For the novice, the word “prop­a­ga­tion” can seem a bit inti­mat­ing. After all, it sounds so scientific.

But the fact is, prop­a­ga­tion is just a fancy way of say­ing “make more.”

If you’re inter­ested in dip­ping your toe into the world of plant prop­a­ga­tion (and we are talk­ing plants here), there is no eas­ier plant to start with than the lovely African violet.


Although she’s been gone for many years, I always asso­ciate African vio­lets with my grand­mother. She always had pots of bloom­ing vio­lets on her win­dowsills. Now, I almost always have some vio­lets grow­ing in my light gar­den or the win­dowsills. I con­tin­u­ally prop­a­gate them and have some ready for giv­ing away for spe­cial occa­sions. I will also group them on the din­ing table for a live flower arrange­ment that doesn’t cost a for­tune or require loads of chem­i­cals at the flower farm.

Recently, I took one of the pret­ti­est of my vio­lets to my Great Aunt Max­ine for her 90th birth­day cel­e­bra­tion. While I was at her house I noticed she had some vio­lets of her own. What bet­ter oppor­tu­nity to add to my col­lec­tion in a mean­ing­ful way? She sup­plied a bag­gie and I loaded up with new cuttings.

To prop­a­gate your African vio­let, select a leaf that is not too big and not too small. You don’t want an old gnarly leaf or one that is too tiny. Select a medium-sized, vig­or­ous leaf and cleanly slice it off the plant, leav­ing about 1” of stem.

Now, here’s the hard part. It seems counter-intuitive, but you’re going to have to cut the leaf in half, leav­ing about 1” of leaf on the stem.

My grand­mother used to root her cut­tings in plain water, sus­pend­ing them through a hole in some alu­minum foil. This works just fine. But a bet­ter, and faster, way is to root the cut­ting directly in some soil­less medium. This is typ­i­cally avail­able as African vio­let soil in nurs­eries. I can find it in my local gro­cery store.


Give your cut­tings a head start by using a root­ing hor­mone, such as Rootone. Just dip the stem end into the root­ing hor­mone pow­der before plant­ing the stem in some soil­less medium.

Since the plants don’t have roots, it’s impor­tant to keep the cut­ting moist. I just pop a plas­tic bag over the top of the pot to retain mois­ture and make sure I water reg­u­larly. In your zeal for mois­ture, don’t overly seal the plant in or you’ll be cre­at­ing an envi­ron­ment where dis­eases can flourish.

Plants need light to grow, so make sure you pro­vide ade­quate light. A sunny win­dowsill in the win­ter will do the trick. In the sum­mer, you’ll need to make sure the sun isn’t too intense or the leaves will burn and the soil medium will dry out too quickly. I find that my light gar­den pro­vides the per­fect envi­ron­ment for prop­a­gat­ing and keep­ing live plants.

Some other use­ful tips for grow­ing African violets:

–When prop­a­gat­ing or repot­ting, use African vio­let pot­ting soil. It’s soil­less, so it’s lighter, doesn’t com­pact and gives the aer­a­tion and drainage that the African vio­lets need. Vio­lets do just fine in the tem­per­a­tures of the aver­age household—65 to 73 degrees.

–Make sure you pro­tect cut­tings and grown plants from drafts. Vio­let leaves are cov­ered with tiny lit­tle “hairs.”

–Avoid get­ting leaves wet when water­ing to pre­vent dis­col­oration. Are you vio­lets dusty? Just use a soft-bristled paint­brush to brush off dust or accu­mu­lated dirt.

–Nurs­eries sell spe­cial­ized African vio­let pots with an inner and outer layer for indi­rect water­ing. I have never had as much suc­cess with this method as with tra­di­tional terra cotta pots. My favorite pots are by Guy Wolff. Large Guy Wolff pots can be expen­sive, but the tiny ones are very reasonable—and just the right thing to give your African vio­lets a good start in life.

Inter­ested in the African vio­let lifestyle? There is a whole soci­ety devoted to the pro­mot­ing African vio­lets, the African Vio­let Soci­ety. I remem­ber when we used to live in Florida there was a local African vio­let club that got together monthly to talk about their vio­lets. They also had annual com­pe­ti­tions at the local fair. Next to the chicken dis­plays, this was always my favorite part of the fair.

