It is difficult to find any other house plant that has as much to offer as the African voilet. Its foliage is attractive, it produces flowers almost year round and it is available in a variety of sizes. Growing doesn't require constant fussing and you don't need great skill or a lot of experience to have great success at all. With little care, the plants will thrive. If you have never grown African violets, a few guides to their general culture will be helpful. Soon you will develop methods of care that you find more beneficial for your plants in the environment that you grow them.
Containers: Either clay (glazed or unglazed) or plastic pots can be used, if you use plastic or glazed pots, be certain to avoid over watering. Violets need to be moist, but the soil should never be soggy. When using unglazed pots, make a collar of aluminum foil around the edge of the pot. This will prevent burning of the leaf stalks, because unglazed pots absorb and accumulate harmful salts.
Temperature; A constant room temperature of 65 to 75 degrees is best, they may lose blooms if the temperature varies more than 12 degrees. During the months when your furnace is in use, provide additional humidity by setting small bowls of water near the plants, or place the plants in shallow trays filled with small pebbles and water. The pots shouldn't sit in water, so keep the level just below the top of the stones.
Light; African violets need 12 to 15 hours of diffused light daily; direct sunlight will burn the foliage. If you aren't able to provide good natural light, you can supplement daylight with table lamps or fluorescent lights.
Water; More troubles are caused by overwatering than by underwatering. Water only when the surface of the soil feels dry. You'll find that glazed or plastic pots hold the moisture longer than do clay ones.
Fertilizing; It is best to use liquid or dry commercial plant food made especially for African violets. Some people will tell you to start feeding plants a weak solution of water soluble fertilizer (about 1/4-teaspoon to 2 quarts water) as soon as they show new growth, others will say to wait until plants have finished their first blooming period, whichever method you use, don't fertilize more than every two weeks, and never when the soil is dry. Its best to water at least 2 or 3 hours before you apply any fertilizer. Two other jobs that require regular attention might be worked in with your fertilizing schedule so you don't over look them. First of the month, fertilize, second of the month, remove suckers, third of the month spray for pests and diseases. There are many sprays on the market that are effective for contolling pests. When using either sprays or fertilizers, be sure to follow the manufacturer's direction.
Potting and repotting; When plants are large enough to repot, plant each one in a separate pot. It is best to use new pots, because old ones must be sterilized and use new soil as well, it will save you from having to sterilize it too.
Propagation; You can root leaf cuttings in water or plant them directly into the potting medium. If you have several leaves, you may want to try both methods to see which one works best for you. Either way, the first step is to cut off all but 1-1/2-inches of the leaf stalk using a sharp knife or razor blade. Let the cut end heal for two or three hours before burying it in the rooting medium. If you are using water, submerge 1-inch of the leaf stalk in a shallow dish containing about 2-inches of water and several pieces of charcoal on the bottom. To hold the leaves in place, put a piece of aluminum foil over the container and poke a hole through it for each leaf stem. Transfer leaves to rooting medium when the roots are 1/4 to 1/2 inch long. Insert the rooted cutting or leaf stalk in the soil to a depth of 3/4-inch. Place in a warm spot with good light and keep moist, as the cuttings begin to root, each leaf will develop a cluster of small plants. When they are about 1-1/2 to 2 inches high it is time to transplant to pots. I can't tell how long it will take the cuttings to reach this stage. It could take three weeks, six weeks or even longer, depending on the variety and the environment in which it is grown. Under ideal conditions, you could very well have a blooming plant from a leaf cutting in about six months.