African violet – Saintpaulia – Saintpaulia – Indoor plants – African violet – Saintpaulia – Apartment

see also: Violet cultivation


African violet

Violetta africana The African violets are small evergreen perennials, originating in the tropical mountainous areas of Tanzania and Kenya; the botanical name is Saintpaulia, and the most common species (its hybrids) is saintpaulia ionantha. The plants of African violet are small in size, they form compact rosettes, made up of fleshy leaves, carried by long petioles; the petioles and the lower part of the leaves are pinkish, while the leaves are dark green, covered by a very fine light down.

Throughout the year, between the leaves at the center of the rosette, stand thin fleshy stems, which carry some flowers with five petals, purple in color, with the center of the typical yellow anthers.

These plants have been cultivated in Europe since the end of the 19th century, and since then many hybrids have obviously been produced, with pink, white, blue, variegated and striped flowers. There are about twenty species of Saintpaulia, which some authors consider as subspecies of Saintpaulia ionantha; on the market they are difficult to find and in nursery we usually find only hybrids with flowers with particular colours.

Cultivating saintpaulia

SaintpauliaThe African violets are very common indoor plants, since several decades, thanks to the fact that their flowering is continuous for many months of the year, and take up little space: an adult plant of African violet can safely remain in a pot of diameter 20 cm, about. In the wild, they live in hilly zones, in the under wood, characterized by a high ambient humidity.

The secret for keeping an African violet always healthy and full of flowers is, rightly, in the watering; these plants have fleshy leaves, which can stand short periods of drought, but, if we wait too long to water them, the leaves and sag quickly. It is therefore important to water regularly, trying to keep the soil always moist, but not saturated with water.

Therefore, we shall water very often, but with small quantities of water, which will wet the soil and not the foliage; this because, the fleshy leaves, covered by hair, tend to dry up very slowly and even a few drops of water on their surface may cause the development of fungal diseases. We remind to supply, every 15 days about, little fertilizer for flowering plants, mixed with the water of the watering.

The soil will be rich and soft, formed by universal mould mixed with little peat of sphagnum or mould of leaves, so that it is able to slightly retain the humidity of the watering.

The saintpaulie like also a good ambient humidity, which is quite difficult to maintain, as it is not appropriate to vaporize the foliage; it is therefore very useful to place the small pots inside slightly bigger pot holders, where it is possible to keep some gravel, or some expanded clay, always well wet, in way to allow a good quantity of humidity to evaporate.

These plants do not like the direct sunlight, which, besides drying up quickly the soil, tends also to cause showy burns on the leaves. The saintpaulie do not like much to be repotted, therefore this operation is done every two or three years, in autumn, and usually a repotted plant takes some months before starting to flower again.

Saintpaulia ionantha

Saintpaulia ionantha This is the most common species, with leaves covered with thin hairs and dark on the upper page, with the lower page purple. There are dozens of hybrids of this African violet, which are widely grown as indoor plants in Europe and North America.


Family, genus, species

 Gesneraceae, Saintpaulia ionantha

Type of plant

 Perennial herb



Colour of the flowers

 Blue, purple, pink, white, yellow, red


 From 5 to 30 cm


 Very bright, no direct sun in summer

Ideal temperature


Minimum temperature


Water requirements

 Soil for flowering plants

Ambient humidity



 Aleurodides, aphids, powdery mildew, grey mould


 Leaf cutting, seeding


 Flat or hothouse floor plan

Climate for the Saintpaulia

Like all plants from tropical and equatorial areas, the Saintpaulia always wants high temperatures and possibly constant. Growth and flowering are stimulated when the thermometer is between 18 and 25°C. They therefore live very well in the inhabited areas both in summer and in winter. During the cold season, they can also be moved and induced to rest: the ideal climate must, in this case, be around 15-16°C and never fall below 13°C, otherwise serious damages will be caused.

The plant would begin to lose its leaves and then the root system would also be affected. However, these problems can also be caused by cold currents and sudden changes in temperature: let’s protect the plants when we open the windows and change their position very gradually.

