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African violets

Deborah Brown

African violets are among the easiest to grow and most rewarding of all indoor plants. Most houseplants with showy blossoms have very high light requirements; others will bloom only after you cover them every night for many weeks. African violets bloom off and on year round... particularly the newer varieties... with very little effort on your part.

Choose a bright location for your African violets. An east, west, or even south-facing window is fine during the shorter days of fall and winter. In summer, the light from a west or south-facing window will probably be too intense, and it will be too hot, as well. During those longer days of spring and summer, keep your African violets in a north or east window. You could also reduce the light and heat in brighter windows with the use of sheer curtains.

If you don't have enough space by your windows, African violets can perform equally well under fluorescent lights.

Regardless of their location, keep your African violets' soil slightly moist at all times. Water thoroughly whenever the soil surface feels dry to the touch. Then discard whatever excess water collects in the saucer or tray beneath the plants. Otherwise the water wicks back into the soil, keeping it soggy and setting the stage for root rot. Fertilize your African violets regularly, using an extremely dilute houseplant fertilizer with each watering. Or you may apply one that's mixed half-strength, once a month.

Many African violets thrive under fairly warm conditions, 70-degree days or warmer, coupled with a minimum of 65 degrees at night. Some newer varieties cope well with cooler temperatures, however. Usually, as long as you are comfortable, your African violets will be fine, too.

Reviewed 2009

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