Propagating African violets in water is by far the EASIEST way to start new baby plants! As a former seller, I’ll show you all my best tips on how to propagate African violets.
There is something about African violets that is truly addictive. These amazing indoor plants will bloom all year round and their blooms come in an infinite number of colors and designs!
But when you find out how truly easy it is to start new babies, that’s when the fun begins! As a former online seller of African violets, I have done lots of experimenting with propagating African violets in water and soil and I would love to show you my findings so you can get the best results!
If you have tried your hand at African violet propagation, you know the results can be more than a little disapointing – leaves that rot soon after you put them in soil, babies that die not long after sprouting or separating baby plants too soon from the mother leaf.
In this tutorial, I will share everything you need to know when it comes to propagating African violets in water. Not only will you be able to add to your collection but you can also buy leaves online of special varieties or trade leaves with a fellow plant lover.
In this tutorial, I’ll show you:
- How to propagate African violets from a leaf in water (my preferred method!)
- Mistakes to avoid in the process or propagating African violets
- Why starting violets from leaves is so rewarding
- How to ensure your violets grow up to blooming, thriving plants
What I love most about African violets is starting out baby plants from leaves. It is exciting to see tiny leaves pop up from a leaf and eventually bloom for the first time! Because this is my favorite aspect of our hobby, I’ve had a lot of practice to show you to grow an African violet from a leaf.
I actually had an African violet business online and hundreds of African violet babies online. It was a lot of fun because I got to see so many new varieties bloom for the first time. It was like having my own little Christmas everyday when I checked my light stands!
African Violet Leaf Cuttings – Why My Healthiest Plants Are the Ones Started From Leaves
All of the African violet plants on the below plant stand were started from leaf cuttings. When you start a plant from a leaf cutting it thrives because it was started in the same culture. Plants in general but especially African violets, don’t like change. When you buy a mature plant from a seller or home improvement store, that plant was grown with different soil, humidity, ph, and lighting than your own surroundings. That’s stressful on a plant. That’s why plants started from a leaf grow better because they are grown in a consistent culture. You can see how to turn any open bookshelf into a lighted plant stand here: DIY Grow Light Stand with LEDs
When to Propagate African Violets
African violets can be propagated any time of the year since you will be growing the new plants indoors. Be sure that you pick a leaf from the mother plant’s second or third row of leaves (looking from the center out). You want a leaf that is big enough to propagate (no brand new leaves from the center), but you don’t want a leaf on the last row that may be about to die. If the only leaf you can get is one from the last row, that’s perfectly fine. It should yield at least one baby for you!
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Supplies for Propagating African Violets in Water
African Violet Leaf
African Violet Soil – Most of the soils sold in stores are too heavy with organic matter. My favorite growing medium is from Hunter’s Hybrids. I use Ken Muzalewski’s Wicked Wicking Mix on leaf cuttings and all my adult plants. You can message him on Facebook at Hunter’s Hybrids to order. Another option is buying violet potting mix at a local store and add perlite so it’s a 1:1 mixture of soil to perlite. You can find perlite on Amazon here: Horticultural Perlite
SuperThrive Rotting Hormone: This is a concentrated hormone and rooting medium to help plants root faster: SuperThrive, 4 oz
Distilled Water – Baby plants prefer the Ph neutrality and it makes a big difference when propagating African violets from leaves
Small Glass Jars or Candle Votives – Really any types of small clear glasses will work but I use glass candle holders like these on Amazon: Set of Votive Candle Holders
Plastic Shoebox-sized Containers – I have used these and they work well: Plastic Storage Containers
Spray Bottle of Water and Bleach – Mix the water and bleach at a 10:1 ratio.
Sharp Scissors – I found these for this purpose and they are great: Fiskar’s MicroTip Scissors
Plastic Condiment Cups – I find these work really well for babies sprouting from the mother leaf: 4 oz. Condiment Cups
3 oz. Solo Cups – These are the little white ones.
Squeeze Bottle – I like using this to water my baby plants because it only dispenses a small amount of water at a time: Condiment Squeeze Bottles
African Violet Fertilizer – The only fertilizer I use on my African violets is Hunter’s Hybrids fertilizer and my plants love it. You can message Ken on Facebook here to place an order: Hunter’s Hybrids Fertilizer
For Young Adult Plants : Acrylic Yarn, Plastic pots, Jars with mouths that will fit the pots
Grow An African Violet From A Leaf – When You First Get A Leaf…
When you take a leaf off of a plant for propagation, be sure to take the leaf with the entire leaf stem that runs to the base of the plant. Put it in a baggy with no extra air to keep it hydrated.
