The Basics -
The first thing you need to know is that African Violets are just like us. They like for their homes to be about the same temperature that we do. Life in the 70s is perfect for these houseplants. So, if you are comfortable, not too hot or cold, they will be too. Plants that get too little light will have deep green, thin leaves. They will also be reaching for light. Plants that get too much light will have yellow or light colored leaves, lacking the color the plants are known for.
Water Spots -
A big fear in raising African Violets is those dreaded water spots. However, there is a simple and stress free way to avoid them. If, when you water, you get a little water on the leaves just wipe it off right then and there. The plant will stay fresh and the leaves will stay green. They don't like their water to be too warm or too cold. Lukewarm water is the only way to go. Give them a feeding of half the regular amount of any basic 20-20-20 fertilizer each time you water and they will be happy.
When you get your new baby home from the store or garden center, you will need to find the right soil. Mostly, the recommended soil is a pure soil-less mixture or something along the lines of 1/3 potting soil, 1/3 peat moss, and 1/3 vermiculite or perlite. The thing you need to be most careful about is the peat moss. When you buy a plant it will most likely have high peat moss content in the soil. This might burn the roots of your new treasure. By removing the old soil mix and adding your own you will know for sure that you have a great soil base for your plant.
Watering Tip -
When you water African Violets, there a simple tip for getting the soil perfect. First, you have to keep the soil not too wet or the roots will rot and not too dry or the roots will stop growing. Sounds complicated you say? Not really. There is a simple trick that I have seen used many times with great results. Find a cookie sheet or such with tall sides. This is your new watering tray! Once a week, when the top of the soil is on the dry side, place your babies in the tray. Add water to the tray. After about 20 minutes, you will have all the water in that soil you need to make it last for the next week! How simple is that? If you live in a dry area or if you have a lot of heaters in your home that keeps the plant too dry, you can fill a deep plant tray half full of little stones, sit your plant on the stones, and add water to the top of the stones. This way the plant will sit on top of the water and not be standing in the water. If your plant sits in the water the soil will get too wet and the roots will more than likely rot.
With the right treatment and feeding schedule, your African Violet will bloom for six to nine months of the year. It will need at least three months a year to rest, but, not to worry, with care it will bloom again! Remove spent blooms the day they are done blooming and they will reward you with more blooms. Remember that these plants are like all plants and will bloom more when they are deadheaded. The only reason to leave the spent flowers on the plant is if you are trying to set seed, but this will be at the cost of the blooms.
Growing New Plants -
So you have your plants, you have kept them alive and blooming, and you are ready to see them branch out and send babies to new homes? This is the best and most fun part! You can have babies ready to go to new homes in just 8 weeks, faster than a lot of plants out there! Take any good leaf, pick any of them. Go for it and take the bigger ones at the bottom. Trim the little stem to about one inch and place in vermiculite based or another soil-less mixture with the stems down and the leaf just above the soil-less line. Keep moist but not wet. Within two weeks, your leaves will have roots and soon after they will have their first leaf. Once the plants have two good leaves - in about eight weeks - you can move them to their own pots and have a wonderful time passing them on to friends!
A special thanks to Melody for the images in this article.