Saintpaulias, commonly known as African Violets, have been kept as houseplants since Victorian times. Part of their attraction is their habit of blooming almost constantly throughout the year. The dainty blossoms grow on stems that originate at the center of the plant and rise to a height just above the foliage. With proper conditions and care, African Violets can flower almost year-round.
Turn on the Lights
An African Violet blooms when it receives 8 to 12 hours of bright light a day. If your non-flowering African Violet's stems are long and its leaves are thin and dark green, it probably isn't receiving sufficient light. Place the plant about 3 feet (90 cm) from a west- or southeast-facing window, or place it under artificial light. Turn the lights off at night because African violets also need eight hours of darkness to promote flowering.
Cool Down, or Warm-Up
Excessively hot or cold temperatures prevent an African Violet from blooming. They are tropical plants and grow best in warm, even temperatures. Day temperatures from 75 to 85 °F (24 to 30 °C) and night temperatures from 65 to 70 °F (18 to 21 °C) are ideal. African Violets growing in excessively high temperatures stop flowering, and chilled plants become stunted, turn dark, and sometimes die. Moving chilled plants to a warmer area prevents further damage, but recovery is slow. Remove African violets from windowsills at night, or place a piece of paper over them to provide some protection from low temperatures.
Humid conditions encourage an African Violet to bloom. These plants grow and flower best in high humidity. Place a shallow tray of gravel, small pebbles, perlite, or sand under the plant's container and fill the tray with water. The humidity in the air around the plant increases as the water evaporates. Add water to the tray as needed. Don't stand an African Violet directly in water because this can cause rotting roots. Water your plant when the soil surface is dry and leave it to drain thoroughly. African Violets growing in clay pots usually require water more often than plants in plastic containers.
Fertilize Your African Violet
A hungry African Violet needs fertilizer to bloom. Other signs of low nutrient levels include the older leaves at the base of the crown turning light green or yellow. Water the plants with the fertilizer solution in place of plain water. The manufacturer's instructions may vary, so follow the instructions on the label. Over-fertilization is also a problem in African Violets. Over-fertilized plants develop rusty-colored leaves and tight centers.
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