By: Becca Badgett, Co-author of How to Grow an EMERGENCY Garden
Some people that growhouseplants think they’ll have issues when growingAfrican violets. But these plants are simple to keep up if you startwith the right soil for African violets and the proper location. This articlewill help provide tips on the most suitable African violet growing medium.
About African Violet Soil
Since these specimens demand properwatering, you’ll want to use the right African violet growing medium. You canmix your own or choose from a number of brands available online or at yourlocal garden center.
The right potting mix for Africanviolets allows air to reach the roots. In their native environment of the“Tanga region of Tanzania in Africa,” this specimen is found growing increvices of mossy rocks. This allows a good amount of air to reach the roots.African violet soil should allow water to move through while having the properamount of water retention without cutting off airflow. Some additives helproots to grow bigger and stronger. Your mix should be well-draining, porous andfertile.
Typical houseplant soil is tooheavy and restricts airflow because the decomposed peat it contains encouragestoo much water retention. This type of soil can cause the death of your plant.However, when it is mixed with equal parts of coarse vermiculiteand perlite,you have an appropriate mix for African violets. Pumice is an alternativeingredient, often used for succulents and other fast-draining planting mixes.
Mixes you buy contain sphagnumpeat moss (not decomposed), coarse sand and/or horticulturalvermiculite and perlite. If you wish to makeyour own potting mix, choose from these ingredients. If you alreadyhave a houseplant mix that you want to include, add 1/3 coarse sand to bring itto the porosity you need. As you can see, there is no “soil” used in the mixes.In fact, many houseplant potting mixes contain no soil at all.
You may want some fertilizerincluded in the mix to help feed your plants. A premium African Violet mixcontains additional ingredients such earthwormcastings, compost, or composted or aged bark. The castings and thecompost act as nutrients for the plants, as does decomposing bark. You willlikely want to use additional feedings for the optimum health of your Africanviolet plant.
Whether making your own mix orpurchasing one that is ready-made, moisten it slightly before planting your Africanviolets. Lightly water in and locate the plants in an east-facing window. Don’twater again until the top of the soil is dry to the touch.
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Read more about African Violets
African Violets: How To Care, Get More Blooms & Propagate
Published: Jan 31, 2020 by Tracey Besemer · This post may contain affiliate links.
Yup, that’s the best way to describe African violets.
These popular little houseplants are an excellent choice for novice plant enthusiasts and diehard green thumbs alike.
African violets are easy to get your hands on, fun to grow, and bring a splash of color and cheer to your home.
If you’re anything like me, you’ve killed at least one poor African violet in your lifetime due to neglect. And one of the most common complaints about them is they never bloom once you get them home from the nursery.
These little plants aren’t difficult to grow, but knowing how to care for them properly will keep them looking great and blooming frequently for years to come.
How Often To Change African Violet Potting Soil Mix & Why?
How Often Should You Change African Violet Potting Mix?
- If you have just acquired a new African Violet plant, I would recommend you re-pot it into your own fresh soil, to avoid any contamination from the original soil into your growing area.
- Also after re-potting, it’s best to still keep this plant isolated in a sealed Ziploc bag or in an area separate from your growing area.
- For existing African Violets in your collection, re-pot once every 6 months in fresh soil. For more information on African Violet potting mix, please visit our post, “African Violet Soil/Potting Mix“.
- Its best to use plastic pots for African Violets, as you can control the watering better in these pots.
- When re-potting African Violets, remember to use the same size pots.
- If the rootball is still small in size, you can even use a smaller size pot.
- When the African Violet plant is completely root-bound and overgrown its original pot, you can-pot into a larger pot, to provide more breathing room for the roots.
Do We Need To Re-pot African Violet Plants?
- Yes, African Violets should be re-potted in fresh soil every 6 months and kept in the same size pot.
- Do not re-pot to a larger pot.
- African Violets like to be slightly root bound which promotes flowering.
- Root bound is when the roots start to grow out of the pot holes underneath the pot or when roots show on the upper surface of the soil.
