African Violets are stunners when they bloom. The leaves are still pretty but it is a disappointment to only grow foliage when you ought to be seeing the plant bursting with color.
Even worse is when buds form then fail to open. One morning, excitement, a week later, bitter disappointment.
Genetics do play a role. Some will be proficient bloomers; others may produce less flowers. All will bloom at some point though, unless there is something amiss with their growing environment.
Care for African Violets indoors is like anything else. Easy when you know how. These are not a plant you can wing it with and expect blooms to come and go consistently.
With the right African Violet care though, they really can bloom year-round. Yours may just be in need of a little tweak to nudge it along to produce buds, then garner the energy to make it bloom – without going nuts on fertilizer. Easy does it with these plants.
7 Reasons Why African Violets Won’t Bloom
1 – Not Enough Full Spectrum Light
African Violets can bloom year-round, but very rarely will they be able to do that based on natural light alone. Sunlight is how they get the energy to bloom and given the frequency of flowering, they expend a lot of energy. With that in mind, they need to be able to recuperate that energy.
Sunlight is where they get most of their energy from. To get enough to promote flowering, they need between 12 hours and 16 hours of sunlight per day.
Many areas do not have that many hours of sunlight daily. When that is the case, to meet the light requirements, they will require supplemental lighting. A regular light bulb will not cut it because the light needs to be full spectrum.
For LED lights to help an African Violet bloom, they need to be full spectrum.
That means that they must be able to produce Ultraviolet light, which is under 400 nanometers, and have some far-red light, which is between 750 and 850 nanometers.
Alongside that, the visible light spectrum of blue, red, and green light that falls between 400 and 700 nanometers will still be required. If you have tried supplementing light with LED lights to grow plants without success, it is likely the wrong type of light that is being emitted.
Switch to full spectrum grow bulbs and place it about 12-inches above the plant.
2 – Improper Irrigation
Watering African Violets takes precision and a lot of care. You need to know the quality of the water, and only be irrigating the soil enough to keep it moist without ever letting it get too wet or completely drying out. That is when problems can set in and fast.
Addressing the Water Quality Issue
Tap water is treated and can contain impurities, such as chloramines, and it is rarely within the pH range that African Violets prefer. Slightly acidic.
The quality of the water can be improved by leaving it out for at least 24 hours before watering to let contaminates evaporate. However, more beneficial for feeding African Violets is to prepare your water in advance with fertilizer so that it gets quality water and a quality feed at constant levels.
When feeding regularly, it is important to lower the dosage of fertilizers. The important part for the water is that it is free from contaminates and has a pH of 6.7 to 7.0.
The Simplest Watering Technique Is Top or Bottom Watering
Before watering African Violets, poke your finger into the potting mix to make sure it needs a drink. It should be dry to the touch at the top, but slightly moist further down.
A wooden stick is ideal for testing soil moisture because wet soil sticks to the wood, dry soil doesn’t. It will let you see the depth of dry soil, which you can then use an indication of how much water to add.
To add the water, bottom watering is more beneficial as the plant will absorb what it needs, rather than having the water forced through the soil.
All you need to do is place the pot in a saucer with 1 to 2 inches of water and leave it there for up to 20-minutes, checking on the soil after 10-minutes. Remove the pot from the water when the top soil feels moist.
The other method is top watering, but despite it being easy, care needs to be taken to avoid direct contact with the leaves. Splashing water onto the leaves can cause yellow or brown spots to appear. They don’t harm the plant, but they do ruin its appearance.
The important part with top watering is adding only a little water, then rotating the plant so that it is evenly watered.
Wick Watering Systems
Wick watering is a handy method to make sure your plants are watered when you’re away on vacation, or if you frequently forget to water your plants.
The wick system lets the plant draw moisture when it needs it. The caveat is that you absolutely need to have the correct pot size and a really porous potting mix or the roots can rot from too much water. Root rot is likely to lead to an African Violet dying if revival techniques aren’t used fast.
Humidity also plays a role because the more humid it is, the more the leaves will transpire. What you don’t want to happen is the plant to be releasing more water than it is able to absorb.
The result will be underwatering, which is easily identified with drooping leaves on an African Violet. When lacking hydration, the plant will not be able to bloom.
For a wick system to be effective, use a 6-inch piece of synthetic material such as cord, acrylic or nylon yarn, then use a screwdriver or pencil to poke the wicking material up through the drainage holes into the potting mix.
Place the pot on a stand above a saucer of water and leave the wicks sitting in the water.
3 – Oversized Plant Pot
African Violets like their roots to be slightly pot-bound. When placed in a pot that is too big, it will prevent an African Violet from flowering. In a pot that is too small, it will not grow at all.
As a guideline, standard African Violets should be in a pot with a maximum diameter of 4-inches. African Violets will not bloom in a pot that is larger than 4-inches in diameter.