During the summer, if we have a garden, a veranda or a terrace, we can move the pots outside too, taking care to respect the light and humidity conditions and paying attention to some parasites (snails are fond of their leaves!).

Saintpaulia velutina

Saintpaulia velutina The leaves, abundantly covered with a thick and thin down, give the name to this species of African violet, very similar to the typical species; the leaves have a notched edge and are dark or bright green; the flowers are deep blue and bloom throughout the year.

African violet exposure

The African violet wants an extremely bright location: ideal are the rooms with windows facing south or west. This condition is essential to have abundant blooms throughout the year.

From October to April they can also be placed in full light (especially in the North), but from May onwards it is better to move them to a slightly more sheltered area or shield the glass with light coloured curtains. Direct light that is too intense could cause leaf burns as well as drying out the environment a lot.

If in summer we decide to move the pots outside, we choose a sheltered location, maybe under a pergola or in the light filtered by a broadleaf tree.

Saintpaulia rupicola

Saintpaulia rupicola It has very large leaves, carried by small elongated, it develops also as a hanging plant and has purple or lilac flowers, small in size. LA hair on the foliage is thin and delicate, and hardly visible.

Saintpaulia pendula

Saintpaulia pendula Very similar to Saintpaulia ionantha, this African violet tends to produce numerous lateral shoots, which give the plant a drooping appearance, producing numerous small planes connected to the mother plant; the leaves are small, velvety, bright green in colour.

Saintpaulia grandifolia

Saintpaulia grandifolia As the name of the species says, this Saintpaulia has very large leaves, compared to the others, which give rise to a very large and compact rosette. The color is bright green and the flowers are lilac or blue.

Propagating saintpaulie

Saintpaulia bicolor The small flowers of the saintpaulie often produce small capsules containing many tiny seeds; these seeds can be sown on the surface of a good, rich and fresh soil; the young plants develop within a few weeks, and have tiny dimensions, so much so that often it is necessary to thin them using a tweezers. The young plants grow quickly, but starting from a few centimetres of size, it is clear that it takes several weeks before obtaining a large rosette of leaves.

More often, the African violets propagate by foliar cutting; the leaves of the central zone of the rosette (not the outer ones, by now old, and not the inner ones, still young), are removed from the base of the rosette, and the petiole is dipped in the rooting hormone, and therefore in a mould formed by sand and peat in equal parts, which is to be kept humid, in a warm and humid place; in order to avoid the development of fungal pathologies, we have to try to keep the leaf raised from the ground, in order to better allow the air to circulate.

The new plant will develop at the base of the petiole. It often happens that the plants of saintpaulia accestiscate, that is, that they produce secondary rosettes; these rosettes may be detached from the mother plant and repotted individually.

The simplest method of propagating saintpaulia is leaf cutting. In the spring, some healthy, good-sized leaves are taken. Cut the petiole, at about 2-3 cm from the leaf attack, with a very sharp tool to avoid fraying. Let’s put it in a damp mixture of sand and peat, after having sprinkled it with a product for rooting. Let’s cover it with transparent plastic. Every day we aerate and vaporize slightly.

After about 2 months we will see at the base of the small plants: let’s wait for them to reach 5 cm in height and transfer them to the final jars, after removing them from the mother leaf.



 All year round


 Spring summer (but you can all year round)


 Spring-autumn, monthly


 Always, but best in spring-summer

Leaf cutting




Pests and diseases

Saintpaulia fiori Typically these plants suffer from drought, which quickly causes the deterioration of all the leaves, and that can be fatal for the entire plant, if you do not intervene with adequate watering. A well watered saintpaulia, on the contrary, can meet pathologies connected to high humidity or poor ventilation, such as moulds and various types of fungi.

Surely the first cure is found in the prevention: let’s avoid leaving the soil always soaked in water, and water with small amounts of water, without drowning the pot. Sick plants can be treated with a fungicide, but often we prefer to replace them with new specimens, given the wide spread of these plants.

If the leaves are often wetted with water, they can easily show rottenness of circular shape, or be more easily attacked by animal parasites; normally, the quickest way to eliminate these problems, consists in removing the affected leaves, breaking with the nails the petiole at the base of the rosette and burning the removed leaves. In addition to removing diseased or damaged leaves from the plants, this also promotes the production of new healthy leaves.