- An African Violet plant is completely root-bound, when the whole soil surface area is tightly covered with roots, the roots are growing out of the pot holes underneath the pot and the roots are showing on the upper surface of the soil.
- If plants are completely root-bound, its time to re-pot the African Violet.
- Below is an image to help you figure out the optimum or ideal pot size for African Violet plants when re-potting them.
Why is African Violet Potting Soil Mix Important?
- The soil or potting mix in which an African Violet is planted is very important for the overall survival of the plant.
- This is because the plants roots spend all of their time within this soil mixture.
- If the soil mixture is old, the roots will not be able to absorb water and nutrients.
- This will over time affect the overall health of the African Violet plant.
- Healthy soil promotes healthy root growth which in turn will lead to a healthy African Violet plant.
- Healthy roots also ensure the efficient uptake of water and nutrients from the soil.
- Once you have re-potted the African Violet plant, remember not to immediately resume your normal fertilizing schedule.
- Wait at least 2 weeks, for the plant to settle down in its new pot, before you start fertilizing again.
African violets: Repotting
If it’s been more than 6 months, and it’s time to repot your violet. It’s best to do this when it when needed. Don’t wait until your violet stops blooming–well cared for, it might not stop blooming!
Waiting too long only makes the job more difficult. What is a simple job when done now, will become a BIGone if delayed (see “restoring your African violet”). If done properly and carefully, your violet will continue to grow and bloom even after you’ve repotted it
First, remove all but the freshest, healthiest, leaves and blooms. If you keep them now, you’ll only have to remove them in the near future–this will just create another problem that you’ll have to solve later.
A small neck (bare stem) will appear at the base of the plant above the soil level. Since the neck is only about 1/2″ in length, it will be easy to lower the plant and cover the neck when repotting.
Pull the plant out from the pot. This should be easy with a mature plant having a full root system.
Gently massage away much of the old soil and root system. A general rule is this: the size of the root system below the soil should be large enough to support the foliage above the soil. Since we’ve remove about half of the foliage, we can remove about half of the roots. Don’t worry, we want to encourage new roots and leaves.
Using a clean pot (a 4″ pot is sufficient for a standard size violet), fill the bottom with fresh soil. Then, holding the violet over the pot, tilt it to one side, and add fresh soil. Turn the pot, tilt the plant to the other side, and add more fresh soil until the pot is full.
When done, your violet should appear to be resting atop a small mound of loose soil. The secret: have enough soil so that you won’t have to add more when the plant is lowered in the pot (the mound is pushed down)–this will be much harder to do without making a bigger mess.
All that you need to do now is press-down the mound of soil. Working with your fingers beneath the leaves, move around the pot and gently press and smooth the soil. Since you’re working beneath the leaves, and don’t need to add more soil, this should be easy to do without making a “mess”.
Brush away the loose soil and dust from the pot. When finished, you’ll have a still-blooming, freshly potted violet!
I’ve grown AVs in five states, since 1968, Florida to Alaska, but Waco Texas is tough! From late November through February there’s a fungal infestation which attacks the roots, dwarfs petioles, curls and pits leaves, and eventually kills some varieties as stem rot advances. I’ve tried reducing watering, diazinon, stopped wick watering. This decimates my collection! I even ordered a replacement plant from another Texas grower and it too had pitted leaves on arrival. Any suggestions other than leave Texas?
Typically fungal problems arise in damp/humid/warm conditions. Can’t comment on your specific problems but can relate some general advice. Apparently even the recent harvests of peat have had issues–this is what we were told by one company representative. We use a mix with a bit more perlite and try to keep things from staying too wet. We also add Physan to our water every few weeks.
I would like to convert my African violets to the same soil mix as I repot each one, eventually having all of my plants in the same mix. You recommend 50% vermiculite or other similar component, but what should I use for the other half? I don’t understand “soil-less” mix. I have about 20 plants in my collection, many are needing repotting now.
100 people will give you 100 different soil recipes. Basically, the idea is to add more perlite the wetter you keep your plants. “Soil-less” just means not containing any top soil or garden loam–i.e. peat-based. Our “all purpose” mix, for example, is about 40% peat, 40% vermiculite (two grades), and 20% perlite. Our “wicking” mix, for plants kept constantly wet, contains a little more than 50% perlite.
