As the title goes, the African and Flame violet are cousins. They are both from the family called Gesnerlaceae, which not only includes these cousins but also the gloxinia. Both the violets are a wonderful and colorful addition to any indoor garden space by which you need to add texture and/or color. While violets have been known to be a challenge to grow and in actuality some gardeners avoid them, they are worth the effort and frankly with the growing directions below you will be wondering why more gardeners do not add these plants to their indoor plant collection.
Now in general terms, when we talk about these two plants you may wonder if their general look and use is the same. As you may noticed in the next section, the genus name for the African violet is the only one given. There is a reason for this and it begins with this plant’s popularity. Many people have taken an interest in this plant. This interest has caused an explosion in plant breeding that has created many different forms of African violets, way too many to list the species and cultivators. This includes those with variegated foliage, single flowers, double flowers, fringed flowers, and numerous color variations beyond purple blooms. On the other hand, the Flame violet, while just as beautiful has not had such research done on it, which makes the scientific name easier.
While your designer choices are unlimited when it comes to the African violet, the Flame violet’s visual addition to the indoor landscape comes from not only its flowers, which can be red but also yellow, pink, or orange. The edges of these flowers can be fringed with hidden secret deep in the center of the flower. What is it? A beautiful yellow eye that enhances the flower color that quickly ties the bloom color to the foliage, which consists of leaves with a green and copper background highlighted with veins of light green and silver. The two to three inch long leaves form a rosette that spills over the edge of the container into a trailing plant.
Now that you can see the pros and cons, if any, of the visual impact of each one of these violets let’s learn how to grow them.
How to Grow an African Violet (Saintpaulia)
One reason why some gardeners avoid trying their hand at cultivating this houseplant comes from the fact that they can be a bit picky on their growing requirements. First, African violets will not grow if they are not receiving the right light. For most homeowners this means they will need to be grown on the windowsill but in the summer, the sunlight needs to be controlled due to the fact that it is too intense. In doing so, a sheer will need to be put up to filter the harsh rays during the summer months. This is especially true during the noon hour.
To keep the growth even, make sure to turn the African violet ¼ turn every day. This allows the rosette of leaves to remain centered and growing straight.
Temperature is another environmental factor that this violet can be picky on. It likes a room kept between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. If the temperature goes below 50 degrees then the plant will die. On the other hand due to breeding, African violets can now thrive in environments that are around 90 degrees Fahrenheit as long as there is enough water available to the plant.
High humidity is another requirement and this can easily be taken care of by a humidity tray. Now, having said that though they also require spacing between plants, which means there should be enough space so that you can see between the plants. Due to the high humidity, spacing is very important so that the air can move around the plants and dry things up. On that same note, these plants also do not like to have their leaves wet. Getting this wet will cause a fungus problem and the death of the leaf or at least the part of the leaf that got wet.
When it comes to the planting medium there are soils specially designed for violets, which can be used but a good, all-purpose potting soil is just fine.
On this same line of thought, when it comes to the container, always air on the small and do not go any bigger than half the diameter of the plant. As an example, if the African violet is nine inches in diameter then choose a four inch pot.
Watering should only occur from the bottom. For this reason plus the drainage, you will always need to use a pot with drainage holes. When it comes to feeding your plant, make sure it is ¼ the strength and a balanced formulation.
Growing Flame Violet (Episcia cupreata)
The Flame violet has similar requirements but is a bit more flexible. It does require indirect sunlight. If your plant is not getting enough light it will tell you by not blooms. In doing so, if you find that your violet is not showcasing its blooms them move it closer to a window or to a new window but make sure the sunlight is indirect.
It also likes high humidity, which again can be addressed with a humidity tray. The soil can be a commercially made African violet soil or a DIY version made from equal parts of peat moss and an all-purpose potting soil.
Watering from the bottom is still a good idea when it comes to this violet but once a month a top watering is recommended using lukewarm water. The reason for this is the fact that watering from the top allows the soil to be flushed out to remove any excess fertilizer. Now that I mentioned fertilizer, you may wonder what you feed your flame violet. Well, it is best to feed it a balanced fertilizer such as a 10-10-10 at one-fourth the rate prescribed on the package.
When it comes to picking a container for your Flame violet, you can use a standard pot but to really allow this flowering plant to shine, plant it in a hanging basket. This will allow its trailing nature shine through.
Now that you have these gardening tips at hand as far as growing violets, they are not an intimidating as they first appeared. The true keys to the success comes from exposing them to the correct amount of sunlight, not letting their leaves get wet, feeding them correctly, and creating a humid environment by which they can thrive. The rest of the process the plants will take care of themselves.