How to propagate African violets - and grow more of these colorful flowering houseplants for free

Two methods to propagate African violets to fill your home with these bright, cheerful houseplants

african violets in a pot
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Plants, like clothing, come in and out of fashion, and African violets are having something of a renaissance. Shrugging off their granny-plant reputation, with new hybrids sporting almost every conceivable shade of pink, purple, blue or lilac flowers, variegated leaves and pleated petals, it’s not hard to see why Saintpaulia are having their moment. 

Relatively low maintenance; delicate flowers that can bloom year-round; velvety soft leaves; and easy to propagate are just a few reasons I suggest buying one for your indoor garden and growing more.  

Saintpaulia is one of the most enjoyable plants to grow from cuttings; once you start propagating, you’ll find it hard to stop. There are two simple ways to grow African violets from a leaf, in a pot with soil or in water. 

How to propagate African Violets in soil

1. Using a clean pair of scissors, cut off a healthy, plump leaf near the base of the plant. 

2. Half-fill a small pot with houseplant potting mix, like this from Amazon, and insert the stem of the leaf, using the side of the pot to support and keep it upright. 

3. Lightly moisten the soil and place on a warm, bright windowsill, preferably east or west-facing. 

African violets in a planter

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How to propagate African Violets in water

Alternatively, put the leaf-cutting into water. Find a glass vessel that allows the very end of the stem to touch the water without submerging the leaf, like this one from Amazon. Replenish the water once a week to keep it fresh, ensuring the bottom of the stem is permanently submerged. I prefer using water to see the roots and baby plantlets emerge, but propagating in soil is just as effective if a little slower.  

After a while, the parent leaf will slowly die off, leaving you in charge of the youngsters. Cut water-propagated plantlets off the leaf when they have a root system and are at least 1-2cm in size and plant them into individual pots. 

How to care for your African Violets 

Saintpaulia likes bright, indirect light, so it's one of the best flowers to grow on a windowsill. It should be near a draft-free window and watered when the soil is almost dry. Take care not to splash the leaves, as this can cause them to discolor. 

If there is a stubbornness to bloom, move the plant to a brighter spot and remember to use a good quality feed once a month during the growing season.

Sarah Gerrard-Jones, author of The Plant Rescuer – The book your houseplants want you to read, and winner of RHS Chelsea Flower Show Gold Medal, is a self-taught plant obsessive with a passion for rescuing ailing houseplants. As @theplantrescuer on Instagram, Sarah has helped thousands of people understand how to make their plants happy and what to do if something goes wrong.