Vintage African Violets

Thursday, July 8, 2010

When I was a girl, I had a neighborhood friend whose grandmother lived close by. Often in the long summer months I would walk or bike with Cathy to her grandma’s house. She was a lovely lady and always seemed genuinely happy to see us. She also always was good for some cold lemonade or something wonderful from the oven. My unexpressed reason for tagging along on these trips was what each and every windowsill of Cathy’s grandma held….AFRICAN VIOLETS! Oh, I couldn’t get enough of them. They were every imaginable shade of pink and purple and had wonderfully fuzzy leaves. I just was mesmerized by them. My own Mom had house plants, but nothing like these.

Life moved on, Cathy’s family moved, her grandma passed away and I didn’t think of African Violets again for a very long time. Fast forward about 30 years and I met my lovely friend Sharon. The first time I was invited to her home for tea, I noticed the LARGEST African Violet I had ever seen on her table. It instantly brought back memories of those lovely violets that Cathy’s grandma had displayed in her windowsills and I knew that I had to have one.

Now, I couldn’t imagine my home without violets. I just love them and have as many as I can squeeze into my little home. Many varieties are vintage (any plant coming from a plant that is 25 years or older). My daughter gifted me with 2 vintage violets for Mother’s Day. Isn’t she a dear?!

I thought I’d pass along a few tips on keeping African Violets.

LIGHT- Adequate light is most important for abundant bloom. Any window that has strong, bright, light is good. They prefer bright light, but not direct sun. Which window provides this will depend upon climate, season, and your particular home.

WATERING - Use room temperature to slightly warm water, when the soil surface feels "dry to the touch". You may water from the top, from the bottom, or by wicks but be very careful not to get the leaves wet.

FEEDING - Regular fertilizing is needed for maximum growth and blooming. Follow "constant feeding" directions on the container, usually about 1/4 tsp. of dry fertilizer per gallon of water (follow instructions on the package for feeding every time you water). A balanced fertilizer, such as a 15-15-15 or 20-20-20, for example, is best. Feed each watering. My preferred food is Granny’s Bloomers but Miracle Grow also carries a violet mix.

ENVIRONMENT - African violets thrive in the same conditions in which people are comfortable--not too hot nor too cold, with 40-50% humidity.

SOIL - Use a light, "soil-less" mix, consisting of at least 30-50% vermiculite or perlite. When buying a prepackaged mix, don't believe the "violet soil" label! A bag of a good soil mix should feel like a nice, fluffy, soft, pillow. Most commercial mixes are too dense and heavy, and will need to have perlite and/or vermiculite added. The wetter you plan on keeping your plants (such as wicking), the more perlite you will need to add.

POTTING - Most flowering houseplants will need repotting into fresh soil every 6 months or so. When repotting a violet, remove some of the bottom of the root ball and lower into fresh soil to cover the bare trunk ("neck"). Pot into larger pots only when root ball fills pot, never into a pot more than 1/2 the diameter of the plant. Shallow pots are best.

PROPAGATION - Use very light rooting media. For violets, cut the leaf stem at 1/2" to 3/4" and push down into lightly moistened mix. For streptocarpus, remove midrib from leaf, then firmly insert two halves (rib or center-side) down into media, like "slices of bread in a toaster". Leaves can be protected by placing in a clear plastic bag or covered container. Place in moderate light and separate and pot "babies" when they are big enough for you to comfortably handle, usually when 3 small leaves have formed.

Sharing at Suzanne's Vintage Thingie Thursday! Thanks Suzanne for hosting each week!


  1. Sharon said...:

    Dear Gail, What wonderful memories to have. I enjoyed reading about you, Cathy and her Grandma. What a blessing that your daughter gave you! How sweet that she remembered :) Have a blessed day!

  1. DarcyLee said...:

    My grandma always had African violets, too! Your's are beautiful.

  1. Barbara said...:

    Wonderful memories, I had a cousin who had every kind imaginable, I loved hers, I had one for about 5 years, then I transplanted it, and it just shriveled up and died, broke my heart for it stayed gorgeous all that time, bloom after bloom, thanks for these tips, Hugs and blessings.

  1. Thank you for sharing your African violets! I love them too! They are so delicate.

  1. P. said...:

    I love African violets, and I just posted some pictures of mine this week. They are in desperate need of repotting, but will have to wait until they're done blooming. This is all good information! I see your violet has foil on the outside. My mom used to do that but I can't remember the reason--something about the leaves touching a clay pot? Thanks for sharing your knowledge and love of violets!

  1. Sheila said...:

    Thank you so much for the African violet tips. I have tried to grow them for years but haven't been too successful. I have 3 right now but only one is still blooming. Now I can try to help the others. Thanks for sharing.

  1. Karen said...:

    I've always wanted to have African Violets. They're so beautiful. Thanks for all the tips. Maybe I'll give them a try.
    Most of all I loved reading your story about visitng your friend's grandmother. Isn't it amazing how much we are shaped by childhood experiences. A casual friend can have such a huge impact.
    Have a great day!
    Ladybug Creek

  1. Olive Cooper said...:

    Your Violets are lovely. ~olive

  1. Olive Cooper said...:

    Hi! I like your sweet blog and will follow.

