Want to know how to make African violets bloom? Find out all the reasons yours may be refusing to flower and how to encourage blooms and reblooming throughout the year.
African Violet Blooming Tips
What African Violets Need
Sunlight | East or west windows are recommended. Avoid excessive heat and cold. You’ll know the light is insufficient if the plant doesn’t bloom, the leaves grow in elongated shapes, or crowns get leggy.
Fluorescent Lights | One foot above the plants, 12-14 hours per day.
Soil | Use a commercial mix intended for African violets combined with perlite, or make your own.
Water | Water deeply, until the saucer fills. Empty the saucer after 30 minutes. Best to water from below and avoid leaves. Also consider wick watering.
Temperature | 65-75°F (18-24°C)
Humidity | 40-50 percent | I keep some of my violets sitting above plant trays filled with water. When the air is too dry, I set clear bags over them (never touching the leaves).
Pot Sizes | 2-inch wide for plantlets, 3-inch wide for first-time blooming, 4-inch wide for 9-inch diameter plant
Pot Type | Plastic or clay. I love clay but I find it dries out too fast in the warm sun. These plastic ones have good drainage and saucers.
Fertilizer | One popular type used is Better Gro Orchid Plus 20-14-13. I use fish emulsion. Ask at your local garden nursery to see what they recommend in combination with your local water.
As a self-professed flower fanatic, African violets (Saintpaulia spp.) are one of my favourite houseplants. No matter what season or weather is going on outside, there are always a few plants loaded with beautiful blooms inside.
These are my top tips for ensuring that your African violets not only produce flowers but rebloom again and again throughout the year.
Genetics help determine bloomability (volume, size, colour, frequency), but, if you have a healthy plant, it’s very likely yours can be encouraged to flower too.
In addition to the list of reasons why African violets may not bloom, I have answered Frequently Asked Questions here.
And, as always, this is gardening, not magic, and plants are living things, which means changes take time. Provide what they need and buds will form.
10 Reasons Why African Violets Refuse to Bloom
Our success with houseplants involve nature and nurture. And not all African violets are created equal.
You can work through everything on this list and still not see any or many flowers on your African violet. And this is because genetics matter.
Some are prolific bloomers—even with lousy growing conditions—while others are divas that may never flower.
But, if yours has flowered previously, there is hope.
2Too Little or Too Much Light
African violets need light to grow and produce flowers.
The key is to get bright light in the morning or afternoon without excessive heat or intense sun.
Signs of inadequate light include stretched leaf stems and small adult leaves.
Too much light can cause the foliage to appear dull or bleached.
In winter, I keep mine at an east-facing window, and set them back as summer warms up.
You can also use fluorescent lights for 16 hours per day, keeping the plant tops about 12-inches from the lights.
Be sure to rotate your pots a quarter turn every few days to avoid leaning.
3Over or Under Watering
Learning to water plants effectively takes practice.
Water too much and the roots rot.
Too little water, plants dry up and flower buds drop off.
Aim for nice, even moisture.
Pots should have drainage holes.
Rotate your pots when you water to be sure all the roots receive water.
If the leaves are compact, water from below, placing the pot in deep saucer of water for 30 minutes, then remove excess.
You can also set up a wicking system for continuous watering.
4Lack of Humidity
Relative humidity levels of 40 to 50% are good for many plants including African violets.
Watch out for dry air caused by indoor heating systems.
A water tray (shown above) helps increase humidity. The pots can sit right on top of it.
5Lack of Nutrients
It takes energy to create buds and flowers!
A small (diluted) dose of suitable fertilizer with each watering is beneficial. I prefer this to a larger monthly dose because I tend to forget.
If your fertilizer label shows a monthly dose, reduce it down to a weekly amount and add that to your watering can.
Low amounts cause nutrient deficiencies. Too much fertilizer can burn and/or kill the plant.
6Wrong Soil pH Level
This one connects directly to nutrition. If the soil pH level is too high or too low, the plant cannot properly take up the available nutrients. You are unlikely to deal with a major pH problem with a houseplant, but keep it in mind as it is key for all plants.
For African violets the sweet spot is 6.8 pH.
Choosing the right growing medium for the plant is the best way to control this.
7Heavy Soil / Growing Medium
Is your African violet potted in the right stuff? We want fairly light—not compact growing medium.
