The African violet is an easy-to-grow flowering houseplant.

What Makes an African Violet Leggy?

by Ruth Amick

The African violet (Saintpaulia spp.) is a flowering houseplant suitable for both beginning, and seasoned gardeners. It is easy to grow and compact, and can adapt to many indoor growing conditions without much trouble. Your African violet may become leggy, but with good, basic care you can fix or even avoid this problem. Grown outdoors, African violet is hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zone 11.

1. Light And The Leggy African Violet

Low light intensity can cause your African violet to grow leaves that are thin with long stems that appear to be desperately reaching for the light. Place your plant in bright, indirect sunlight, or use fluorescent bulbs or grow lights if your home doesn't receive enough natural light. For optimum growth and flowering, make sure to expose your African violet to natural light 8 to 12 hours per day. If using artificial lighting, it can sit for up to 16 hours. In either case, it is important to allow your plant to rest in darkness for eight hours per day.

2. Legginess And General Neglect

If your African violet is alive, but has been basically ignored other than an occasional watering, it may become leggy. To avoid this problem, rotate your African violet 1/4 inch about once a week, or each time you water, making sure it is getting even exposure to its light source. Trim dying or dead leaves and flowers regularly; this will keep a long, bare stem from developing. Repot your African violet about every six months. If your plant is suffering from neglect, you can restart it instead of throwing it out, according to The Violet Barn.

3. About The African Violet

Many cultivars of the African violet exist, coming in sizes from a few inches in diameter to more than 16 inches. Its flowers come in shapes such as fringed, ruffled, double, semi-double or even star-shaped. Blooms may be found in shades of purple, blue, white, red or pink. Some varieties have bi-colored or multi-colored flowers. Leaves of the different cultivars range from variegated, ruffled, scalloped and quilted.

4. Additional Care Needs

Your African violet prefers night temperatures between 65 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit, but will tolerate a few degrees lower or higher. During hot weather, place it in the coolest area of your home; too much heat may reduce its growth and flowering ability. The African violet enjoys high humidity. Place your plant on a waterproof saucer filled with small pebbles and water, making sure the pot is sitting on top of the pebbles. Consistent, direct contact with water can damage its roots. A pot with drain holes and slightly acidic, well-draining African violet soil mix with a pH of about 6.0 to 6.5 are best for this plant. Water when the soil's surface feels dry, but don't allow your soil to dry out completely. If using a clay pot, water will evaporate more quickly. Use water at room temperature or slightly warmer; coming in contact with water that is too cold may cause yellow spots or streaks on the surface of your leaves. Purchase an African violet fertilizer mix, and apply according to directions each time you water.

About the Author

Ruth Amick entered the world of publishing in 1987 as an editorial assistant at "Cycle Magazine." She was also editorial assistant at CurtCo Publishing for "Audio/Video Interiors Magazine" and "CarAudio Magazine." She wrote a senior home health care newsletter for 10 years and enjoys writing on pet and livestock care, health, antiques, travel, gardening and relationship issues.

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