Repottings are only necessary occasionally, when the roots have really taken up all the space available to them. The ideal period for this process is from spring to mid-summer. We choose a container that is wider than tall (ideal are the bowls), slightly larger than the previous one.

Characteristics of flowers and leaves

The African violet is a herbaceous plant with very variable dimensions: the biggest ones can exceed the 30 cm of height, the smallest ones (called “lilliput”) are just close to the 5 cm. They are characterized by superficial roots that extend more in width than in depth. The leaves, acaules, (that is, attached directly to the roots) are persistent and arranged in a rosette. They are round or heart-shaped, fleshy and very soft to the touch.

Their colour is very variable: from light to dark green, but variegated and variegated cultivars are also available. The back has interesting reddish hues.

The stems appear at the foliar armpit and carry bunches of flowers in all shades of blue, pink and white. Rareer colours are yellow and red. The corollas can be simple, double, curled or frayed. Another extremely decorative element are the stamens, of a nice bright yellow, always well visible at the centre of the flowers.

The purchase of the plant

The African violet can be purchased and is commercially available at any time of the year. However, we pay particular attention to transport during the winter: even short, but abrupt, drops in temperature can seriously damage our plant. We therefore provide thermal protection throughout the journey.

Ambient humidity

fiori saintpaulia An essential condition for this type of cultivation is the maintenance of a high level of humidity at all times of the year. However, it should be remembered that this is really crucial when temperatures exceed 20°C. During the winter it is essential to use ceramic humidifiers to be placed on the radiators. Electrical devices are also very useful.

From spring to autumn it is advisable to use sub pots full of slightly moist expanded clay (making sure, however, that the roots never come into contact with water, which is a frequent cause of rottenness). Outdoors it may be useful to wet the floor several times a day or place the pots on a lawn or in the middle of other vegetation.


Watering must be light, but frequent, sufficient only to make fresh bread from the ground. Let’s act when the surface is completely dry. The ideal method of irrigation is by immersion: let’s fill the saucer and leave the plant for about 15 minutes. Then let’s remember to let it drain very well (we always monitor that the drainage is optimal).

In any case, we try to use rainwater or demineralized water for all needs (limestone can seriously damage the root system, but also close the stomata of the leaves). In winter, always remember to check that it is at least at room temperature so as not to cause thermal shocks.

African violet soil and vase

fiori violetta The ideal vase for the African violet must be wide and shallow. We therefore prefer a rather small container, just a little larger than the volume of the roots: the saintpaulie, in fact, prefer to have the roots in the narrow and in these conditions are much more flowering. As a general rule, the larger varieties are to be placed in pots of about 12 cm, the medium ones in pots of 8 and the smaller ones even if only in containers of 5 cm.

The ideal substrate is the one used for flowering plants or geraniums, quite rich in organic substance and macro-elements. So let’s choose a good ready mix.

On the bottom of the bowl we create a draining layer of about 2 cm based on expanded clay.

African Violet Fertilization

Fertilisation is essential to achieve abundant growth and constant flowering in all seasons.

In general, it is recommended to use a liquid product for orchids or flowering plants, where potassium is the main macroelement. Let’s administer it once a month, but at half the dose recommended by the manufacturer.

If, during the winter, the plant lives in a not very heated environment, we may be able to suspend even completely the fertilization, resuming then, towards March-April, depending on our geographic location.


Keeping African violets clean at all times is very important: given the humid environment that prefers the development of cryptogamic diseases, it is always around the corner. Let’s promptly eliminate withered flowers and older leaves (which are always found at the base of the rosette). It is also essential to clean the foliage of dust from time to time, using a damp cloth.

African violet – Saintpaulia: African violet repotting

Repottings are only necessary occasionally, when the roots have really taken up all the space available to them. The ideal period for this process is from spring to mid-summer. We choose a container that is wider than tall (ideal are the bowls), slightly larger than the previous one.

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  • violette africane Belonging to the family of the Gesneriaceae, African violets are small perennials and evergreens, original
    visit: African violette

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