to African Violets’ standards.
Many suggest mixing extra perlite with houseplant soil to improve drainage, but your best bet is to choose a specialized African Violet soil mix. These are readily available online or from your local garden center or nursery.
You can also opt to make your own African Violet mix using peat moss, perlite, and vermiculite. The key is vermiculite. This natural material absorbs and retains water and important nutrients. The peat moss also retains water, whilst keeping the mix extra light and airy.
For the best results, your DIY mix should be made up of equal parts perlite, peat moss, and vermiculite.
Keep It Bright
The right lighting conditions are perhaps the most important step in the journey to frequently blooming African Violets. Like the majority of houseplants, these stunning plants should receive plenty of bright indirect sun, thanks to their African rainforest roots.
Direct sunlight should be avoided at all costs, as the beautiful green foliage is sensitive to sunburn. If left to bask in the direct rays, this sensitive plant could wither and die. In their natural habitats, these flowering beauties grow under the safety of large trees, where only dappled light penetrates their thick canopies.
The best spot for these tropical flowering plants is near an east or west-facing window. Alternatively, your dream placement is on a sunny windowsill, you can cover the window with a sheer curtain. Sheer curtains are great additions to any plant-filled space, as they filter the harsh rays while keeping the room bright.
The amount of indirect light they receive is equally important. These plants need between 10 and 14 hours of light a day to thrive and blossom. As odd as it seems, they also require 8 hours of darkness at night. The dark triggers florigen, their flowering hormone, which in turn helps them bloom more frequently.
Invest In a Humidifier
Humidity is another key factor in overall plant health, more than many assume. It’s often the most neglected aspect of houseplant care, following water and light, and seen as a nice to have rather than a necessity. For these tropical plants, however, high levels of humidity are essential.
Too little humidity can quickly spell trouble. Not only will they struggle to flower, but their leaves will also begin to darken and become crispy. As a result, their overall growth begins to slow. Ultimately, recreating their natural environments is essential to a happy, blooming African Violet plant.
In their native areas, they are accustomed to humidity levels as high as 80%. However, in your home, they’ll be perfectly happy with levels ranging from 50% to 60% – but the higher the better.
There are many tricks you can use to increase the humidity, such as placing their pot on a tray of pebbles. These tips often work, but they don’t improve humidity levels significantly.
A common trick is to mist your plants, but this is a big no-no for African Violet care. Their sensitive leaves develop fungal spots quickly, and a single splash of water can damage their fuzzy foliage.
The best way to increase and maintain high humidity levels is by investing in a humidifier. They can be pricey, but they’re a worthwhile investment for committed houseplant parents. Humidifiers allow you to replicate rainforest conditions easily and give you total control over how much humidity your plants are exposed to.
Use the Right Fertilizer
Fertilizer plays a key role in the overall health of this plant. They’re made up of essential minerals and vitamins that keep your plant healthy, growing, and blooming. These nutrients are split into three groups – macronutrients, micronutrients, and secondary nutrients. While all are necessary, the macronutrients – nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium- are needed in the largest amounts.
When it comes to feeding your African Violets, many suggest a balanced fertilizer, with equal NPK values. However, if they are struggling to bloom, opt for a fertilizer with higher levels of phosphorus. Phosphorus aids in flower development and root growth, bettering the chances of your plant blooming all year round.
Fertilize every two to four weeks during spring and summer, their active growing season. Follow the instructions of your chosen fertilizer exactly.
As beneficial as fertilizer is, it can damage your plants, especially if it’s applied incorrectly. Never give your plants more than is recommended on the packaging. Too much fertilizer can burn the plant’s roots and leaves. Less is more when it comes to feeding your sensitive African Violets.
Keep Them Warm
In their natural, jungle-like environments, African Violets bask in the warmth. They flourish in heat, growing best when temperatures are as high as 90F. While this may be a little warm for your home, a temperature range of 60F to 70F is perfect for your indoor African Violets.
They’re sensitive souls, however, and don’t adapt well to constantly fluctuating temperatures. They struggle in temperatures that dip lower than 60F but die in anything under 50F. Generally, however, their ideal temperature range is one where we humans are most comfortable.
However, it’s best to keep them away from open windows, drafts, fans, and air conditioners. The warmer, and more stable, the temperature is, the better for your African Violets.
The incorrect watering methods are often the root cause of several plant problems, alongside light and humidity. It’s often the trickiest thing to get right when caring for houseplants, as a delicate balance is required to get it just right.
When it comes to African Violets, it gets even trickier. Their watering needs are a little different from other houseplants, seemingly a little out there, especially to newbie plant owners.
