How and when to fertilize african violets
African violets are small plants, which do not usually exceed 15 cm in height and 30 cm in width, characterized by their abundant flowering which can be of various colors such as violet, white, light blue and violet. This amazing little houseplant is native to tropical Africa, but you can find it almost everywhere in the world today. If you want to enjoy its flowering to the fullest, you should know how to make a correct use of fertilizer for African violets, and we will talk about that in depth in this article.
There are several points in favor that it has become one of the most popular indoor plants, and one of them is the large number of years it can last producing flowers. You will be surprised when I tell you that with the necessary care you can live up to 50 years. How many flowering plants can boast of such a virtue? I think very few. So read this post carefully and take advantage of your African violet.
Table of Contents
1. Growing African Violets
We have just said that this little plant can live up to 50 years, but it will not do so if we do not give it the care it needs. Although it is not too delicate there are some points that you should know if you want your African violets to grow healthy, strong and beautiful.
- Lighting: during the spring and summer months they need several hours of light a day. It should not be direct sunlight, but the environment should have good lighting. If you stain it indoors, place your planter near a window. In winter it does not need so much light.
- Temperature: prefers temperate climates to grow properly. An ideal range is between 17 and 21 ° C. They are not very resistant to cold, temperatures below 10 ° C begin to damage it. You must also be careful that it does not suffer sudden changes in temperature (do not place it near heaters or air conditioners).
- Irrigation: the best way to water this plant is by taking advantage of the capillarity. That is, place the pot in a container with water and let the water rise by capillarity. Don’t wait until the soil has dried before watering, do it regularly.
- Multiplication: if what you want is to make more plants with yours, the best way is through cuttings. Although there is also the possibility of harvesting the seeds and sowing them, it is a slower process but it works.
- Pests: There is no special pest of African violets. Rather, it is attacked by the common pests of most indoor plants (aphids, mealybugs, fungi, thrips, etc.).
- Fertilization: Depending on the source of information you take, you may find gardeners who recommend more or less fertilization. In the next sections we will study this topic in depth.
2. Most important nutrients for African Violets
There are many nutrients that a plant needs to develop properly. I can mention the sixteen nutrients that are considered the most important; carbon (C), oxygen (O), hydrogen (H), nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), potassium (K), calcium (Ca), magnesium (Mg), sulfur (S), iron (Fe). ), manganese (Mn), zinc (Zn), copper (Cu), boron (B), molybdenum (Mo) and chlorine (Cl).
But if we are going to talk about fertilizing your African violets, it would be very complex to have to know the proportions you need of each of these 16 nutrients. Thank goodness we can summarize your nutrient needs in three essential elements, which are nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. If you know anything about fertilization, you have surely heard a lot about these three nutrients. Since they are the ones that define the NPK values of a fertilizer.
2.1 What are NPK values?
And what are NPK values? They are the ones who define what is the concentration of the three main nutrients that a fertilizer has. What each number represents is the weight percentage of each nutrient over the total weight.
For example, if you bought a 10 kg bag of fertilizer whose NPK values are 15-25-10, you have 1.50 kg of nitrogen, 2.50 kg of phosphorus, and 1.0 kg of potassium.
In case you do not know what is the contribution and importance of these three nutrients, I leave you a brief summary below:
- Nitrogen (N): favors the growth of the aerial part of vegetables (leaves, stems). It is, in part, responsible for the green color of plants and confers resistance to pests.
- Phosphorus (P): it is very important in the ripening of flowers, seeds and fruits. It participates in the formation and development of roots and has an important role in resistance to drought.
- Potassium (K): it is decisive in the development of the whole plant, it allows the roots and stems to be strong and the seeds, fruits and leaves, large. It provides resistance to pests and diseases, helps the circulation of other nutrients around the plant, and regulates the functions of the plant.
If you have already understood what NPK values are, you can now move on to the next section, where we will see what kind of fertilizers are best for your African violets. 😉
If you are reading this post, you will probably be interested in learning about fertilizing these other plants.
3. Best fertilizer for African violets
When running a fertilizer program for your African violets, you should start by wondering if you want to use commercial fertilizers or if you want to use homemade fertilizers. While the former generally give more noticeable results, the latter are a more natural and safer solution, being difficult to kill a plant by overdosing.
Whether you want to use commercial fertilizers, homemade fertilizers, or both with a mixed fertilizer schedule, the following are the best fertilizers to use.
3.1 Homemade fertilizer
There are many homemade solutions that we can use to fertilize the plants that we have at home. The following are best suited for African violets.
