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5 Ingredient African Violet Potting Mix for Your Biggest Blooms Yet

African violets have specific soil needs that can’t be met with all-purpose potting mix. Despite all the specialized African violet potting mixes there are, most still fall short. Over the years, I came up with my own mix that works beautifully.

I know my custom blend is key in growing African violets that bloom year-round.

Why All-Purpose Potting Mix isn’t All-Purpose

Potted African violet sitting in a container of potting media

All-purpose potting soil has revolutionized our ability to grow and keep all sorts of plants from potted tomatoes, to Christmas poinsettias, to houseplants. It was developed back in the 1960s by a team of horticulturalists at Cornell University.

However, the problem is that it isn’t really all-purpose, at least not where houseplants are concerned.

The majority of houseplants we’ve cultivated are tropical epiphytes and lithophytes.

These types of plants grow symbiotically up another plant, usually trees, or a rock. You’ll find many are both epiphytic and lithophilic in the wild, happily growing wherever they gain a foothold. Or roothold, in this case.

Christmas cactus, monstera, philodendrons, orchids and African violets are just a few epiphytic plants.

Epiphytic plant roots aren’t naturally shallow root systems, designed to cling to the rough surfaces of trees or rocks, as well as take in water and nutrients. In the wild, the roots grow in little to no soil, but rather the organic matter that gets caught in them.  

Strictly speaking, these types of plants don’t need to be grown in soil at all.

Many can be trained to grow on a piece of wood. But that’s an article for another day.

When you put these same plants in all-purpose potting mix, the weight of the it compresses the roots over time, making it hard for them to move water, nutrients and air effectively.

Another common issue is too much moisture. All-purpose potting soil holds too much moisture for African violets. They don’t tolerate wet feet and easily succumb to root rot.

So, What Do African Violets Need?

Close up of African violet potting mix.

African violets need a featherweight potting mix that drains quickly while holding a bit of moisture. The soil needs to remain light, even when wet. African violets also prefer slightly acidic soil, between 5.5 and 6.2.

I’ve chosen the components for my African violet potting mix based on those needs, and you can easily find them at your local garden center or big box home improvement store.



Perlite – Nope, it’s not Styrofoam, despite how it looks. It’s incredibly lightweight volcanic glass that’s been superheated with water – suddenly, poof, you’ve got perlite. (Think popcorn, only with obsidian.) It holds water and nutrients and creates air pockets.


Vermiculite – Vermiculite is similar to perlite and serves the same purpose. However, it’s created with crystals containing biotite, rather than volcanic glass.  

Woman's hand holding coconut coir

Coconut coir – (ground coconut husks) I used to use sphagnum peat moss as my organic matter, but with the ecological issues surrounding it’s harvest, I couldn’t, in good conscience, continue to use it. So, I switched to coconut coir. Coconut coir is less acidic than peat moss so we have to add something acidic.

Fir bark chunks

Fir bark – Fir bark is a common ingredient in commercial epiphyte mixes, especially for orchids. I use fir bark in my potting mix for several reasons: it slowly releases moisture to the plant, it’s acidic, and it gives the roots something to cling to in this fluffy, light mix.  

worm castings

Worm castings – I add worm castings to all of my custom potting mixes, they provide soil structure and slow-release nutrients.


  • A bucket to pre-wet your coconut coir
  • 1-cup measuring cup
  • Gloves to avoid dirty hands
  • A container to mix and store your African violet potting mix in
  • A facemask or handkerchief (Perlite is quite dusty.)
  • Warm water
  • Liquid dish detergent

Let’s Mix Up Some African Violet Potting Mix

Potting mix ingredients sitting on a balcony

Prewet the Coco Coir

This is the messy part. Use warm water (no hotter than 100F) and the process will go faster. All told, it takes about 10-15 minutes.

Place your brick in the bucket. Mix a few drops of detergent into the water and slowly pour it over the brick. Coconut coir can be hydrophobic at first. The detergent breaks the surface tension of the water allowing the coconut coir to absorb the water. Depending on the size of your brick, you’ll need about four quarts of water. Let sit for 10-15 minutes.

Woman's hand pouring water over coco coir brick

In the container you plan on storing your potting mix in, add the following.

  • 4 cups of coconut coir
  • 5 cups of perlite
  • 3 cups of fir bark
  • 1 cup of vermiculite
  • 1 cup of worm castings

Mix well and cover with a lid to keep in moisture. It’s easy to mix up a larger batch using the 4:5:3:1:1 ratio.

Overhead view of African violet potting mix ingredients in a container, unmixed

And don’t forget to repot your African violets twice a year. I usually mix up enough potting mix to do all of my violets at once when I repot them. If you have a violet with a long neck, I have provided detailed information on how to restart a violet and shorten the neck.

With this potting mix, I water my violets deeply, letting them drain completely (tip out any water left in the drip tray), and then let them dry out almost completely between waterings.

With good care and happy roots, your African violet can easily put out blooms continuously.

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Tracey Besemer

Hey there, my name is Tracey. I’m the editor-in-chief here at Rural Sprout.

Many of our readers already know me from our popular Sunday newsletters. (You are signed up for our newsletters, right?) Each Sunday, I send a friendly missive from my neck of the woods in Pennsylvania. It’s a bit like sitting on the front porch with a friend, discussing our gardens over a cup of tea.

Originally from upstate NY, I’m now an honorary Pennsylvanian, having lived here for the past 18 years.

I grew up spending weekends on my dad’s off-the-grid homestead, where I spent much of my childhood roaming the woods and getting my hands dirty.

I learned how to do things most little kids haven’t done in over a century.

Whether it was pressing apples in the fall for homemade cider, trudging through the early spring snows of upstate NY to tap trees for maple syrup, or canning everything that grew in the garden in the summer - there were always new adventures with each season.

As an adult, I continue to draw on the skills I learned as a kid. I love my Wi-Fi and knowing pizza is only a phone call away. And I’m okay with never revisiting the adventure that is using an outhouse in the middle of January.

These days, I tend to be almost a homesteader.

I take an eclectic approach to homesteading, utilizing modern convenience where I want and choosing the rustic ways of my childhood as they suit me.

I’m a firm believer in self-sufficiency, no matter where you live, and the power and pride that comes from doing something for yourself.

I’ve always had a garden, even when the only space available was the roof of my apartment building. I’ve been knitting since age seven, and I spin and dye my own wool as well. If you can ferment it, it’s probably in my pantry or on my kitchen counter. And I can’t go more than a few days without a trip into the woods looking for mushrooms, edible plants, or the sound of the wind in the trees.

You can follow my personal (crazy) homesteading adventures on Almost a Homesteader and Instagram as @aahomesteader.

Peace, love, and dirt under your nails,