Saintpaulias: the African Violet

It may be the depths of winter, but we’re going to go back to gardening with this post. Indoor gardening, which is not as great as outdoor gardening, but still good.

This master gardener could not for the life of her keep African violets (saintpaulias) alive. I love African violets (all native African species amaze me), but I consistently killed them, as do many people. Through a process of trial and error, though, and over many years, I believe I have perfected African violet maintenance. This is a big coups. I have an indigo African violet thriving in a sunny window in our home. And it’s been there a long time. It’s a beautiful plant of a beautiful color – the rich hue of the third eye chakra.

So let’s get to it. This is THE foolproof method for keeping African violets happy in your home:

At all costs, keep the violet in that tiny, cheap little plastic container you bought it in. DO NOT remove it from this container, ever. AVs love to be root bound. And transplanting them from that aboriginal pot absolutely kills them. I place the ugly plastic pot inside a lovely, larger, ceramic or stone pot with drainage holes. Inside that large, lovely pot, is the cheap plastic pot that the violet loves to live in. It’s a beautiful illusion.

Water from the bottom, always. Take your AV in its little cheapy pot, and place it in a bowl of water (I use spring or well water). The water should reach about hallway up the plastic pot. Leave it there for about 30 minutes. The plant and soil will soak up the water from the bottom. Water AVs only when the soil feels dry.

NEVER get AV leaves wet. It’s the kiss of death for indoor violets. They will quickly discolor or develop fungus. Fungal infections are deadly for AVs.

Give them a sunny spot to live in. A dark corner of the house won’t do.

When the flowers die, gently pull them off the plant. Dead flowers on AVs will attract fungus.

As far as feeding, I use a basic 10-10-10, about once every 2 months.

Talk nicely to your AV. Plants have feelings too.

Know this as well: African violets are becoming an extinct species in their native Tanzania and Kenya, thanks to cruel deforestation and reckless urbanization. This should be alarming enough news to encourage you to buy a few of these pretty, perennial, herbaceous little miracles, and keep them in your home.

Now that I know how they like to live, I plan to add one more African violet to our window garden. Plants, like people, enjoy the company of others.


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