I have a 4 year old African Violet. It has been repotted from 3 times since the original 2 inch pot. The blooms are about 5 to 6 inches across and are there for weeks at a time. The pot is 10 inches. Am I supposed to break the root system into two sections and use smaller pots? How can I keep my beautiful AV going?
You shouldn’t have to break the root system into sections unless the plant has become multicrowned. Best to grow as a single crown–remove suckers as they appear. If it has become multicrowned, then divide the plant and root ball, and pot into a pot just slightly larger than the resulting root ball.
Is it good to use miracle grow orchid mix potting soil when repotting African violets? I’m going to buy African violet mix but I read that the orchid mix helps to aerate the soil.
The best mix will have a good amount of coarse vermiculite and perlite. The wetter you keep the soil, the more perlite you will need. Many commercially available “African violet” mixes aren’t as porous as you would like. An orchid mix would be much lighter and would likely work well if you keep your plants on the wet side.
Hello VB, We’ve decided to go to wick watering to make it easier for our plant sitter to take care of our violets while we’re away. We have purchased your soil designed for this and plan to reuse the 4” clay pots our violets currently reside in. Could you provide some pointers on repotting with wicks…length, placement, start up, fertilizing, should we move back to plastic pots, etc.?
If you plan on wicking, would use plastic pots, since the whole point behind a self-watering system is to keep the soil constantly moist. Most importantly, be certain to use a potting mix containing at least 50% perlite.
Should we put some draining material at the base of the pot, before the potting mixture or isn’t this necessary?
And I have one more question: is it wrong if I grow the violets close together, so they are touching leaves and there is no space visible between them? (they seem like one large plant)
Thank you wery much for all your advices, I love your site!
If your potting mix is light and porous enough (contains plenty of perlite and/or coarse vermiculite) the drainage material in bottom of pot likely isn’t needed. Some self-watering pots (like “Oyama” pots, or “Texas” method) need a layer of perlite to work best. As for crowding of plants, this can be done, but violets will always grow better given their own space.
I just found your website the other day. Thank you for the wealth of information! I have an African Violet that I got at a bridal shower a number of years ago. My dad repotted it for me several times and, not knowing any better, he put it in a very large pot the last time it was repotted. I’d like to take it down to a smaller, healthier pot size in hopes of encouraging blooming. Am I going to have difficulty doing this? Should I just rub off the old soil and root system until I see a size that looks more in line with a 4″ pot? I haven’t unpotted my plant yet so I’m honestly not sure *what* I’ll find! Thanks for your help.
What you are planning sounds correct. It shouldn’t be difficult.
How To Propagate African Violets
Let’s be honest with each other one African violet is never enough. It’s a good thing they are so easy and fun to propagate.
Cut a healthy leaf from the main plant with a sterilized knife or scissors. Choose a leaf from the middle row of leaves, not too close to the center, and not too close to the outer edge. Trim the stem so there is about 1/2” left. Now make a small 45 degree cut at the tip of the stem.
African violets are incredibly easy to propagate.
To start leaf cuttings, I like to mix African violet potting mix and perlite one to one.
Put your mix in whatever you will be using to propagate your new violets. Water it well and let it drain.
Using a chopstick or a pencil poke a hole in the soil at an angle and gently slip the notched stem into it. Now press the soil in place, very gently, just up to the bottom of the leaf.
You will need to keep your cutting moist and humid.
If you don’t have a terrarium, you can use a washed clamshell package as a mini-terrarium. A water bottle sliced in half also works well for small pots. Really, anything that will allow light in and help to retain moisture will work.
In about 2-3 months, you will see little leaves growing off of the cutting.
These can be gently separated from the main leaf-cutting and potted into small pots. It takes around six months for the plant to develop to the point where it will begin to bloom.
The pop of color from an African violet makes a great focal point in any room.
With proper care and feeding, these charming plants will provide cheer and color to your home for years to come.
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