  1. Mrs. P~
    YOur african violets are beautiful bloomers! What a darling daughter you have to give you such a memory-making gift. I too love african violets.
    But I will love them from afar! I am the grim reaper of the indoor plant world. ( I hope I haven't doomed yours by looking at your stunning pictures!) Keeping plants alive is something, try as I might, I am really, really bad at!
    I am green with plant jealously!

    Your primmer on violet growing and care tempted me to give them another try... but the humane part of me says...they will live to see another day if I keep away!
    I am going to start a new meme later this summer called, "Tutorials, tips and tidbits". Please include this great post when I begin!
    xo and blessings,

  1. Thank you Thank you Thank you, I just two days ago bought my first African violets and needed this info....perfect timing!!!

  1. Johanna said...:

    Gail, your memories to Afrcan Violets are so sweet. I also have memories to those little beauties. That was the first plant, I grew when I was child. My Mom made a little pot with some leaves which got roots in the soil. Sweet time, where are you gone? When I was child we had just 3 colors, pink, violet and white. I loved the sparkling surface of the blooms. Today there are lots of different variaties, each nicer than the other.
    Greetings, Johanna

  1. Julie Harward said...:

    Thanks for the hints...I love them too, they remind me of my grandma! They are a very special little plant with such joy when the flowers bloom! :D

  1. jlshall said...:

    This was such a wonderful post! I love African violets - thanks for all the information on them. Didn't know about vintage plants - I have a couple that I think would probably qualify. Makes me like them even more!

    Have a great day, and Happy Summertime! from Joy @ Joysweb

  1. Debbie said...:

    I have always loved the fuzzy lovliness of African violets too! I would love visiting your home and seeing them. Since I have such a brown thumb, I have never tried to grow/keep them. Maybe I should give it a try.

  1. Cathy said...:

    I remember little pots of African violets lined up on my grandma's window sill. Haven't thought of that in years. Thanks for lovely memories, Gail. What a nice post!

  1. Oh these are so pretty...I'd love to take a photo of those with my camera...and the stories that go along with the African violets. Those are precious :) :) Hugs, Heather :)

  1. LV said...:

    I love violets and you story. A great vintage showing for today.

  1. I love African Violets! Yours are so very lovely and such fun to know that they are vintage varieties. And doubly special when they evoke such long ago, fond memories of the heart. Enjoy!

    Happy VTT,

  1. Coloradolady said...:

    OH, I love violets. My aunt used to grow them and they were beautiful....mine always died... :( Great post...Have a wonderful VTT!

  1. Great post on African violets. I have a garden club friend who is 85+ that has many in her home and seem to be blooming all the time. She brought one to me as a hostess gift one time when I had her for tea.

  1. Postcardy said...:

    I never knew violets could be vintage.

  1. such wonderful memories.. and thanks for sharing.. the violets are just pretty.. but too bad it won't survive hot sun here at my side of the world. Happy VTT

  1. Oh...I love African Violets too. My Grandmother also has window sills full of them. When I was in high school she would give me small plants started from her own.

    As an adult, I have not had much luck with them. But from reading your tips...I now know what I was doing wrong. I think I'll try again. I adore them. They are just what my house needs.

  1. Pam said...:

    Thank you for the tutorial on African Violets. Both my Mom and Grandma both always had African Violets in the kitchen. I have bought them many many times and they always look like heck after a few weeks and I end up throwing them away.

    I had to laugh when I read your tips, because I have never done anything other than water them. Maybe I can keep them alive now!

  1. My great grandmother's favorite flowers were African violets. Thanks you for the tips I by no way have a green thumb.

  1. Stacey said...:

    What a wonderful story. I love African Violets but don't have a green thumb. I can't seem to keep aloe vera plants alive!

  1. Cathy said...:

    Beautiful flowers - and wonderful memories! I love the feel of the leaves on African Violets - but sadly, I haven't had much luck in growing them. Your tips may inspire me to try again! Thanks for visiting my blog on Vintage Thingie Thursday!

  1. Well first, let me just tell you it was good to finally get your posting back on my blog. Apparently blogger is fixed and my MIA posts' are reappearing for me:)
    Just wanted to stop by and see what you've been up to.
    Thank you for sharing this wonderful post, I just love African Violets and like the previous post, have never had much luck keeping them going. Thanks again my friend!

  1. MyJourneyBack said...:

    Oh I loved this post. I loved african violets too. My dad actually had a couple of shelves. He had a green house and I loved playing in it. I haven't thought about that in a long time. Thanks for bringing back such sweet memories. I loved this visit.
    Have a great week,

  1. Gail I love violets and my mama always had them...She had the best luck with growing them would give me to me and it would die...Great post Gail..I should try growning one again...Hope your Sunday is wonderful my friend...Hugs and smiles Gl♥ria

  1. Faith said...:

    Oh I'm with you on these too...I have for or 5, always have had some around. They bloom at different times and they are gorgeous..I am a lover of these beautiful violets too.

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