Test by pushing your index finger into your current soil. If it goes in easily, it should be fine.
Commercial African violet potting mixes or a similar light houseplant mixes are best.
Common ingredients include sphagnum peat moss, vermiculite, and perlite.
Peat (sphagnum peat moss) has been widely used in potting mixes for years. Because harvesting peat requires the destruction of irreplaceable carbon-sequestering ecosystems (bogs), the search for sustainable alternatives is underway. Coconut coir is often suggested but it too has limitations. Hence, the quest to garden in an eco-friendly manner continues.
Here’s the sweet spots for growing African violets:
- Daytime Room: 70-80°F (21-27°C)
- Nighttime Room: 65–70°F (18-21°C)
- Soil: 65-75°F (18-24°C)
Our old house gets colder than this at night, but the daytime warmth seems to make up for it.
9Wrong Size Pot
African violets like to be slightly snug in their pots. This helps prevent excess water from collecting around the roots.
The roots are generally 1/3 the diameter of the leaf spread.
For example, if the plant is 6 inches in diameter, the roots will be approximately 2-inches across. For this size, choose a pot 2-inches wider than the roots (4-inches wide).
How to Repot African Violets has everything you need to move your plants to the correct size pots.
10Pests or Disease
You will likely know if pests or disease are present, because either you see them/it, or the plant simply looks unwell.
Here are a few possibilities:
• Soil mealy bugs
• Cyclamen mites
• Powdery mildew
• Blossom blight
Unless a problem is really simple to solve and does not require buying anything, I’m much more likely to toss the plant than treat it. It’s just not worth the risk of affecting/infecting my other plants and I like to keep my indoor and outdoor gardening as simple as possible.
11Excess Crowns or Suckers
This is one big drawback to African violets: they rarely grow in good formation. Instead, they create extra crowns, suckers, or other strange leaf formations. You really have to keep on top of it or they get messy in a matter of months.
This shows how to repot African violets and deal with excess growth.
The good news is, you can root your cuttings using these instructions:
Another tip is, flower production is usually located in the first few rows/circles of leaves. This means you don’t need to let the plant get huge to get flowers.
Every time I repot and cut back some rows (keeping just 3-5 rows of leaves), I get new buds and blooms.
This connects to what other growers mention: some plants become complacent. The shock of a good trim and repotting can be just the thing to trigger new blooms.
After blooming, trim away each flower.
When the entire cluster is done, remove the entire flower stem (gently).
This helps encourage future blooming.
Frequently Asked Questions
1How often do African violets bloom?
With good genes and the right growing conditions, you can expect flowers every 2-6 months (unless you have a genetic dud).
Each set of blooms can last a few weeks.
Removing finishing blooms can help spur new bud growth.
2Why are my African violets not blooming?
Basically, you need: a plant that is
- Genetically predisposed to blooming
- Adequate light, water, fertilizer
- The right soil and pH level
- Lightweight growing medium (not compact)
- A snug pot with drainage holes
- Comfortable soil temperatures 65-75°F (18-24°C).
3How do you water an African violet?
There are three basic ways:
- Water the soil/growing medium from above using a watering can with a very narrow spout, carefully reaching under the leaves. Rotate the pot to ensure all the soil is watered.
- Sit your potted African violet in a saucer of warm water. Empty the saucer after 30 minutes.
- Set up a wicking system to provide constant, even moisture to the soil.
4What is the best fertilizer for African violets?
I’ve listed a few recommendations here.
5How do you revive an African violet?
It all depends on what type of neglect or excess it has suffered from.
Our reflex is often to water a sickly-looking plant, but first check the soil. If it’s bone dry, yes, water it. If it’s moist, leave it until it begins to dry out.
From there, read over all of the tips and determine what it needs.
6Can you transplant African violets when they are blooming?
There a general rule in gardening that we try to never disturb a plant while flowering because that can hasten or halt blooming.
This said, if you can transplant your African violet carefully without disturbing the roots, it should be okay. Use the right soil and only choose a larger pot if the roots have reached the edges of the current one. Keep in mind that the current conditions have (collectively) enabled blooming, so don’t stray from that if you want the flowers to continue.
Good luck, and I hope you get lots of blooms.
~Melissa the Empress of Dirt ♛