African violets are one of the most popular indoor plants in the United States. This is because they are relatively low-maintenance and hardy, as long as they are grown in the correct conditions.
They are favored because of their beautiful violet flowers, with even smaller yellow flowers in their centers.
Despite their popularity, there may still be some little-known facts about these plants that even most gardeners are unaware of.
In this article, we will discuss some facts about African violets, so if you are planning to add this plant to your collection, keep reading.
African violet facts
The scientific name of the African violet is Saintpaulia ionantha, and it is native to the African country of Tanzania.
It can grow about six to nine inches tall and six to nine inches wide.
This plant flowers for most of the year if it is being correctly cared for. The flower may be white, purple, pink, red or blue.
African violet growing conditions
African violets can survive in low light conditions but they will not be able to bloom as much as those grown in places with sufficient light.
These plants like their soil to be moist but not waterlogged. The best time to water them is when the top of the soil feels dry to the touch. Do not get the leaves wet, because that can lead to spotting. Because they come from the rainforests of Tanzania, they do best in humid environments.
Keep the plant away from areas of your home where drafts pass through.
African violets are not really violets
African violets belong to a completely different genus, Saintpaulia, whereas true violets belong to the genus Violaceae. African violets were so named because they have a striking resemblance to true violets.
There are up to 20 different species of Saintpaulia plants, but in the U.S there are two species that are most common, the S. confusa and the S. ionantha.
A wide array of color and shape variations have been cultivated from these two species, but the fact remains that none of them are true violets.
The African violet is one of the most popular houseplants in the United States
This plant has only increased in popularity since it was first discovered during the 1800s. Even if they seem to remind most people of their grandma’s house, with the increasing popularity of houseplants in general nowadays, the African violet has not gone out of style.
This is because of their many different flower colors, which can be blue, pink, red, white or purple. As mentioned above, they can continue blooming the entire year if they are healthy and happy, so you can enjoy the beautiful blooms even on gloomy winter days.
They are very easily grown indoors where the humidity and temperature are stable, so you do not have to worry about them constantly.
African violets are close to extinct in the wild
One heartbreaking fact about these plants is that, even though they have become household staples worldwide, African violets seem to be drastically dwindling in numbers in the wild.
The rainforests of Tanzania are really the only place they can grow naturally, and unfortunately, due to deforestation, some African violet species have been observed to remain in only one forest. Others are so rare that they can only be found on one mountain, and nowhere else.
Thankfully, there are agencies and governments that are going to great lengths to save the African violet, but thousands of other flora are on the brink of extinction every day.
African violets are a symbol of faithfulness
Because of the plant’s seemingly endless bloom, African violets are given as gifts to symbolize faithfulness, commitment and devotion.
They are a popular choice as a gift for mothers or grandmothers on Mothers’ day, or on other special occasions or events celebrating a milestone.
They can live for a long time
Typically, most houseplants live to be five years old, at most. African violets are one of the most enduring houseplants in the world. Some have been known to last up to 50 years when given optimal care. They can become an inherited plant if their owners have green thumbs.
As long as the owner knows exactly how to water the plant, takes it indoors when the outdoor temperature is chilly, and keeps the plant away from direct sunlight, an African violet can live to a ripe old age.
African violets are hardy plants
Even if they need a specific type of environment to survive, African violets are low-maintenance and tenacious.
Give the plant plenty of the right kind of light, which is indirect light. They need this light to survive and to bloom, so make sure they get enough.
As mentioned above, try not to get the leaves of your African violet wet, because they will become discolored and develop brown spots. Use a watering can with a long spout to water the base of the plant directly, without the risk of getting the leaves wet.
Remember that you only need to water the plant if the soil in the pot is dry to the touch.
In the wild, African violets do not grow in very much soil, since they are often found on rocky outcrops. If you use potting soil that is too dense and compact, it impedes the roots’ function and could cause them to die, which could then lead to root rot.
Use a potting mix that is well-draining, airy and porous. These will usually have materials mixed in that help with drainages, such as perlite and coarse sand.
If your African violet looks distressed, check your thermostat. If the temperature is lower than 60 degrees Fahrenheit, this is probably the problem. Do not subject the plant to either extreme of temperature, because this is not comfortable for the plant and can have serious consequences.
They are fine to keep around pets
One of the most important factors to consider when choosing plants for inside the house is their toxicity to both pets and children.
Often, when a plant has brightly-colored flowers, it poses a threat to those who ingest it. Thankfully, African violets are safe to keep around the house despite their vibrant flowers. Even so, try to keep the plant out of reach, especially if you fertilize it on a regular basis.
African violets are one of the most popular indoor plants worldwide. This is because they require little care and can live for a very long time. Their colorful flowers also bloom nearly year-round, so you can appreciate their beauty all the time.
These plants can be given as gifts to the special people in your life as a symbol of faithfulness.
They are also one of the safest plants to keep around pets and children because they are non-toxic.
There are few plants that would make a better choice to keep in your home than the African violet, so get one for yourself now!
Image: istockphoto.com / Anna Grigorjeva