The African violet, Saintpaulia, is a tropical plant native to Tanzania and Kenya. There are many subspecies of this beautiful plant, including many that are endangered due to their disappearing habitat.
Despite their prolific presence in our homes and nurseries, in the wild, these beautiful and delicate plants could quickly disappear forever due to rapid deforestation.
Choosing your plant
One of the best things about these little guys is that you can find them nearly anywhere plants are sold. I even see them for sale in my local grocery store quite often.
Generally, you will find more common colors and petal types locally.
However, African violets have a multitude of colors, petal shapes, and leaf shapes to choose from. If you want something with a little more flash, try a nursery or garden center for a more varied selection.
If you fall in love with these plants, you can find some beautiful variants of the species online. Etsy is one of my favorite places to find interesting plant varieties.
African violets need loose, quick-draining soil to allow their roots to breathe and spread out.
Your best bet for success is to purchase a potting soil made specifically for African violets. General-use potting soil is much too heavy for them.
Water African violets when the top inch of soil is dry. These plants do not like wet feet and are susceptible to rot root if they sit in water.
The best way to water an African violet is to put in the sink or a shallow dish and water it thoroughly just under its leaves. Never directly water the crown. Let your plant sit for half an hour for the excess water to drain before returning it to its usual location.
Light and temperature
African violets are a tropical plant, and they love bright indirect sunlight. A window with northern or eastern exposure is ideal for these little guys.
They need between 6-8 hours of bright sun a day. However, they should not be in direct sunlight as they can burn.
Like many other houseplants, African violets prefer the same temperatures we do. They are happiest in daytime temps between 65-75 degrees.
Plants will benefit from a little extra humidity. You can easily achieve this by filling a saucer with marbles and then set the pot on top of the marbles. Add water to the saucer, but not enough to touch the pot.
African violets have particular nutrient needs. The best way to keep them healthy is to water them with an African violet specific fertilizer.
(Source: By Tracey Besemer)