When you get a leaf home, you want to ‘sanitize’ it to ensure you don’t run the risk of bringing in any unwanted pests, eggs, or fungus that can infect your entire collection.
Spray your leaf with the 10:1 water/bleach solution. Let it sit for a few minutes before rinsing it off.
How Do I Propagate African Violet Leaves That Are Wilted Or In Bad Shape?
Translucent or Brown Spots – If the leaf has significant damage, it’s best to trash it to avoid contaminating your collection. If you have just a few spots that you know are cold damage, cut off those spots to keep them from spreading.
Limp Leaves – Sometimes you will get a leaf in the mail that is completely limp. The good news is that as long as it is still green, you can save it!
Step 1: African Violet Propagation Prep
When you are ready propagate your African violet cuttings, you should first cut off a sliver of the base of the stem from wherever it’s already cut. Be sure to use a sharp knife.
In a bowl of lukewarm distilled water, add about 2 teaspoons of sugar and 2-3 drops of SUPERthive. Mix well. Add the leaf to the bowl and completely submerge it. You can also put the bowl under low light. (Click HERE for my post on how to grow plants with LED lights).
If your your leaf was in good condition already, just leave it submerged for 30 minutes to an hour. If your leaf is limp, let it sit in the mixture overnight. This mixture hydrates and gives extra nutrients to the leaf to ensure that lots of babies will start from it.
Before you know it, your leaf will look as good as new. By using this method, I’ve never lost a dehydrated leaf. When you are done, rinse the leaf and gently pat it dry.
STEP 2: How to Propagate African Violets in Water
Once you have a healthy leaf, you can “put it down”, which means creating a culture where it can put down roots.
Rinse the “soaking solution” off your leaf. Spray your knife with the 10:1 water/bleach solution to get a clean cut. Then cut your leaf so it’s about an inch to 2 inches long and at a 45-degree angle. ( The angled cut ensures more surface area for babies to grow.)
Now, put the leaf in water and wait for roots to start. African violets don’t like direct sunlight so put them in indirect light. You can put your violet leaves in water in a northern or eastern-facing window ideally or on a light stand like this one I built: Easy DIY Grow Light Stand. I prefer this LED set up much more to florescent lights
I prefer this method of rooting African violet leaves in water initially to putting the leaf in soil initially. With African violet leaf propagation in water, the leaves will take longer to start roots, but if you compare a 6-month old baby started in water to a 6-month old baby started in soil, you will see that the one started in water is a larger, healthier plant.
I like to use glass candle votives to start roots. Just add lukewarm distilled water (they don’t like cold water) to each glass candle holder and set each mother leaf inside. You can write the plant name on the side with a Sharpie and the writing will disappear in the dishwasher.
One of the major advantages to rooting African violets in water is that this method keeps the stems from rotting. I realize that it seems like they would be much more likely to rot but I’ve seen this method work time and time again!
Rooting Process Duration
Rooting an African violet takes about 14-18 days depending on the time of year. When the roots are at least ¼ inch in length, it’s time to put the leaves in the soil!
Step 3: How To Grow African Violets From a Leaf in Soil
African violet water propagation is the fastest way to get roots started but now those roots need soil to start baby plants.
When it’s time to plant your leaves in soil, punch about 4 drainage holes in the bottom of each 4 oz condiment cup. This is important to allow any excess water to train out so the leave does not rot.
Fill the cup three fourths high with your African violet soil. Again, be sure to get the soil mention in the supply soil or mix store-bought soil in a 1:1 ratio with perlite. This ensures a really light mix that doesn’t hold onto too much moisture. Propagating African violets is really difficult if the soil is damp.
I feel like leaves start babies faster when they are in the presence of other rooted leaves, so I put two or three leaves in each cup. Be sure to label them well.
Plant your leaf in the soil so it just covers the roots and lean the leaf stem against the edge of the cup for support.
Water the cup just slightly so it is barely damp and then squeeze the cup a couple of times to help aerate the soil. (I water leaves and babies with my usual fertilizer water which is 1/8 tsp of the Hunter’s Fertilizer to a gallon of water). Tilt the cup to get any excess water to pour out of the drainage holes.
The number one rule is to not let the soil get too wet. It should be just damp, comparable to a wrung-out sponge. Usually, the leaf pots that I somewhat neglect are the ones that do the best because they are dryer!