They shouldn’t be watered with cold water, as it can damage their sensitive root system. Instead, use tepid or room temperature water. Try avoiding their beautiful, but highly sensitive leaves, as one little splash of water can invite a host of deadly fungal diseases.
The best way to water is from the bottom up. As odd as it seems, all you need to do is place your pot on a saucer of water. The roots soak up the water effectively, and you avoid any accidental splashes of water on the leaves. Don’t let the pot sit in the saucer for longer than 30 minutes, however, to avoid root rot and overwatering.
You can water these plants from the top, but it does take some extra care. Using a watering can of tepid water, slowly water your plant, carefully rotating the pot as you do. This allows the water to evenly saturate the soil and reach all the roots.
When you water is just as important as how you water. Underwatering these plants causes just as much stress as overwatering them, resulting in few blooms.
Only water when the top layer of soil is dry. As a general rule, avoid watering your plants on a schedule, as conditions change, affecting how quickly water evaporates from the soil.
While African Violets are known to be relatively low-maintenance little plants, they need to be pruned frequently. Pruning stops them from looking leggy and bushy, and it also keeps them healthy and encourages blooming.
New growth appears haphazard, sprouting in all directions from the main stem. Random little leaf clusters shoot off, along with extra crowns and suckers. While all this new growth is exciting, it takes up a lot of energy – energy that can be better used to produce new, striking flowers.
In addition to snipping off unnecessary new growth, remove three or more bottom leaves every other month. While you’re cutting these away, remember to remove any old, dried leaves from the plant and around its base too. This keeps the plant healthy, and pretty, and keeps its energy focused on flower production.
Any spent flowers should also be removed as they occur, further forcing the plant to focus on developing new blossoms.
You can either gently pinch off any leaf or spent flower, but it’s always better to use a sterilized pair of shears. When pruning, cut away any foliage as close to the base as possible, being careful not to damage the main stem.
Don’t Repot Too Soon
Repotting plants is another overlooked aspect of houseplant care. Generally, plants don’t enjoy tight spaces that compact their roots, often dying of stress if they do. Hence the importance of repotting when your plants become root-bound.
But, African Violets are unique. They enjoy being root bound, often blooming better when they are. They’re also slow growers, so they won’t outgrow their pot anytime soon anyway. Repotting too soon can induce transplant stress, and prevent them from blooming.
While their pots won’t need upsizing for some time, African Violets do require an annual soil refresh. The best time to do this is in spring when the plant is healthiest.
You’ll know it’s time to upsize your pot when its leaves begin to wilt and roots peek through the top and bottom of your pot. Only go up one size and refresh the soil when you repot.
Rotate Their Pots
African Violets love sunlight, enjoying it so much they tend to stretch and bend toward the light. If one side of the plant receives more light than the other, lopsided growth occurs. The side receiving the most light tends to grow larger and thicker, creating a disproportionate look.
Lopsided growth doesn’t only look bad, it can cause a few issues. Eventually, the heavier side can snap off, or cause the plant to topple. It’s also an indicator that not every part of the plant is exposed to light. The added growth exacerbates this even more. This reduces photosynthesis and ultimately the amount of energy produced. The lack of energy ultimately results in little to no new blooms.
The best way to ensure every leaf is exposed to light is to rotate the pot once a week. A simple one-quarter turn is all it needs for optimal light absorption and to prevent ugly lopsided growth.
Inspect Them Constantly
When you’re rotating, watering, or pruning, take a few seconds to inspect your plant closely. Check the leaves, stems, and soil for any signs of stress, pests, or diseases. Often time, houseplant parents overlook or worry less about pests and diseases as their plants are protected from the great outdoors. Unfortunately, indoor plants are just as susceptible to devastating diseases and pesky pests.
Pests and diseases stress the plant out, preventing it from producing its stunning flowers. They can also spread rapidly, infecting, and infesting your entire houseplant collection. Some of the notable pests to keep an eye out for are cyclamen mites and spider mites. Thanks to their sensitive leaves and love of humidity, African Violets are highly susceptible to powdery mildew. You should also be on the lookout for root rot.
If left unattended, these pests and diseases could lead to the demise of your African Violets. Luckily, they’re all easy to manage and prevent with the right care. But checking and inspecting your plants regularly prevents them from taking over. You can swiftly deal with the issues before they do any real damage.
African Violets are not difficult plants to care for, but it can be disheartening when yours don’t bloom. After all, their striking flowers are why they’re so beloved. Luckily, the smallest adjustments are sometimes all the push they need to bloom once more. With all these tips, you can be sure that your African Violets will bloom all year round.