This beginner tutorial shows how to take cuttings from African violets and grow new plants. Whether you root them in water or soil, these are easy plants to propagate at home.
As they out-grow their containers, you will also want to thin out or repot your African violets.
How to Grow and Propagate African Violets
I’m quite certain I got my love of growing African violets (Saintpaulia) from my mom who always had some in bloom throughout my childhood. There was something so wonderful about having these brilliant purple, pink, and white flowers blooming indoors in the middle of a Canadian winter. And, as a kid, the thick, fuzzy green leaves were rather intriguing.
You may see this propagation method referred to as taking leaf cuttings, stem cuttings, or growing from leaves—it’s the same thing. You are cloning the plant by taking a cutting and making it grow roots.
And, once you know how easy it is to propagate African violets, you’ll want to try more.
What To Expect
The process from cutting to new plant with blooms takes about 9 to 12 months.
- After a few weeks, your cutting will have visible roots.
- After a few months, your cutting will start growing new leaflets.
- After 6 to 8 months, it’s ready for its own pot.
- From there, it will bud and bloom.
- Propagation Methods
- Step-By-Step Instructions
- Frequently Asked Questions
There are two main ways to root African violet cuttings: in water or soil (growing medium).
Water Propagation Method
One way to propagate African violets is to root a leaf stem (“petiole”) cutting in water.
It’s not my preferred way since roots grown in water tend to be less durable than those started in potting mix, but I’ll share how it’s done just in case you want to try it.
The traditional way is to place a piece of wax paper over the top of a baby food jar filled with warm water. Hold the paper in place with an elastic band. Slit a hole in the wax paper and sit the cutting in it so the base only is submerged in water and the leaf up top stays dry.
Roots should grow and, when a few inches long, the plant can be potted.
You may also find these tips on how to make an African violet flower useful.
Starting Roots in Soil or Growing Medium
Whenever you propagate cuttings there will be hits and misses but it’s nice to know the method you use gives you the best odds.
Like me, you may find that roots grown in water can tend to be bloated and unstable. Once the plant is placed in growing medium, it has a lot of re-work to do to become content in potting mix.
On the other hand, the ones started in a light, growing medium seem to put their energy right into new plantlet growth. Bottom line, do what works for you.
The method I’m using here is one of many similar ones. I hope you will feel encouraged to try it and adapt as you like. If you enjoy gardening like I do, it’s one more way to keep it going year-round, even when the weather outside is cold and miserable.
Is it Legal to Propagate Cuttings?
- Some plants are patented and propagation is prohibited. Check your plant tag.
- For patented seeds, it means that you can grow them, but you are not legally permitted to save any seeds they produce.
- For patented plants like African violets, it means you are not permitted to take cuttings to propagate new plants.
- The exclusive propagation rights are in effect so long as the patent is active (20 years from certification date).
Supplies and Materials
- 1 (or more) African violet plant(s) with at least 3 rows of strong, healthy leaves
- Shallow, plastic pots (2″-size works nicely)
- 1 bakery clamshell – large enough to hold the pots
- Perlite and/or Vermiculite (you can also just use the potting mix listed)
- Potting mix for African violets (optional now, will be needed when new plants are larger)
- Scalpel or other fine sharp knife | You may also see them sold as “craft knife pen cutters.”
- Rubbing alcohol (to clean the cutting blade)
- Plant tags, labels, or tape (to keep track of cuttings)
Is rooting hormone required? Nope! These propagate just fine without added help.
1Prepare Growing Medium
I use a combination of vermiculite and perlite. You can also use potting mix for African violets. The goal is to have a light-weight growing medium that retains moisture without being too damp or dry.
Fill a 2-inch pot for each cutting. Soak the growing medium and allow to drain thoroughly.
2Take Your Cuttings
For best success, take your leaf stem (petiole) cutting from the third row of leaves from the center of the plant.
Looking from above, you can see that the leaves grow in circles around the middle.
- The youngest leaves are small and often unsuitable for propagation.
- The oldest, outer leaves often have tough or woody stems that make it difficult to root.
- Choose your leaf stem cutting from the middle of the plant, ensuring that the stem is still tender and not tough.
You can root cuttings from leaves that have broken off the plant, if they are healthy, or twist them off at the base of the stem, if you can reach in there without damaging the rest of the plant.
I like to use a scalpel, getting a nice, clean cut. The tool you see here is marketed as a quilting tool, used to remove tight stitches.
Always clean the blade with rubbing alcohol between uses.
Tag, You’re It
If you want to keep track of your cuttings, be sure to write plant tags with the name and date or use tape like I do.
I mark the mother plant pot with a code on a piece of tape and write a duplicate one to place on the little pot used for the cutting. This is particularly handy when I do not know the name of the hybrid but want to track how well each plant propagates.
Related: How to Propagate Aloe Vera From Pups
3Trim the Leaf Stem
Place the leaf stem (petiole) cutting on a table with the fuzzy side facing up.
Cut the stem at approximately one-inch in length.
Next, make an angled cut down the stem, removing a wedge-shaped piece with the deepest cut at the base.
