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How to Propagate African Violets – Easy as 1-2-3

Windowsill with several African violets and kalanchoe plants on it.
There’s room up here for a few more…

African violets are problematic for me. I do just fine keeping them alive, and I’ve even figured out how to keep them blooming more often than not. Keeping the leaves clean and dust-free – Oh, I’ve got my own secret weapon for that.

(Check it out here – 7 Things Everyone With An African Violet Should Know)

The problem is they’re just so darn cute! And with all the cheerful colors and varieties they come in, I’m always finding another one that I have to have.

Close up blooms of an African violet hybrid, pale pink and green with ruffled leaves.

It’s a good thing they stay small and compact.

To rationalize this love affair, I have a habit of propagating my violets and passing them off on friends and family. I’m doing this for you, not me.

Lucky for all of us, propagating African violets is incredibly easy.

You Can Propagate African Violets 3 Different Ways

You’ve got options when it comes to making more of these charming plants for free.

African violets can be propagated by leaf cuttings in water, a leaf cutting in soil, or finally, you can remove a pup from the stalk and root it.

I’ll provide step-by-step instructions for all three methods.

If you’ve read our great article 7 Things Everyone With An African Violet Should Know, then you already know you should be removing the lowest growing leaves from your African violets regularly. Doing this keeps the plant’s energy where it’s needed most – at the crown, making new leaves and buds.

Rather than pitching those extra leaves, you can easily propagate them and have new plants to give away. Both water and soil propagation use leaf cuttings.

Taking a Leaf Cutting

I know you hear it every time you read an article about propagation, but it bears repeating – always use clean and sterilized tools when you’re cutting a plant. All it takes is the loss of one of your favorite plants to learn that lesson the hard way.

For the best chance of success, you’ll need to trim the stem at a 45-degree angle to increase the surface area for roots to grow. If you plan on propagating directly in the soil, cut the leaf stem to about 1”.

If you’re removing low-growing leaves from the stalk, don’t worry about making a clean cut directly from the plant. Simply recut the stem of the leaf once it’s been removed.

Now that we’ve got a few leaf cuttings, we’re ready to go.

1. Water Propagation

To propagate an African violet in water, place the trimmed leaf cutting (or several) stem down in a small cup of water. Propagation stations with thin glass tubes are perfect for African violets, as the larger leaves sit at the top of the tube.

Propagation station with thin tubes and African violet leaf cuttings propagating.

If you want something a little nicer than a bunch of thrift store shot glasses sitting on your windowsill, check some of these out-

13 Plant Propagation Stations To Grow New Plants In Style

Place your leaf cutting somewhere bright and warm. You’ll need to change the water weekly to prevent bacteria or other funky stuff from growing.

Within a few weeks, tiny roots will begin growing from the bottom of the stem.

African violet leaf cutting with roots growing from the bottom.

Around the 4-6 week mark, a tiny new plant called a “plantlet” will grow off the parent leaf.

A tiny African violet plantlet growing from the soil.
They are so cute!

(They are ridiculously cute, you will ‘squee’ when you notice it.)

Once this wee new violet is about an inch big, you can transfer the whole thing to a pot. Use a good quality African violet potting soil, such as Espoma African Violet Potting Mix.

It’s important to create the right environment for the newly potted plantlet to survive. The soil should be quite moist but not water-logged, and the air around the plant needs to be kept humid.

2. Soil Propagation

A small hothouse for propagation made of two plant drip trays.

To propagate in soil, you need to create a moist and humid environment for your little cutting. A shallow dish of soil works best, especially something with a lid. Clean take-out containers that have clear lids work well. Or the next time you buy muffins at the store, save the clear plastic clamshell they come in. These containers are perfect for propagating new violets!

I also use the clear plastic drip trays you put under pots.

Same hothouse propagation set up under grow lights.
It’s not pretty, but it does the trick nicely.

Use two of the same size, putting a couple of inches of soil in the bottom of one and then flipping the second over and taping it to the soil-filled one to create a little greenhouse.

Again, you’ll want to use an African violet mix to start your cuttings.

Prepare your leaf cutting as instructed above and gently push the stem into the soil up to the bottom of the leaf.  

African violet leaf cuttings in peat pots.

You won’t be able to see the roots growing, but again, after about a month to a month and a half, you’ll notice tiny leaves poking up out of the soil. Let these new plantlets grow to about an inch, or until it has more than four leaves, then transplant to their permanent pot.

African violet leaf cuttings with plantlets growing.
Look at all the new babies.

3. Pup Propagation

An African violet put planted in a pot.

Like many plants, African violets will put out smaller versions of themselves. These pups, or suckers, will grow off the side of the stalk beneath the main crown. Using a clean and sterile knife, gently cut the pup off the main plant.

Plant the pup directly in soil, pushing the bottom cluster where the stems meet down into the dirt about a centimeter. Water the plant in and keep the soil moist but not soaking while developing roots.

A Few Tips

  • Keep the leaf of your violet cutting up out of the water by using a piece of plastic cling wrap. Put the cling wrap over the mouth of the water-filled container, poke a hole in the center with a chopstick and put your cutting in the hole.
Leaf cutting stuck through a layer of cling wrap over a jar of water.
  • When you repot the tiny plantlets, I recommend putting a sandwich baggie over the top of the pot for a month or so. This will create a little hothouse around the plant.
  • You can also begin fertilizing your plants once you repot them.
  • For water and soil propagation, once the plant is fully established and has around 8-10 new leaves, you can trim away the larger parent leaf.
  • If you want to force your cutting to put out roots quicker, trim the top half off of the leaf. This step isn’t necessary, but it forces more energy into rooting rather than maintaining a full-sized leaf.
Leaf cutting with top half of leaf trimmed off.
  • Be patient with new plants; it can take up to six months for new plantlets to bloom.

Share your new plants with family friends and swap leaf cuttings to add new leaf shapes and bloom colors to your own collection.

African violet with periwinkle blue blooms in a sunny window.

For more information on keeping African violets, check out:

African Violets: How To Care, Get More Blooms & Propagate

9 Houseplants That Are Ridiculously Easy to Propagate

How to Propagate Christmas Cactus + 2 Secrets To Big, Blooming Plants

6 Signs Your Houseplants Need To Be Repotted & How To Do It

Inch Plant Care & Propagation – The Perfect Houseplant

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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,