This common houseplant is native to the lush mountains of Kenya and Tanzania. It was brought to Europe in the 1800s. In the early 1920s, a Los Angeles-based nursery grew thousands of seedlings and selected the 10 best for use in breeding. It's from these plants that we have many of the modern day African violet varieties.
Although not really violets, these plants have become a popular houseplant. Breeding has created thousands of varieties. Flower colors range from the deepest blue to bi-colors to white. Some varieties have frilly, double flowers while the species types have simple, single blooms.
While many gardeners grow African violets, success is dependent on a few factors. African violets bloom best with 10 to 12 hours of light a day. Avoid direct sunlight. African violets do really well under grow lights. Water when the soil dries to the touch, but don't get water on the leaves to prevent fungal disease. Keep the air around African violets humid and temperatures above 60 degrees.
Often grouping plants together sitting on a pebble tray filled with one inch of water is a good way to keep the air humid in winter. Grow your plants in shallow pots or saucers using African violet potting soil. Fertilize monthly during the growing season.
You can propagate more African violets by dividing large plants or taking leaf cuttings. Remove a leaf with petiole attached, dip the cut end in a rooting hormone powder and stick it in a pot filled with moistened potting soil. Keep it in a bright, warm area -- and in a month or so it should root.