- Compost: if we talk about homemade fertilizers, compost can never be lacking. And it is that not only does it help us to fertilize plants naturally but it also allows us to recycle organic waste from home. Place organic leftovers like fruit and vegetable peels, egg shells, coffee grounds, etc. in a container and leave them to ferment. Once well fermented you can apply them on your plants.
- Compost tea: using compost directly on your indoor plants can sometimes be impractical, to solve this we can make a compost tea. Soak a compost-filled burlap bag in water for 20 days. After that time the water will have turned yellow, if this color is too dark before applying it to your plants, dilute it with water.
- Coffee grounds: you can take the remains of your coffee and apply it to your plants as compost. Do not apply them directly, first let them dry for a couple of days in the sun’s rays.
- Milk-based fertilizer: make a solution of milk and water in 50/50 proportions. This solution can be applied at the base of your plant and will provide you with good amounts of calcium. Don’t go overboard with this fertilizer as it can bring viruses and bacteria of little benefit to your African violets.
3.2 Commercial fertilizer
If you want to buy a commercial fertilizer, you should look for a fertilizer with the nutrient ratios that African violets need. We have already seen that only NPK values, so you will understand me when I tell you that what you should buy is a 14-12-14 fertilizer, this mixture works more than well and using it correctly will give you the best flowers.
It is very common to apply balanced fertilizers (that is, the same concentration of the main nutrients), example of these fertilizers are 20-20-20 or 18-18-18. Also in times of flowering, fertilizers can be applied to make it better and more abundant, for this a 15-30-15 mixture gives very good results.
Many brands also prepare fertilizers made specifically for African violets, obviously this is also a very good option. You can find both granular and liquid formats, although these seconds are usually the most sought after for indoor plants.
4. When to fertilize african violets
The African violet is a plant that if we take care of it correctly will not stop its flower production at any time. Therefore answering the question about when to fertilize African violets is straightforward, since we can fertilize throughout the year.
If you grow these plants outdoors and the winters are cold enough, there will be no flowering. In these cases, fertilization should be done only in the warm months (spring and summer), and it is not advisable to fertilize during winter.
4.1 How often to fertilize african violets
There are two possible ways to go when putting together a fertilization plan for African violets, applying fertilizer with each watering or doing it with longer intervals.
In general, the most practical thing is to pay every time we water. In that case you must dilute the fertilizer in water in a mixture of 1/4.
If you prefer the other option, that is, you will not fertilize with each watering, the fertilization interval is usually between 4 and 6 weeks. In that case, we recommend that you follow the instructions for the fertilizer you have purchased.
5. How to fertilize african violets
There are many ways to fertilize your African violets, I will recommend one here, but that does not mean that other fertilization plans will not work. You can apply balanced fertilizers (ex: 20-20-20 or 18-18-18) throughout the year. Then, in spring, when we expect the best flowering, we can switch to a fertilizer with a higher amount of phosphorus (ex: 15-30-15) that ensures better flowering.
You can apply balanced fertilizers (ex: 20-20-20 or 18-18-18) throughout the year. Then, in spring, when we expect the best flowering, we can switch to a fertilizer with a higher amount of phosphorus (ex: 15-30-15) that ensures better flowering.
On the other hand, if you are one of those who like to use organic fertilizers, I recommend interspersing with the use of commercial fertilizers. In other words, every two or three applications of commercial fertilizer can be made an application of homemade fertilizer (it is very practical to apply fertilizers such as compost tea with irrigation).
Another tip that you should always keep in mind is that you should never fertilize one of these plants with dry soil. Doing so and not accompanying it with irrigation runs the risk of burning the roots of the plant due to excess nutrients.
You should always read the fertilizer instructions for use very carefully. And when in doubt, it is better to use a lower dose than recommended, since it is easier to solve problems due to nutrient deficiencies than to excess of them.
When winter comes, and especially if the plant grows in natural light, you should reduce the amount of fertilizer you are applying. It can be 50% with respect to the spring dose. And as we already said, if where you grow it, for climatic reasons it does not bloom in winter, you should not fertilize.
5.1 Can you use orchid fertilizer on african violets?
A question that arises a lot when it comes to fertilizing African violets is whether they can be fertilized with special fertilizers for orchids. Given the popularity of this query, I decided to answer that question in this short section.
African violets and orchids thrive in similar environments, so we can use orchid fertilizer on our African violets and there will be no problem.
6. Fertilizing African Violet (houseplant fertilizer)
To finish the post we have selected a video from the The Dirty Gardener channel. This will help you learn how to apply fertilizers to african violets. As a picture is worth a thousand words, I have no doubt that it will be very good for you to see it. 😉
- African Violets – missouribotanicalgarden.org
- Growing African Violets – ecommons.cornell.edu
- African Violet Care – Purdue University