Most of the time, African violets cannot survive outdoors. They are low-maintenance, hardy plants, but they need their ideal conditions to remain healthy. Unfortunately, most U.S. climates are unsuitable for African violets because the air is colder and drier than the rainforests of Africa, which is where the plant naturally grows.
The environments in the U.S. outdoors are too unpredictable to provide the ideal conditions that African violets need. This is why they are better off kept as indoor plants, where the humidity and temperature can be much more easily controlled to the plants’ liking.
In this article, we will discuss the reasons African violets are difficult to grow outside.
Can African violets be planted outside?
No, it is best not to take any chances and try to grow the plant outside because most environments in the U.S. are not stable enough to provide the plant with the conditions it needs to survive.
African violets are tropical plants native to the rainforests of Tanzania, so you must consider this when deciding where to grow them.
In Africa, the plant lives underneath the canopy of tall forest trees which protect it from the sun, and the environment has a relatively constant temperature and high humidity.
The outdoor environments in the U.S. are either too cold, too hot, too wet, have low humidity or get too much sunlight. These factors all play an important role in keeping an African violet healthy.
These plants are also prone to insect and pest infestations, so keeping them outside merely exposes them to more danger and damage.
Is there any place where an African violet can be grown outside?
Sadly, the only place these plants can truly thrive outdoors is in their natural habitat of Tanzania. Aside from Tanzania, there are very few places where growing African violets outdoors is possible. Other tropical locations may be too hot, while temperate regions may be too dry for the plant to thrive.
These plants prefer temperatures between 70 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit in the morning, and 65 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit at night. They may be able to tolerate higher temperatures, but definitely not for long periods of time. This is why the stable temperatures inside your home are more suitable for the plant.
Another reason the plant cannot just grow outdoors anywhere is because it needs to be protected from harsh sunlight. The leaves will easily get sun damaged, especially if exposed to direct sunlight while they are still wet.
Why can other violets live outside?
Funnily enough, African violets are, in fact, not real violets. They belong to the Saintpaulia genus, while true violets belong to the Violaceae genus. African violets only got their name because they look very similar to true violets.
They have had different evolutionary paths which is why some true violets can be grown outdoors with no problem, but African violets have a tough time.
Is it possible to grow African violets outside part-time?
This is an ongoing debate among gardeners the world over. Some people swear that they have been able to do so successfully, while others state vehemently that this is impossible or, at least, that growing the plant outside part-time does not add any benefits to the process of growing them.
If you want to try growing your violet outdoors part-time, place it outside on a warm day, but make sure it only gets indirect light. Remember to take the plant back indoors when the temperature goes anywhere below 65 degrees Fahrenheit.
Regarding rainfall, African violets are not huge fans of too much water. If the weather only has light rain coming, then it is probably fine. It helps clean the plant’s foliage, as well as moistening the soil. Just make sure you take the plant back inside when the sun comes out again. As we mentioned above, the leaves can burn when exposed to sunlight, especially when they are still wet.
Even if you grow the African violets outdoors only part-time, and even if the conditions are perfect, you are still exposing your plants to insects and pests that have proved to be a serious health risk. However, if you really want to take your plant outside, make sure you keep it off the ground, inspect it for pests regularly and keep it far from other plants so that pests do not spread to them easily.
African violet plant care
African violets thrive in warm and humid conditions where they can get bright, indirect light. Avoid getting their leaves wet, because this can lead to the formation of brown spots. Prune the plant by regularly checking for dead leaves and foliage and removing them. The removal of dead or dying foliage also encourages the plant to grow better.
The removal of debris from the soil in the pot will lessen the chance of rot, because too much organic material on top of the soil locks moisture into the soil, which African violets do not like.
A perfect balance is required to get your African violets to grow optimally.
Place your plant near a window that does not let in harsh afternoon light. If the only window you have available brings in harsh light, you can diffuse it with a sheer curtain. In the winter, you can help your plant by getting a grow lamp. Place the lamp 12 to 15 inches away from its leaves.
Use a well-draining potting mix for your African violet. If the soil is too dense and compact, this can lead to the death of the roots and root rot. The entire plant will become waterlogged and the leaves will start to fall off. Avoid letting the plant stand in stagnant water for long periods of time by ensuring that the pot has drainage holes at the bottom to allow excess water to flow out.
Use room temperature water when watering African violets. Water the plant directly on the soil, using a small watering can with a long spout. Water the plant when the soil feels dry to the touch.
Most of the time, in the unpredictable U.S. climate, African violets can rarely survive for long when kept outside the house.
African violets are not true violets like those that have no problem growing outside. African violets got their name only because they closely resemble true violets, the latter belonging to a completely different genus.
African violets are native to the rainforests of Tanzania where the temperature and humidity are constant and where the light that reaches them has been diffused by the canopy of trees.
These ideal conditions are rarely met by the outdoors in the U.S., so you are better off keeping the plant indoors where the temperature and humidity are more stable and where it is not exposed to bright, direct sunlight.
Image: istockphoto.com / tamayalper