African violets, with the scientific name Saintpaulia, are popular houseplants with flowers of varying colors and shapes. These perennials are native to the higher-altitude areas of eastern Africa, and have thick, hairy leaves arranged in clusters around the base of the plant. In this article, we will get to know more about these charming blooms and their size categories.
How big do African violets get?
African violets can get as big as 16 inches in diameter or more, especially if they are given the right care and attention. These plants are categorized into four sizes, as follows:
Large plants have a diameter of 16 inches or more across a single crown when fully mature. The flowers can grow up to three inches across the petals, while a single leaf can grow up to six inches long.
Standard plants can grow from eight to 16 inches in diameter across a single crown when fully mature. The flowers can grow up to two inches across the petals, and a single leaf blade can grow up to three inches in length.
Semi-miniature African violets measure six to eight inches in diameter across the crown. Their flowers grow up to 1.5 inches across the petals, while the leaf blades will be up to two inches in length.
These plants have a diameter of up to six inches across a single crown when fully mature. The flowers could grow up to .75 inches across the petals, and a single leaf blade could grow up to one inch in length. Certain varieties are called micro-minis, and these have a diameter of just three inches or less. The flowers and leaves are also much smaller in size compared to the others.
African violet plant care
African violets thrive in bright sunlight, which helps them produce more beautiful flowers as well as healthy stems and leaves. If there is no direct sunlight, these plants can stay on a windowsill facing the east, west or south. Ideally, the chosen spot should have sufficient light but without the heat.
Growing them under grow lights is also ideal. The rule of thumb is to place these lights at least 12 to 18 inches above the plant for at least 14 hours daily. Interestingly, these plants also require at least eight hours of darkness daily to be able to produce flowers.
African violets require moisture, but make sure that you only water them when the soil surface is dry. The soil should be well soaked, but when you pick up the pot it should not feel too heavy. This means that any excess water has drained properly out of the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot. Use only room-temperature water, because cold water could shock the roots, and allow the plant to sit in the water for at least 30 minutes.
Make sure that the water does not get on the leaves, as this could result in water spots.
Another watering method, and one which can help prevent overwatering, is the wick method. Create a wick using absorbent fiber such as string, shoelace or twine. Insert one end of this wick into the pot’s drainage hole and up into the soil. Position the plant above a reservoir of water and submerge the other end of the wick into the water. The wick will draw moisture from the reservoir up into the potting soil.
Well-draining soil is ideal for African violets. It should allow for air and water circulation and should be slightly acidic. Because soil can carry diseases, pests and weed seeds, it is always best to sterilize it before using it. You could steam the soil over water for at least 30 minutes, or heat the soil in the oven at 180 degrees for 30 minutes. The ideal soil mix for these plants consists mainly of peat with at least 30% to 50% perlite or vermiculite.
Protect your plants from pests by spraying them with soapy water to control or eradicate Cyclamen mites and mealybugs. If you see pests on your plants, you can dip a cotton swab in rubbing alcohol and wipe them off with it, or you may opt for insecticidal soap. Isolate new plants for at least two weeks before introducing them to your home, and check for any signs of pests before allowing them to come into contact with your other plants.
African violets are easily propagated from the leaves of existing plants. Simply remove a healthy leaf from the center of the plant, cutting it at a 45-degree angle to about one-half inch in length. Place the leaf into a small container with a soil mix containing vermiculite, and make sure the soil is moist.
Label the container, cover it with a clear plastic bag and place it in a well-lit spot with indirect sunlight. New plants should begin to develop within 12 weeks.
African violets are common houseplants because of their appealing blooms. These perennials are native to areas of East Africa, and can grow as big as 16 inches in diameter, especially if they are well-cared of. These plants are categorized into four sizes, namely large, standard, semi-miniature and miniature.
Image: istockphoto.com / Meindert van der Haven