How to - Gardening Resources

African violets: Easy houseplants

Larry Hodgson
Photography by
Mark Burstyn

Dress up a windowsill with these jewel-toned, reliable, indoor beauties

Modern varieties

Most modern African violet cultivars have uniform, broad petals, and many are semi-double or double. They come in shades of purple, pink, white and red; there are also a few yellow, bicoloured and multicoloured types. Once only spoon-shaped, leaves are now ruffled, quilted, toothed or lobed and come in every shade of green or with beautiful white, pink or yellow variegations.

african-violets-inset2.jpgPerhaps the most startling change, however, has been the overall size and shape of the plant. Cultivars are classified according to rosette diameter and include micro-miniature (eight centimetres or less), miniature (eight to 15 centimetres), semi-miniature (15 to 20 centimetres), standard (20 to 40 centimetres) and finally large (more than 40 centimetres). There are also trailing violets that produce not one stem but many, arching outward and downward, ideal for hanging baskets.

It's important to remove faded flowers and older, yellowing leaves. Give your plants a quarter turn each time you water so they don't grow unevenly.

Once a year or so, repot your plants, sinking them deeper in the soil in their new pots to cover the bare stems that eventually form. Don't overpot-a planter should be about one-third the diameter of the rosette.

Watch out for suckers (secondary stems growing from the leaf axils), which can result in irregularly shaped plants and reduced flowering. Remove suckers on rosette-type violets (although they're to be encouraged on trailing varieties).

inset photo by Roger Yip


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