Isn’t it amaz­ing that there is a spe­cial inter­est group for everything?

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  • Colleen says:

    Great post, Robin! I love African vio­lets, but man­aged to kill all of mine after we brought our first baby home from the hos­pi­tal. This makes me want to go out and buy a few!

  • Lisa at Greenbow says:

    I love AV but they don’t like our house. Our win­dow sills are too skinny and the gar­dener doesn’t water cor­rectly. I love to see them though and as you say they are easy to start.

  • Deb says:

    Thank you. I was miss­ing a piece of the puz­zle. I had to save an over­wa­tered root rot­ted vio­let for my sil. We just put the base of the plant in water and let it recre­ate it’s own rot­ted roots, which worked. I did take two leaf cut­tings, but did not cut them in half. They did not take.

  • kate says:

    Thank you for the tips on prop­a­gat­ing African Vio­lets. I used to grow them, but haven’t for sev­eral years. Your post is inspir­ing me to add some — I am in need of all the flower colour I can get these days!

    I like the idea that you took some cut­ting from your aunt — a per­fect pas­sa­long plant that will always remind you of her.

  • Mary Beth says:

    What a great step-by-step for grow­ing some AVs from a friends cut­ting. I can’t wait to get started!

  • Carol says:

    Good info. I’ve always been fas­ci­nated by the ladies of the local African vio­let soci­ety who sell hun­dreds of AV’s at the local flower and patio show in the spring. I’m root­ing some cut­tings, now, too. Though I don’t know what I’ll do with all the new plants I’ll get!

    Carol, May Dreams Gardens

  • jodi says:

    Talk about synchronicity…I just fessed up to bring­ing home a few African vio­lets, and posted a bit of info on grow­ing them too. But I don’t pro­pogate them…no room…that’s my story, really!

  • Great post. I’m teach­ing begin­ning botany to my chil­dren this year. What a great project idea.

    Heir­loom Gardener

  • Dave says:

    Very good infor­ma­tion! I just picked up an African Vio­let over Christ­mas. Two of the leaves became sep­a­rated from the rest of the plant so I just stuck them in the side of the con­tainer. When I replanted them the other day both had grown roots. I didn’t cut them in half but that can be nec­es­sary when prop­a­gat­ing plants.

  • JCWoodley says:

    Any chance you could try to iden­tify the african vio­let I got in the late 1980’s? I tried look­ing at the reg­is­tered names for those years and couldn’t find any­thing that seemed right. I posted a photo on my blog: Much appre­ci­ated. If this plant can sur­vive what I’ve done to it, it deserves it’s name!

  • Gena says:

    some of the “pros” say the root­ing hor­mone isn’t nec­es­sary, and could in some cases cause prob­lems. I have never used it with AV leaves so I can’t say. You also have them in very big pots! That leaves alot of wet soil sur­round­ing what will in the begin­ning be a very very small root sys­tem — could lead to root rot.

    You are obvi­ously expe­ri­enced and this works for you, per­haps the clay pots keep the soil from get­ting too soggy, and you never have to move the plants into big­ger pots..for begin­ners, might be bet­ter to use lit­tle pots, like the 2 inch size that lit­tle cacti or sedum come in, or poke holes in the bot­toms of the lit­tle plas­tic bath­room cups from “Solo” that you can buy by the dozens in the gro­cery store. Then you can set the whole thing inside a ziploc bag and zip the top. After the baby plants leaves are roughly the size of nick­els, you can repot into a larger size.

  • Pippi21 says:

    I love African vio­lets but have never tried to grow them. Our sun­room gets the morn­ing and after­noon sun and makes it impos­si­ble to keep the mini-blinds open. When the blinds are open, we get all the reflec­tions of the houses behind us and around us. I think it really would be a great place to raise house plants but won­der if it might be too hot.
    Your instruc­tions make it sound so sim­ple.
    Thanks for sharing.

  • JC says:

    Hi Robin,

    I am so glad to stum­ble upon your blog while Google-ing for African Vio­let! I also love gar­den­ing and enjoy read­ing your gar­den­ing adven­ture!
    .-= JC´s last blog ..SS2 Morn­ing Mar­ket =-.

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