Saintpaulia ionantha
Common Name: African violet 
Type: Herbaceous perennial
Family: Gesneriaceae
Native Range: Tanzania
Zone: 11 to 12
Height: 0.50 to 0.75 feet
Spread: 0.50 to 0.75 feet
Bloom Time: Flowers freely
Bloom Description: Blue, pink, purple and white
Sun: Part shade to full shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Medium
Flower: Showy
Leaf: Evergreen

Culture

The soil for growing African violets must be porous to allow surplus water to pass through readily. Most violets are now grown in pasteurized soilless mixes. A good soilless mix is made up of 3 parts sphagnum peat moss, 2 parts vermiculite and 1 part perlite, with some lime added to balance the acidity of the peat moss. A good growing medium should contain 50 percent medium, 25 percent air and 25 percent water. When potting African violets, take care to set the plant so that the crown is just above the surface and the soil is firmly pressed around it. Emphasis should be on good soil drainage because free water on the surface may cause decay at the crown or at the bases of the leaf stalks.

African violets adjust well to the warm temperatures and dry air of homes. While they require good light, direct sunlight is not necessary. Windows facing north or east provide favorable light conditions and are preferable to those exposed to midday and afternoon sunshine during summer. The sunnier, warmer windows are better in the winter. The best temperatures for African violets are about 60° F at night and up to 80 to 85° F during the day. The plants become stunted at cool temperatures and are slow to recover even when put into a warm place. In hot weather, plants are especially susceptible to rot. The soil should be kept moist at all times, but it is desirable to keep the foliage dry. Drops of water on the leaves cause disfiguring, light-colored spots or rings. Water from either the top or bottom. Proper watering can be simplified by keeping the pots in watertight saucers or bowls into which a little water is poured every few days.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Saintpaulia ionantha, commonly called African violet, is one of the most satisfactory flowering houseplants. It is a low, compact plant with attractive dark green, thick, hairy leaves. The violet-like flowers are borne in small panicles just above the foliage. Besides various shades of blue-violet, there are also pink, fuchsia, and white cultivars. Newer violets include not only cultivars with single flowers, but also those with semi-double or double rows of petals. Bicolored flowers and those with a contrasting border are popular. Trailing cultivars and miniatures are also available. Plants kept in good growing condition flower almost continuously.

Genus name honors a German, Baron Walter von Saint Paul-Illaire (1860-1910), who collected the first African violet (S. ionantha).

Specific epithet means with violet-colored flowers.

Problems

One of the major problems associated with African violet care is excessive watering, which can lead to root or crown rot. Other problems may include Botrytis blight, powdery mildew, cyclamen mites, mealybug, aphids and thrips.

Garden Uses

Rarely grown outdoors, even in the tropics. Therefore, African violets are enjoyed as pot plants in homes and greenhouses and because they thrive under artificial light, in offices.