A popular houseplant, the African violet is known for its vibrant purple flowers. If properly cared for, it can flower all year long. Enclosed African violet terrariums are recommended because the increased humidity helps maintain water in the soil.
These plants require soil that is always slightly moist but not soggy. Failure to adhere to this requirement quickly results in a dead plant. The temperature also must be consistent otherwise the plant will begin to rot. Due to the increased amount of care required to properly care for African violets I would rank it at an intermediate difficulty. If you’d like something similar but easier to care for, have a look at our gerbera daisy terrarium guide.
Building your African violet terrarium
Any container will work provided that it’s clear. Popular solutions are to cover a potted African violet with a glass dome. African violets need about 16 hours indirect sunlight in order to flower successfully. You can tell if your plant isn’t getting enough sunlight if the leaves begin to turn yellow. Do not leave your African violet terrarium in direct sunlight as you will end up burning your plant.
You might want to consider getting a grow light during the winter seasons to provide additional light. Also, African violets need a sufficient amount of darkness to bloom as well. This is because during the night, flowering hormones are released. 8 hours of darkness a day will be enough.
Layer the bottom of the terrarium or pot with 2.5 to 5cm of gravel or small pebbles to help with draining water. Next, place enough substrate to cover the roots of the African violet. You can buy commercial African violet soil or make your own. If you make your own I recommend using of one part potting soil and one part peat moss. The peat moss will help with retaining water in the soil.
If you’re still concerned about your African violet terrarium not draining well enough you can apply a thin layer of charcoal before you lay down the substrate of choice.
Maintaining your African violet terrarium
The African violet is fairly sensitive to chemicals. Rarely fertilize and when you do, make sure you dilute it first. For the same reason, if you decide to use tap water make sure you let it sit for at least 24 hours to allow for the chlorine to dissipate. Otherwise use distilled or rain water. Do NOT use gutter water as it may have dissolved chemicals, bacteria, or other substances.
Your African violet terrarium should be humid, around 50%. However, if you notice condensation forming on the sides of the terrarium you are watering your plant too much. Expose your terrarium to open air, wipe away excess condensation, and reduce the amount of water given. Too much humidity encourages rot and mold growth.
The temperature in the terrarium must be at room temperature. Do your best to make sure that it doesn’t deviate more than 5 degrees from 21ºC. Too hot and your African violet’s leaves will become dry and shriveled with the flowers falling off. Eventually, the plant will start rotting. However, you can still save it if you notice in time.
Being too cold is much worse, and the African Violet will just go into shock, leaves and flowers begin falling off, tissue starts rotting and then the plant dies. Symptoms can take over 24 hours to appear and by the time you notice it may be too late.
The only exception is at nighttime where it becomes a few degrees cooler. Otherwise monitor your African violet terrarium’s temperature closely.
Do NOT water directly onto the plant. This will cause water spots and other disfigurations to appear on the leaves. Instead, water directly into the substrate. The water should be lukewarm otherwise you may cause the roots to go into shock.
Be vigilant with removing dead and dying leaves and flowers as these encourage rotting. Simply use a knife to trim away the unwanted segments. If you notice dark and mushy segments on your African violet it either means that it’s sick, there are pests, or it was left at an improper temperature for too long. Remove the rotting segments immediately and then determine the cause before doing anything else.
Like other houseplants it is recommended that you regularly rotate the plant. This prevents the plant from leaning to one side as it grows towards its light source. Generally having a more symmetrical plant is more aesthetically appealing.