Saintpaulia ionantha 

(saint-paul' ee-ah ii-o-nan' thah)

Common name: African Violet

Family: Gesneriaceae, Gesneriad

Height x width: 4-6" x 6-16" or more

Growth rate: moderate

Foliage: generally green (in some cultivars variegated creme, pink or white), hairy, broadly ovate, 2-3" or more long in rosettes

Flowers: grown mainly for their flowers, ½-2½" wide, generally in cymes of 4 or 5, they may be described according to:

flower color: white, pink, red, blue, purple, creme, yellow, bicolor; a "chimera" has lines or streaks of opposing color; "fantasy markings" are flecks of another color; many are edged white or opposing color

flower petals: single with 5 petals, semi-double with small central crest of petals, fully double with 2 or more layers of petals

flower shape: star-shaped with all 5 petals the same shape and size, bell-shaped, pansy-shaped

flower edges: ruffled, rounded, fringed

Light: bright indirect to moderate

Temperature: average to warm

Watering: moderate, keep off leaves, subirrigation is effective if not too wet

Fertility: low

Humidity: average

Soil: well-drained

Pests and Problems: botrytis gray mold, root and crown rot (if too wet or cool), powdery mildew (if too humid), aphids, mealybugs, thrips, mites; leaves wilt if too cool or wet or too dry; leaves scorch in direct sun; leaves spot from direct water as from misting

Growth habit, uses: popular indoor flowering plant; effective in groups or three or more in a large, shallow pan or dish container

Other interest: native to East Africa; discovered by Deacon W. von Saint Paulliaire on a German mission to Usambara in Africa in 1892, with a similar species confusa discovered in 1895, and being the main parents of present cultivars

Other culture: grow well under artificial lights indoors, north windows; remove faded flowers to prevent disease; divide off plantlets and repot as needed; when not in bloom or active growth, keep cool and allow to dry between waterings

Propagation: leaf cuttings rooted with bottom heat (not chimeras), division, seed


Most are hybrids with ionantha as a parent, and so are usually listed under it. In addition to the flower descriptions above, they may be classified by rosette diameter as:

(micro) micro-miniature: less than 3" across

(mini) miniature: 3-6" across

(semi) semi-miniature: 6-8" across

(standard) standard: 8-16" across

(large) large: over 16" across

The following are a few recommended or representative of the over 2000 cultivars. Selection will vary among sources, with few in common among most sources or references.
Cultivar class color flower traits; foliage
'Ballet Snowcone' mini white double
'Blushing Ivory' standard ivory single, star, rose edge
'Cherry Glo' mini cherry red star-shaped, double
'Concord' standard white,blue chimeral, pansy shape
'Delft' standard blue large, semi-double
'Fancy Pants' standard white single, frilled red margins
'Favorite Child' standard white blue markings, pansy, ruffled, semi-double
'Granger's Wonderland' large light blue ruffled, semi-double
'Ice Maiden' standard white single, blue centers and markings
'Irish Flirt' semi white green shaded, double, frilled
'King's Treasure' large dark blue double, purple margins, white edge lines
'Kiwi Dazzle' standard bright red single, fringed, central white stripe
'Kristie Marie' standard dusky red double, white margins
'Lemon Creme' standard white yellow centers/mottling, star, semi-double
'Melodie Kim' standard white semi-double, purplish marks
'Mickey Mouse' mini dark blue double
'Milky Way Trail' semi white pansy shape, single to semi-double
'Moonbeams' standard white with blue and pink, purple fantasy markings
'Ms. Perry' standard white single, fringed pink margins
'Ness Firefly' semi deep pink pansy shape, semi-double, light margins
'Ode to Beauty' large coral star shape, semi-double, white margins
'Optimara Colorado' standard red purplish, fringed, single
'Party Print' large pink bluish markings, ruffled, star, semi-double
'Picasso' large blue white markings, double
'Pip Squeek' micro light pink bell shape, single
'Rob's Ice Maiden' semi lavender silvery, darker markings, semi-double
'Rob's Sticky Wicket' semi deep pink semi-double
'Rose Quartz' mini pink single to semi-double, Optimara series
'Sassy Shirley' semi purple light, semi-double, variegated leaves
'Shades of Autumn' large pink pansy shape, ruffled, pale centers
'Snowkist Haven' standard white fringed, single
'Snuggles' mini pink large, semi-double; leaves margined white
'Tomahawk' large dark red fluted petals, double
'Zoja' standard blue purplish, white lined margins, single

©Authored by Dr. Leonard Perry, Professor, University of Vermont as part of PSS121, Indoor Plants.

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