It is not uncommon to plant more than the one African Violet in a large pot, such as a few plants in a 10-inch pot, or even a planter by the window.
If you are planting multiple plants together, it is best to keep each plant in a single container and then arrange those inside a pot. Use decorative pebbles or any material to raise the surface level.
What not to do is fill a large container with potting mix then plant multiple African Violets in it. There will be far too much soil leading to moisture problems.
The roots on an African Violet spread. They don’t grow down into the soil. For that reason, wide and shallow pots are better than ones with more depth.
4 – Low Humidity
When humidity levels are below 50%, African Violets will not bloom. They need to have a constant humidity level above 50%. They are tropical plants after all.
In their natural habitat, they are used to humidity in the region of 70% to 80%. They do not need humidity levels that high though.
Low humidity is not a danger, but it will impact the plants ability to form buds, or if it does produce buds, they may fail to open.
The energy will be expended on replenishing the leaves with water from the roots. It will prioritize getting water to the leaves because those are needed for photosynthesis, which keeps the plant alive.
Only when the plant is healthy will it produce buds and use energy for blooming. If it is in survival mode, that is what it will do. Stay alive. It will not bloom.
The simplest way to raise the humidity level above 50% is to group a few tropical plants together. There are more flowers to grow indoors in the winter than Violets. Create a collection and let the increase in humidity bring more color to your home.
Even large-leaved plants that favor high humidity will help raise local humidity around a collection of plants just through the natural transpiration process.
Dry air indoors is more problematic in the winter months. If you want African Violets flowering year-round, a small humidifier may be the only solution.
Keep in mind that the room temperature goes hand-in-glove with humidity.
While it is important to keep humidity levels above 50%, just as important is maintaining temperatures between 65oF (18oC) and 80oF (26oC). In winter months, that may mean you have to move the plant away from spots that are prone to cold drafts.
5 – Inconsistent Fertilizing
For African Violets to continually rebloom, they need a consistent supply of fertilizer. A suitable fertilizer to feed African Violets regularly with is 14-12-14 fertilizer.
These are generally all-rounders but they are tweaked slightly for African Violets because they bloom better when fertilized consistently, as in, every time you water it.
The usual recommendation is to dilute to a quarter strength for bi-weekly feeding. Given that African Violets tend to be watered once weekly, it’s beneficial to dilute the fertilizer further to just 1/8th of a teaspoon per gallon of water for a weekly feed.
6 – Repotting May Be Required
African Violets need to be repotted more frequently than most houseplants. The reason being because they are regularly fertilized to encourage blooming, but after a while, the nutrients will not be the same.
There are a lot of chemical changes that occur in potting mixes when fertilizer is used. Generally, you will find that leaves on the plant look limp, and weak when it needs to be repotted with a fresh mix.
As a guideline, the minimum frequency for repotting a standard sized African Violet, which is a 4-inch container is every year. For consistent blooms, aim to increase that to every 6-months.
After six months, the plant can begin to struggle to produce buds due to the lack of nutrients. When you repot with a fresh potting mix, it replenishes the nutrients that the plant can access.
For smaller varieties such as Dwarf African Violets in pots smaller than 3-inches in diameter, they may require repotting as frequently as every few months. The smaller the plant pot, the faster the chemical changes happen in the soil, and the more impactful those changes are on the plant.
7 – Suckers Are Crowding the Plant
African Violets produce pups which can be propagated to make new plants. When left on the plant, they are referred to as suckers because they suck the energy from the plant to continually grow.
An African Violet that is expending its energy on foliage growth will lack the energy needed to bloom. Furthermore, they can grow above the crown leaving buds languishing in the shade.
When leaves overcrowd the crown on an African Violet causing it to be in the shade consistently, it will prevent blooming.
To spot them, you need to remove the plant from its pot, and rub the soil off the roots.
Removing the suckers is straightforward as they just snap off. What to be careful of is that you don’t just snap a sucker off and leave a stub in the soil. The entire sucker needs to be removed. That is easier done when the soil is rubbed off of the roots to expose the roots and stems.
Once suckers have been removed, good practice to prevent overcrowding is to remove two to three leaves each month from the base of the plant. The extra space created helps remaining leaves grow bigger, which in turn helps it capture more energy.
Another assist that helps African Violets to bloom is removing spent flowers early, just as the colors are fading.
It generally takes 6 to 8 weeks for buds to form and bloom. By spacing out the time between pruning near-spent flowers, you can keep an African Violet in bloom for longer, just with fewer flowers, but more likely to have bigger blooms since they will not be crowded.
Growing up with a mom who filled her home (inside and out) with all sorts of plants, Lisa got her start in gardening at a young age. Living now on her own with a home and yard full of plants (including an indoor greenhouse), she shares all the gardening tips she’s gained over the years.