How to grow African Violets
Basic Culture Tips
When to water an African violet is probably the most difficult thing to teach. Over or under watering are the most common mistakes people make and the number one way to kill an African violet. Everyone has their own way of watering, but you just have to learn what works best for you as you go. If you top-water or fill a saucer from below, water when the top of the soil feels dry to the touch. The easiest way to water your plant is by using a self-watering pot (Oyama pot) or to wick-water. You can make your own wick-watering container(s) or buy them at an African violet show. African violets like to be kept moist but not soaking wet!
Light is one of the most important elements in getting your African violet to grow but most importantly, to bloom. African violets like bright, indirect light. If you grow your plant by a window, an east window is best. If you have to grow in a south or west window, make sure to provide some shade from the afternoon sun. Most growers today choose to grow their plants under fluorescent lights. The African Violet Society of America (AVSA) publishes a monthly magazine that has great articles on growing under fluorescent lights. Read, Secrets to Blooming Success, an article from the AV Magazine.
There is one thing to consider before you choose a potting mix. How do you water? If you top-water or water from below, you can use any commercial potting mix labeled for African violets available at your local nursery. Most commercial potting mixes are heavy and retain too much water; Therefore, it is recommended that you lighten the potting mix to increase aeration. Mix with equal parts vermiculite and perlite. If you use any type of self-watering container/pot, you need a 'soilless' African violet mix. A 'soilless' mix is very light, porous and contains no garden soil. It usually contains a minimum of 50% perlite. You can buy them from African violet vendors on-line. If you decide to make your own mix, don't forget to mix equal part perlite.
It is very important that you feed your African violets. It helps them grow and bloom well. Keep it simple. Start with a balance and urea-free fertilizer. For example, 20-20-20, 14-12-14, 15-15-15, etc. Urea base fertilizers in the long run are detrimental to your plants. Water weakly every time you water. Mix 1/8 -1/4 tsp. per gallon. Once a month you should leach your plants with plain water through the soil. Leaching flushes away accumulated fertilizer salts.