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Keeping African Violets Healthy

African violets can be a little finicky. Here's how to give them what they want.

African violets can sometimes seem a little finicky; certainly they do like to have things their way. In general, here's what African violets need to survive and be healthy in your home:

Light: Native to the mountainous forests of East Africa, these plants need bright light, but not direct sun. The ideal location is a north- or east-facing window. Artificial light will also do.

Pot: Keep the container small. African violets bloom best when their roots are crowded.

Water: Keep the soil moist, but never wet. Fungal disease — namely, crown rot and root rot caused by excessive watering — is enemy No. 1 with African violets. Bottom-water by setting the pot in a saucer of water. (The plant will appreciate the extra humidity as well.) Top-water every four to six weeks to get rid of dust and deposits of salt and fertilizer. Before applying, allow tap water to sit overnight so that it reaches room temperature and the chlorine evaporates. Don't wet the leaves.

Temperature: The average household temperature is fine.

Fertilizer: Feed violets twice a month with a weak solution of acidic fertilizer. Regular feeding helps keep the plant in bloom, but don't overdo it. If you start noticing bunched centers, cut back on the fertilizer.

Even though African violets are basically low-maintenance, they do require some regular tidying up. For instance, dead or damaged leaves and spent blooms should be routinely removed. When removing old blossoms, be sure to pinch off only the brown flower and not the stem, which will continue to bloom.

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