Many plants are grown for their foliage. Not so the African violet. Although without a single bud or blossom it is a beautiful pot plant, flowers are the reward everyone seeks and the owner of a non-blooming specimen suffers frustration. The essential aim of culture therefore is flowers.
If a mature plant does not bloom, it is because some element of its condition is unsatisfactory. When there is a proper concatenation of circumstances, African violets bloom madly and to some degree throughout the year. The proud possessor of such plants may have just happened upon the pleasing formula or they may have proceeded purposely, carefully checking each aspect of culture as it is known to please this sometimes apparently stubborn house plant.
Place in Winter
First there is the selection of a site, an ideal location, for the growth of flowering plants. Since the native habitat of the African violet is “in wooded places” and “in the primeval forest… in shady situations” it is obvious that this is no plant to grow in a flood of sunshine.
Indeed too much sunlight affects foliage adversely, turning it yellow, burning the margin of leaves, or causing malformation of leaf and flower. If only south windows are available, however, plants can be placed there with the brightness tempered by a curtain or a blind, the slats tilted upward during sunniest hours.
In fact, I have seen plants produce a fairly continuous procession of bloom in a small area where they were growing contentedly at every exposure. At light northern windows with no sunshine I have observed young plants of a rather slow-growing variety, produce beautifully over a period of many months and in April, I have counted on each one ten and eleven open blossoms and innumerable buds.
Generally speaking, saintpaulias (African Violets) flower well in any light situation or in any sunny place where the brightness is somewhat diffused. The stronger the light, the deeper the color tones and the greater the floriferousness, within the limits of safety, of course.
Light must also be tempered according to the season. A sunny eastern window without a curtain in January may suit your violets to a “T” but in April and September when daylight lasts longer and sunshine is stronger, a little shading is essential.
Place in Summer
Throughout the summer, indirect light suffices. Plants growing indoors from May to October flower freely in north windows which are kept open for long periods during each day. Or they may be set on a lightly shaded porch where pleasantly humid outdoor conditions increase their well-being and stimulate them to colorful performance. African violets are not house plants to be casually trusted to the open garden.
Although in their native habitat saintpaulia species endure driving rain, the varieties of today, which have known the comforts of civilization, are not so tolerant. They require shelter. In protected locations, however, and with plenty of watering during summer dry spells, they bloom magnificently if sunk rim-deep in a garden bed, like other house plants.
Other enthusiasts sometimes forced by holiday plans to try summer plunging are so pleased by the results, they continue the practice year after year even without the necessity. One collector writes:
“My outdoor success, however, may be largely due to the ideal spot we prepared around our pool. The first summer of my African violet “hobbying” we were faced with the vacation problem and there was little choice but to dig holes for the pots and trust that the elements and Mother Nature would be kind.
The location, now selected each summer, has a northwestern exposure. It is heavily shaded by huge old oak trees and an under brush of lacy ferns and other woodsy plant life. With the help of thorough soakings, which my good neighbor attends to during prolonged dry spells, my African violets invariably greet our return each August with a vivid carpet of blue.”
Where it is necessary to leave African violets for a time to their own devices, a shaded spot out of the wind is best hut some artificial watering is almost bound to be necessary for plunged plants. Of course it would be dangerous to depot them and plant them directly in a garden bed. By autumn, such plants would develop root systems which would be difficult to fit again into containers and repotting would necessitate much retarding root pruning, along with stress and shock.