Saintpaulia ionatha


African Violet

Evergreen, rosette-forming, herbaceous perennial to 10cm high by 25cm wide. The fleshy, hairy, scalloped, rounded leaves are up to 8cm long and are green on the upper side and usually red-green underneath. The flowers are 2-3cm wide and tubular with five petals, occurring on upright stems all year round. Thousands of varieties are available and feature flowers ranging from white to purple.


Ornamantal indoor plant suitable for a position near a well-lit window.


Originating from East Africa, Saintpaulia are usually grown as indoor plants. They prefer bright, but indirect light, stable temperatures and moderate humidity. For best results use specialist African Violet growing media that is sterile, fertile and well-drained. Propagate by seed in spring or from leaf cuttings in summer. Susceptible to two-spotted mite, mealy bugs, nematodes and powdery mildew.


Saintpaulias can be grown from leaf cuttings simply by retaining about 5cm or so of stem on each one.  Leaf cuttings can be taken during summer through to early autumn. They can also be grown from seeds. 

  • Sow the seeds in spring in trays or pots of equal parts by volume of peat (or coir), loam and sand. Once again, maintain temperatures at 18 to 21°C. 
  • Seedlings can be pricked out when large enough to handle without damaging them.
  • Place them in 6 to 10cm pots, and then once again pot them on when they outgrow their pots.      


There are many different ways of classifying African Violets that are in cultivation. The scientific system followed by most botanists and horticulturists is not fully aligned with how some of the specialist organisations classify them. The African Violet Society of America for example, developed a classification system that divided African Violets into species, subspecies and clones. At one stage botanists classified the genus into around 20 species, but many of those species have now been reclassified as sub species; reducing the species number to six. 

Saintpaulia are also classified according to size. There is more than one system used and the process has as yet not been ratified across the board. The plant is measured across a single crown. A general guide to size categories:

  • Miniature: plant crown less than 15 – 20cm diameter when measured across the crown when fully mature; flowers are 2cm across and each leaf 2.5cm long. Some experts also further categorise miniatures into super mini: crowns 7.5 – 10cm and micro-mini: crowns are less than 7.5cm diameter
  • Semi-miniature: plant crown 15-20cm at maturity; flowers 3.75cm across and each leaf is 5cm long.
  • Standard: 20 – 40 cm when fully mature when measured across the crown; flowers are to 5cm across and each leaf to 7.5cm long
    Large: over 40 cm when fully mature; flowers are 7.5cm across and each leaf to 15cm long

Plant Health

Mostly fungal; too much moisture can lead to root rots, water on leaves (particularly with direct sunlight), can damage or at least mark leaves.

Lack of water can cause dehydration and death, inwarm conditions; however, plants can survive extended periods at low temperatures if dry. Doesn't tolerate extreme cold though.

More info

Courses on growing Tropical and Indoor Plants are available through Australian Correspondence Schools, see Books: ‘Growing Tropical Plants’ by John Mason and ‘Tropical and Warm Climate Gardening’ are available through Video: ‘Identifying Tropical Plants’ produced by Australian Correspondence Schools is available through CDROM: ‘Trees and Shrubs for Warm Places’ by John Mason is available through

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