If you’ve followed this blog at all, you probably know that I’m charmed by African Violets (Saintpaulia). I mean, I did write a whole novel about a magical one! That’s because I adore everything about these little guys. I love their fuzzy leaves. I love how they grow in almost perfect, rounded whorls, and I love their cheery upright flowers. The colors vary from purple to magenta to pink to yellow, white, and so on. And the flower forms range from single to double to fringed to striped and more. But did you know there’s an even more unusual African Violet? It’s the Variegated African Violet.
The Variegated African Violet
Variegated African Violets have been around since the late 1950s. Their leaves are usually edged or speckled or streaked with white but this varies. Some have white interiors, some have yellow new growth, etc. They bloom most commonly in purple and pink and occasionally you’ll find a double-flowered variety, which is really special. Like regular African Violets, they’re easy enough to keep alive though a Variegated African Violet is a bit trickier.
Caring for a Variegated African Violet
My Variegated African Violet, whose cultivar name I’m still not sure of, boasts serrated leaves and lots of vivid white on the margins. When those leaves emerge, they sport a dusty pink color. My heart soars whenever I see this small but pretty feature.
I grow my African Violet in a south-facing window with partial direct sunlight. Traditionally, they like bright indirect light. They also like a warm room and extra humidity though I’ve always grown mine just fine without added pebbles in water. (Note, I do sometimes use a humidifier in winter.) But there are a few tricks to keeping a Variegated African Violet happy. Here’s what I’ve learned:
- They don’t like a lot of harsh sun. Because their leaves have that white color, they don’t have the extra chlorophyll to take in sunlight. So don’t let it get scorched in a sunny window. Grow it in a north- or east-facing window if you can.
- They dry out more quickly than regular African Violets. But instead of watering them more frequently, I water them with more water, like more thoroughly soak the soil. This seems to keep them happy.
- Speaking of water, they like room temperature water, not cold water. It shocks their roots.
- Don’t fertilize too often or the variegation will fade. I fertilize mine once a month during spring and that’s about it.
- Because they grow natively in Africa, they like warmth! Don’t chill them by setting them in too-drafty of a window and don’t turn down your heat below 60 degrees at night.
Like all African Violets, you never want to let water splash onto the leaves. It’ll create spots. And remember, don’t water every few days. I water mine every 7-10 days and they seem to do well on that schedule. I also rotate the pot so the leaves grow in a more even pattern. But in the end, I also don’t overthink their care. If you put yours in a bright warm window and water every week or so, they should be fine. And, if they bloom, you’ll know you’re successfully keeping your Variegated African Violet happy!
If you’d like some greenery in your home or office but your only talent for plants is killing them, don’t despair. House plants that don’t mind low light and little water do exist. They won’t take it personally if you ignore them for a while. And like many plants, they’ll still clean the air, soften your surroundings, and offer the relaxing beauty we often crave when indoors. Here are the five easiest house plants to keep alive.
Pothos (Epipremnum) grows in a cheery mound with spade-shaped leaves that gently spread into trailing strands. For a bushier look, snip the strands’ ends but for a hanging basket effect, let the plant creep as it likes. Pothos loves indirect light and the darker variegated varieties tolerate the lowest levels. Also, they like to dry out between watering. They can go for up to 10 days without water. And just as in their native Polynesia, they thrive in warm conditions, about 60 – 80 degrees, so pretend you’re on a tropical island and enjoy these verdant lovelies!
Snake Plant (Sanseviera)
Snake Plant (Sanseviera) shoots vertically up in long fleshy blades, almost like a grass for giants. The yellow-green cultivar is most common but for the lowest maintenance, choose Black Coral. It’s dark and dreamy. The blades grow up to three feet tall with bands of silver and light green cutting through the smokey blackish leaves. The dark quality means it holds more of a particular kind of chlorophyll that catches low-intensity light. So, if you set it a few feet from a window and soak the soil every few weeks, you’ll keep these African natives upright and happy.
Cast Iron Plant (Aspidistra)
Cast Iron Plant (Aspidistra) certainly lives up to its name, though you won’t hear a clang if you knock on it. It’s just difficult to kill, not only tolerating low light but rare watering as well. Plus, the upshot is if you live in zone 7 or higher, you can grow it outside. But don’t expect Cast Iron Plant to grow quickly. In a way, it exists rather than grows. The Japanese native sends out upright leaves from rhizomes slowly, making fuller, more established plants on the costly side. Inside the home, place it in a north-facing window, water only when the soil is dry to the touch, and let it be a delightful cauldron of inky green.
Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum)
Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum) sports the glossiest green leaves, which, with their corrugation and graceful fountain-like habit, makes for an enchanting, relaxing sight. But the Peace Lily’s super power is its air-cleaning abilities. It neutralizes carbon monoxide, benzene, and formaldehyde, those nasty gases that come from wood adhesives in furniture and fuel-burning appliances. It also likes indirect light and again, only water when dry to the touch. If it gets a fair amount of bright indirect light, it will bloom in elegant white spathes that resemble its lily-like name.
Chinese Evergreen (Aglaonema)
Chinese Evergreen (Aglaonema) knows how to soften the edges of a room. Its dense habit creates a lush oval of foliage bit by bit and isn’t fussy if neglected. The darker varieties can tolerate lower levels of light and will outright scorch in direct sun. But that’s what makes them so low maintenance! It wants only occasional watering, whenever the soil is dry or every two to three weeks. What it really likes is warmth, never below 60 degrees, and to not sit near a door or drafty window. Otherwise, these beauties can get brown edges. If they wilt, that means you’ve watered too much. So, set them in a cozy spot and don’t do much except admire their evergreen ways.
How to Grow the Easiest House Plants
Overall, these house plants are really tropical plants that often grow on the floors of forests so think warmth, moist air, and indirect light. An organic potting mix should suffice for soil. Apply an all-purpose organic fertilizer in spring. Some plants, like Peace Lily and Chinese Evergreen, even if grown by a window, may not flower. It depends on how far north you live and local weather. If you want flowers, try putting a broad-spectrum or “grow” bulb in a common desk lamp and positioning it near the plants for a few hours every day. In weeks, pretty blooms will emerge and offer bright cheer. Otherwise, all of these plants will simply provide lovely greenery during the times you’re stuck inside but yearn for a bit of nature.