As the name suggests African violets (Saintpaulia ionantha) were originally discovered in Africa, specifically in Tanzania. Since then they have become a very common household plant, but they do have a bit of a reputation for being difficult to care for.
Although they are a bit specific with their needs they’ll be happy with the proper TLC. African violets are known to thrive as a houseplant and can bloom for many years. Without further ado, here’s how to water your African violets!
How To Water An African Violet
The African violet loves water, but only if they have proper drainage too. They’re very susceptible to root rot, which is a result of overwatering, improper drainage, or a combination of both. The type of soil, environment, and size of pot you use will also determine how much and how frequently your plant needs water. A good rule of thumb is to water once a week, and continue until water runs out the bottom of the container. Then wait 20 to 30 minutes and remove any excess water from the saucer.
If you check the moisture of the soil, and make sure your African violet isn’t sopping wet, it’ll thank you for it. But whatever you do, do not mist this plant or else you’ll be dealing with leaf spot!
As an extra precaution you have the option to use devices such as moisture meters. However, touching the top of the soil is just as effective and less expensive!
Type of Water
African violets prefer room temperature water. It’s also best to use distilled, filtered, or collected rain water. Softened water, chlorinated water, or tap water won’t give you the results you desire due due a build up of chemicals.
Different Watering Methods
Three main watering methods work best for African violets. First up, watering from the top — The most common way to water a plant. With African violets be sure to aim the water at the soil instead of the plant. If you do get water on the leaves, give the plant a gentle shake to remove the water. Water left on the leaves can cause leaf spots!
The next method involves watering from the bottom. Place the pot in a bowl of water, about 1 inch deep. When the soil at the top of the pot is moist remove the plant from the bowl and allow for excess water to drain from the bottom.
Finally, you can also water the plant through the “wicking” method. The process of adding a length of string to a pot within the soil and having about 6 inches hang out the bottom. Stick the tail of the string in a container of water and set the plant on top of the container. Make sure there is always water in the container, and the wick doesn’t dry out. That way your plant can have a drink when it’s thirsty.
Signs of Overwatering And How to Help
Overwatering African violets is extremely common since they are prone to root rot.
If you find that your plant is starting to develop yellow/brown leaves at the base, and the leaves they dropping and becoming mushy, that’s a sign you’ve overwatered your plant
You can always try to save your plant by inspecting the roots. Remove the wet soil, cut off any mushy roots with clean, disinfected shears, and repot the remaining plant with fresh soil.
Signs of Underwatering And How To Help
Fear of overwatering your African violet can lead to underwatering. If you find that your plant isn’t flowering, and all the other conditions are met, the plant may not be receiving enough water. Inadequate watering results in a reduced root system, less flowering, and increases their changes of dying off.
If the plant has not dried out too much it can be saved by giving it a healthy watering. Try bottom watering so you know the African violet will “drink” as much as it needs. Plus moving the plant to a more humid environment while it starts to grow again will be beneficial. African violets prefer a humidity level of
Now that you know how to water your African violet efficiently, you might be wondering, what else it require? Below you’ll find all you can do to keep your plant happy and thriving!
African violets need bright, indirect light for about 10 to 12 hours a day. If your plant is healthy but has dark leaves and isn’t blooming, increasing the amount of light it gets may be the solution. If the plant is blooming but has pale leaves, try decreasing its exposure.
Potting Mix And Fertilizer
Since your green friend requires well draining soil, a potting mix that is high in peat works best. If you want to make your own potting mix it’s a good idea to use a mix of 50 percent houseplant potting mix and 50 percent perlite.
There are specific fertilizers that are made for African violets that should be readily available at most garden centers. But, if you prefer to make your own use one that is equal parts nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.
African violets are not very picky about the type of pot they live in. They do well in terracotta, plastic, ceramic, or self-watering pots. Although, if you use a self-watering pot make sure you add more perlite to your potting mix to help prevent the plant from sitting in water!
Regardless of the type of pot, it is a good idea to re-pot them about once a year. This will give the plant new source of nutrients and refresh the soil. They do well in a slightly smaller pots as they prefer to be a bit root bound. On average, a 4-inch pot is a perfect size.
Typically when re-potting it’s best to use the same size pot. If you remove your plant and realize the root system is too big for the pot consider trimming the roots instead of moving the plant to a bigger home. Trimming the root system to keep the plant smaller in size is the same method people use to keep bonsai trees small!
There are three main types of pests that are common for African violets to have.
Firstly, mealybugs. Specifically citrus mealybugs and Comstock mealybugs. They can be found when looking at the root ball of the plant, and can cause damage by sucking sap from the plant. Typically if you have a mealybug infestation the plant won’t show any specific signs, except looking generally unhealthy.
If the infestation is mild, dipping a cotton swab in alcohol and removing the bugs can solve the problem. If the infestation is more severe it’s best to discard the plant before the bugs have a chance to infect other plants.
Secondly, banded greenhouse thrips. These pests are very small but by gently moving the plant and disturbing them, you can see them. They cause damage to the flowers and leaves by leaving silvery spots on the plant.
Thirdly, cyclamen mites. They appear as whitish dust that collects on the leaves of the plant. Another sign of them is the plant not forming new growth and leaves not developing properly.
Treatment for both thrips and mites is insecticidal soap. Keep in mind, as with the mealybugs if a plant is too badly infected it is best to discard it.
Remember to Water!
There you have it! How to properly water you African violets and more! Once the right balance is found they’re e a low-maintenance houseplant.
Do you have an African violet at home? And what’s your watering routine? Post about it in the comments below!