This is the section of the plant that will produce the new plantlets.
Also see: How often should I water my houseplants?
Should I Trim the Leaf?
You may have seen tutorials where the leaf is also reduced in size, by cutting off the top two-thirds or one half. The idea is that you want the plant to put its energy into growing new babies, not maintaining a big leaf.
I do not do this. I’ve found the stem forms roots just fine regardless and I don’t like how it looks when they are cut.
4Dib and Plant
Using a dibber (or the end of a pencil), create a hole in the growing medium to accommodate the leaf stem. You want it on an angle so the cutting will sit at 45-degrees with the fuzzy side up.
Insert the leaf stem cutting, ensuring that the bottom of the leaf is just above soil level.
5Close the Clamshell
A clamshell creates a terrarium-like environment for the cuttings. You can also sit a plastic bag over top or simply ensure that your growing space has decent humidity (around 50% is good).
Place under grow lights for 12 hours per day or provide gentle, east-facing natural light.
Maintain consistent conditions the best you can, avoiding any drastic temperature, light, or moisture changes.
How often you water the growing medium will depend entirely on the humidity levels and other growing conditions in your home. Water droplets should form on the inner side of the clamshell lid. If they are present, no watering is necessary.
This explains why plants struggle when humidity levels are low, particularly during the winter months.
7Watch for Growth
In 2-3 months, you should notice little green balls appearing at soil level. These will grow into new stems and leaves.
When there are at least four strong leaves, you can repot into African violet growing mix in a tiny pot (they do not like big pots), or you can wait it out if everything still looks strong and healthy.
Sometimes I have had the original cutting die off naturally during this time, other times it hangs in there.
Also, not every new stems may survive or you may need to reduce how many you keep to ensure that they each have adequate growing space. There are several videos on YouTube showing this separation and potting process in case you need it.
Here Are Some Results
These are how the potted cuttings look almost 4 months later:
Around 6-7 months you should have enough new growth from a crown to pot up your new plant. Blooms may arrive in these next few months if your growing conditions encourage it.
Frequently Asked Questions
From the time you take an African violet cutting, root it in growing medium, and have enough new growth to consider it a new plant takes approximately six months. After about nine months to a year you could get new blooms. Timing will, of course, vary depending on the plant and growing conditions.
While you can root these cuttings in soil or water, I find, overall, cuttings rooted in potting mix made for African violets or a mixture of vermiculite and perlite yields better results.
African violet cuttings do not require rooting hormone. They grow roots just fine without further assistance.
Roots will start forming on African violet cuttings within days and will be 1 to 2-inches long within a month or so.
African violet cuttings generally take about two to three months for little leaflets to start appearing.
African violet cuttings do not need fertilizer. Fertilizer is usually needed when the plant is mature and capable of flowering.
Yes, you can fertilize mature (capable of flowering) African violets with a product like Organic Violet! African Violet Plant Food. Be sure to follow the product instructions and do not over-do it.
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 after 2-3 months, the leaves grow in elongated shapes, or crowns get leggy.
Potting Mix | 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 wetting leaves. Also consider wick watering.
Temperature | 65-75°F (18-24°C)
Humidity | 40-50 percent | Unfortunately, drip trays filled with water do not help with low humidity. A household humidifier and keeping up with watering can help.
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 Organic Violet! African Violet Plant Food. Ask at your local garden nursery to see what they recommend in combination with your local water.
Reblooming | If growing conditions are optimal, by snipping off old flowers (“disbudding”), new blooms may appear in 6 to 8 weeks.
- African Violet Society of America | Good resource for growing tips, community, plant sales, and local chapters
- African Violet Society of Canada | Good resource for growing tips, community, plant sales, and local chapters
- African Violets (Saintpaulia) | Wikipedia
- African Violet Blooming Tips | PDF format | avsa.org
- The Houseplant Guru – African Violets | Lisa Eldred Steinkopf | Wonderful resource for houseplant growing tips
- How to Grow African Violets From Blossom Stems | These will produce clones that bloom true
~Melissa the Empress of Dirt ♛
How to Propagate African Violets From Cuttings
Supplies & Materials
- 1 African violet
- 1 Bakery Clamshell or similar container
- 10 Plant tags
Prepare Growing Medium
- Combine equal parts vermiculite and perlite or fill 2-inch pots with potting mix. Alternately, you can just use potting mix made for African violets.
- Soak filled pots in water and allow to drain.
- Take cuttings from 3rd row of leaves from middle of plant using clean scalpel taking at least 1-inch of stem with the leaf.
- Write plant tag for each cutting if you want to track them (flower color, etc.).
Trim Leaf Stem
- Place cutting on table with fuzzy side up. Cut last inch of stem at 45-degree angle, tapering to base.
- Use dibber in potting mix to create hole and insert cutting with leaf resting on side of pot. Bottom of leaf should be just above soil level.
- Close lid on clamshell if humidity is low (under 40%).
- Provide 12 hours light per day. East-facing natural light (without hot sun) is good. Avoid drastic temperature changes and drafts.
- Keep even moisture and open clamshell if condensation forms.