I like to put all of my leaf pots in plastic containers with some saran wrap over the top. This makes a mini greenhouse which is essential because African violet babies loves humidity. You can use scotch tape or a rubber band to keep the saran wrap on top of the container. (If you are only potting up one or two violet leaves, you can put the cup and mother leaf in a clear plastic baggie and vent one corner.)
Humidity Is Your Friend When Propagating African Violets
Once you put the saran wrap over the top of your container, vent it slightly on two corners. You want to see tiny mist-like droplets of humidity on the inside of the saran wrap. Leaves thrive in a high humidity environment. However, if you see large water drops, you want to vent the container a little more.
How often should I be watering an African violet leaf?
After a couple of weeks, check your leaves. I like to use a pipette or squeeze bottle to add a few drops of water to each container. Remember they need very little water as the mini-greenhouse will retain a lot of moisture.
Babies will start to appear after a few weeks. This is where some patience is required!
“Motivate” Babies to Grow
After I start to see baby leaves, I begin weaning the babies off the mother leaf. Every two weeks when I water them, I also cut a tiny sliver off the top of the mother leaf. This does a couple of things: For one thing, it causes the baby to depend less on the mother leaf. Also, when the leaf is cut, it releases a small puff of Ethylene gas.
\When plant cells are broken or cut, they release ethylene gas. In nature, this seems to be a signal that a predator is feeding. Theoretically, the plant responds by increasing the rate of photosynthesis to survive. Therefore, the babies respond to the ethylene gas by growing faster.
Every two weeks, I also slightly squeeze each of my leaf pots. This helps to stimulate the roots and aerates the soil.
When Do You Cut Away the Mother Leaf?
Soon, you will see more and more babies sprouting up! When the baby leaves are mostly green and most are larger than a dime, I cut away the mother leaf. I do this by using my scissors to cut off the leaf at the step just above the top of the soil.
How To Grow African Violets From Leaves A Second Time
Now that the mother leaf is cut away, continue to put your leaf pots in the mini greenhouse, checking their moisture every couple of weeks.
Step 4: African Violet Propagating Division: Separating and Planting African Violets in Pots
I like to separate the new plantlets into their own pots when most of the baby leaves are the size of a quarter. If the babies seem especially cramped, I separate them sooner and plant them in 3 oz. solo cups that work great as small pots.
Take your time and be very careful separating the babies from each other. I like to separate the leaves and leaf stems first and slowly separate the roots next.
I like to put my separated babies in a container with saran wrap similar to the leaf pots. When they have established stronger root systems, I slowly start to pull away the saran wrap to acclimate them to normal humidity. Then I wick them and put them with my other plants.
Related Posts to Propagating African Violets in Water
Troubleshooting Tips for Propagating African Violet Leaves in Water
What if the baby leaves are mostly white? In my experience, these leaves green up as the plants get older but you can also add Epsom salt water to speed up the process. Add one tsp of Epsom salt to a gallon of water and water as normal.
What is the white powdery substance on my leaves? That is most likely powdery mildew. I like to use Lysol spray (do not use the off-brand – ask me how I know!). Spray it in the air above the leaf. Then, let the spray drift onto the leaf. This will kill the powdery mildew and prevent it from coming back.
Why do my leaf’s roots look thick and gnarled? Your soil is too moist. Let it dry out a little.
Methods of Propagating African Violets
- Seeds – This is most commonly used by hybridizers where a plant is polinated with pollen from another plant.
- Crown Propagation – This is done by chopping off the main stem of the plant with a sharp knife to start a new chimera plant or to restart a plant suffering from root rot.
- Suckers – A sucker is a side-shoot taken from an adult plant.
- Bloom stalks – Bloom stalk propagation is done by rooting the flower stalks in water or soil to reproduce genetically identical plants like chimeras
- Leaf Propagation – The easiest and most common method of propagating African violets!
Final Thoughts on Propagating African Violets in Water
As a former online seller of African violets, these are my best tips on how to grow african violets in water. After lots of experimenting, this process has worked for me time and time again without fail. Follow these easy steps and you will have blooming young adult plants before you know it!
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Best Tips for Propagating African Violets in Water
Welcome to Renovated Faith, where I share about DIY projects, my faith and everything in between! When I’m not spending time with my family, you will find me redoing furniture in the garage or watering plants in my greenhouse. This blog is about transformation. Anyone can renovate a house but only God can transform our hearts!