African Violet Care: Water, Light, and Soil

African violets are one of the most popular blooming houseplants. As their name suggests, they hail from the warm, tropical rainforests of eastern Africa, where they grow naturally along shaded forest floors and riverbanks.

Although these colorful beauties have evolved to thrive as houseplants, they do require special care.

“African violets can be more finicky but well worth the extra effort,” says Lindsay Pangborn, gardening expert at Bloomscape, an online garden center.

When it comes to African violets, a deep purple blossom might come to mind at first, but there are many varieties that feature pink, blue, and even white blooms.

Regardless of the hue, these gorgeous plants can put on a colorful show all year round. In fact, when cared for properly, African violets have been known to last for decades.

Common African violet varieties

African violets close up


African violets can come in many different colors like pink, white, purple, or blue.

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There are many different African violet varieties marked by their flower (corolla) and petal (lobe) shapes. Single flowers (corollas) typically have five petals (lobes), which might have smooth or ruffled edges. Some varieties have single blooms, while others have double blooms, fluted blooms, and cup-shaped blooms.


African violets are sensitive to temperature, so always use water that is room temperature. Be careful not to soak the fuzzy leaves or stem of the plant, as water can get trapped and cause rot or fungus.

The best way to water an African violet plant is from the bottom up. Place your plant in a shallow tray of water for 30 minutes, allowing the soil to soak up the water through the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot. After the half hour is up, let the pot drain in your kitchen sink or bathtub so the roots aren’t soaking in water — this can cause root rot.

“Aim to keep the soil consistently moist by watering when 25% of the soil volume has dried out,” says Pangborn.

Potting and fertilizer

Potted African violet on a kitchen counter


Be sure to keep the soil lightly moist and repot the plant once or twice a year as it grows.

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“African violets prefer [soil] that is well-draining but retains a little moisture,” Pangborn says. They should be placed in pots with holes at the bottom for easy drainage after watering. There is potting soil on the market specifically made for African violets, though it’s not a requirement.

“A regular peat-based houseplant potting mix with a big handful of perlite incorporated is a good option if you don’t want to invest in potting mix specifically for this plant,” says Pangborn.

African violets can bloom year-round with proper care. They should be fertilized monthly using a balanced fertilizer rich in micronutrients. For African violets, this means using a fertilizer with nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium in a ratio of 14:12:14.

Repot your African violet once or twice a year as it grows, but only graduate to a pot that’s about an inch or so wider than the current one. African violets bloom best in smaller pots so aim for about one-third the size of their leaf span. Leave a growing African violet for too long in the same pot and it will become root bound, which happens when the plant’s growing roots run out of space and begin to intertwine.


Pangborn says that African violets are extra-sensitive to both low humidity and temperature fluctuations. Keep them away from drafty windows and doors, air conditioning or heating vents, and fireplaces or other heat sources.

“They’ll be happiest when their temperature is very consistent,” Pangborn says. “Aim for somewhere between 65 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit.”


For your African violet to thrive indoors, Panborn says to position it in front of a north- or east-facing window for the ideal amount of sunlight.

Common problems

Pink African violet


Common issues such as no flowers, spots on leaves, or uneven growth can all be mitigated with simple steps.

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No flowers: There are several reasons that your plant might not be in bloom. For one, it might not have enough light. Place your plant somewhere it can receive bright yet indirect light.

It might also be too cold, so keep your plant away from drafts. If any side shoots have formed, gently remove them.

The soil might also not be humid enough, so Panborn says to try this: Place the pot on a tray filled with pebbles, then fill the tray with water. The pebbles will keep the plant from soaking in the water, but as it evaporates, it will create a humid environment for the soil of your African violet. Refill with water as needed.

Spots on leaves: This indicates damage, though there are several possible causes. The plant may be getting too much sun or be too cold, so repositioning it could save it.

If there are old flowers on the plant, remove them — the decaying petals could be causing the spots.

Spots could also be a sign of insect infestation. If you suspect there are insects on your African violet, isolate it from any other plants in the house. If you see the insects, remove them by spraying the plant with warm water or by wiping the leaves with a cotton swab soaked in alcohol.

Uneven growth: Pangborn says that African violets can grow lopsided rather quickly. The easy fix is to turn the pot regularly to allow each side of the plant its time in the sun.


You can use leaf cuttings to propagate African violets, but they will be slow to grow. Pangborn says patience is key if you decide to breed new plants.

To propagate your African violet, snip off a leaf from a healthy plant. Dip the cut end in a rooting hormone and then plant the stem about 1 inch into a pot filled with moist soil. Wait for the cutting to grow about four to five leaves before repotting.


Pruning a leaf from an African violet plant


You don’t have to prune your African violet plant as much as other plants might require.

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You do not have to prune African violets as extensively as you might other plants. A good practice is to remove spent blossoms and leaves individually. Gently rock the bloom or leaf back and forth until it detaches.

Insider’s takeaway

African violets might be a bit needy in their maintenance, but they’ll return the favor with their beauty. Keep their soil moist but not too wet to avoid rot and make sure they can bask in indirect sunlight, away from drafts. Treat them well and you could have a beautiful houseplant for decades.

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