You’ve got a healthy African violet that you’ve kept thriving for ages. You water it carefully to avoid crown rot. Its leaves are pristine emerald green, without any burn spots, and you dust them regularly. Your little plant is the picture of health, except for one teensy little problem –
It will not bloom.
As in, you can’t even remember what color the blossoms are because it’s been so long since the stupid thing bloomed.
Or maybe it blooms once a year, and you can’t figure out what the heck you did right leading up to it, so you can keep doing it.
I hear you.
But, before you rage-quit on your little plant and chuck it in the garbage spewing profanities, I want you to read this list of secret tips.
I promise you; it’s actually pretty easy to get African violets to bloom. However, they have very specific needs that must be met to do so.
Once you get those right, your violet will bloom almost continuously. Yup, you read that right, almost continuously.
If you adopt these tips, tend to your plant regularly and give it a month or two, and if your violet still isn’t blooming, I’ll grab the garbage can for you. I won’t even make you put quarters in the swear jar.
Related Reading: African Violets: How To Care, Get More Blooms & Propagate
1. Light. No, more than that. Yup, a bit more.
If you’re a plant owner, then you’ve probably read the phrase “bright, indirect light” so often it’s become your morning affirmation.
Here’s the thing about that magical houseplant directive – knowing how much bright indirect light our plants need is just as important, especially when it comes to flowering plants. Often, we put a plant somewhere with this bright, indirect light, and nothing happens.
So secret number one to get your African Violets blooming all year – go straight for the grow lights.
My sweetie has a great room with a huge window with southern exposure. We’re talking a 10’x6’ window. I’ve given him several houseplants that hang out in that room, including a couple of African violets. They are always in bloom, and he’s so smug about it, “I don’t get why everyone says these are hard to grow.”
The Violet Barn is a grower in upstate NY specializing in growing and breeding African violets since 1985, and they recommend 12-13 hours a day of bright light. (Disclaimer: I will not be held responsible for the amount of money you spend if you click that link.)
My sweetie doesn’t need grow lights. However, most of us do.
If you’ve only got one or two African violets, putting up a full grow light setup can be a pain; instead, opt for a halo grow light. Or you can do what I did. I’ve switched over to using the GE Grow Light Balanced Spectrum LED bulbs, and I love them. They fit standard E26 light sockets and blend in with my other lighting. But more importantly, my plants are happy.
If you’re serious about blooming violets, don’t mess around; get them a grow light.
2. Feed me, Seymore!
Any Little Shop of Horrors Fans Out There? African violets are a bit like the plant from this beloved Broadway musical – they’re always hungry. That is, at least if you want them to produce flowers.
There are so many African violet fertilizers on the market, and many of them are great. However, in the end, all you need is a balanced indoor plant fertilizer to keep them happy. So secret number two is how often you feed, and that should be every time you water your violet.
African violet fertilizers are often heavier on potassium.
But, much like you and I, these little plants do best on a steady, balanced diet. However, their diet consists of NPK – nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorous.
Violets will thrive when given a regular supply of all the nutrients they need, rather than occasional feedings with a fertilizer focused on blooms.
Pick a good all-around fertilizer and follow the directions suggested for using it with every watering. I have had good results with Dr. Earth Pure Gold Pump & Grow All Purpose Plant Food. The nutrient ratio is 1-1-1, and it’s formulated to be used weekly. Plus, it’s easy to find at big box stores and even some smaller hardware stores and nurseries.
One thing to note when you fertilize your plants with every watering; you should always give them one watering once a month with no fertilizer. Doing this will flush out excess salts from the soil. Otherwise, the salts can build up and harm the plant, leading to our next secret.
Related Reading: 7 Things Everyone With An African Violet Should Know
3. Semiannual Spruce Up
Repotting houseplants is just a normal part of their care. And for many species, you only need to do this task once every couple of years. There are plenty of plants that would prefer to be left alone in their pots, thank you very much.
African violets are not one of them.
Secret number three to continuous blooms is to repot your African violets with fresh soil twice a year. Yup, twice a year.
African violets grow like a fountain – new growth is always coming up from the middle, and you should be pruning off older leaves towards the bottom regularly.
As this routine care takes place, the violet will develop more and more of a stalk growing up out of the potting mix. This is not good. By repotting twice a year, you can trim the base of the root ball and replant the African violet, so the very bottom row of leaves is once again sitting on top of the soil.
This leads us to secret number four…
4. It’s too heavy!
African violets do not like heavy soil on their roots. In fact, they don’t like soil at all. They prefer a very loose, quickly draining potting mix. Secret number four is to skip the soil. And while you’re at it, you might even want to skip the specialized African violet potting mix if it has soil in it.
Read the ingredients of the bag.
A good potting mixture for African violets will be made up of 30-50% perlite and vermiculite, and the bulk of it should be either peat moss or coconut coir.
If the bag of potting mix feels heavy, has topsoil in it, or looks very dark, skip it. I use Hoffman’s African violet potting mix; it’s super light, drains fast, and it’s soilless. (My only complaint is that it uses peat moss, so I’m on the lookout for a mix that uses coconut coir instead.) If you want to learn more about the problems with peat moss, click here.
Related Reading: How to Propagate African Violets – Easy as 1-2-3
5. When It Comes to Pot Size, Remember Goldilocks
While we’re on the subject of repotting African violets, let’s talk about the pot size. African violets will not bloom unless they are a tad rootbound. This is one plant where you will never pot up.
Yup, that’s right.
Secret number five is four inches. Hmm, maybe I should have made this secret number four. Oh well. Yes, when it comes to African violets, you will repot them in the same size pot every time, and for standard AVs, that’s a four-inch diameter pot.
For miniatures, size is even more important, and they should be kept in the teensy 2.5” pot they come in from the nursery.
If you recall from secret number four, we trim the bottom of the root ball a little bit each time we repot, so the bottom row of leaves touches the soil again. You’re trimming everything, so it fits in the same pot. And this equals a happy, blooming plant.
6. Get Specific With Your Humidity
African violets are just like you and me. We prefer temperatures between 65-75 degrees F, and dry air makes us uncomfortable. The same applies to your violet friend. While temperature is generally easy enough to control, getting the humidity right can be tough.
In the winter, keeping moisture in the air can feel impossible. Our homes can plummet to around 20% or less humidity during the colder months when we’re heating our homes. Even if you have a whole-house humidifier, keeping your entire home around 50% humidity is tough to do.
So, don’t. Keep your plant around 50% humidity.
Secret number six is that sometimes the easiest solution is the best. While you can purchase small humidifiers to place around your plants, I’ve found that the tried-and-true practice of using pebble trays is much more effective. Give each violet its own tray, and you are creating a little misty oasis in the midst of your dry home just for that plant.
7. Can I Get a Do-Over?
If you’re reading all of this and thinking, “Crap, I’ve done everything wrong. Now what do I do?” Guess what? You’re going to love secret number seven – you can start over.
As long as your African violet is still alive, you can start over and bring it back to health so it will bloom.
Now you know what you’ve been doing wrong, so fix it. Grab the right soil and the right size pot. Get your plant a grow light and a pebble tray. Trim the roots, repot it and get your plant back on track for gorgeous blooms.
Sometimes a reset is exactly what your plant needs. And lucky for you, now you know what to do. You’re only a few easy steps away from remembering what color that one African violet’s flowers are.