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African violets blooming (PINKÉ, Flickr).

At this time of year, we often rely on some of our houseplants for flowers, and African violets, with the botanical name of Saintpaulia, are quite popular.

African violets flower exuberantly but need some attention to achieve their best efforts. Like many of us, they respond with enthusiasm to reliable nurturing.

Repot them every year using a light, free-draining soil-less mix with extra perlite and vermiculite. Avoid heavy, dark soil-based mixes that are supposed to be especially for African violets, as it stays too wet and does not allow oxygen to get to the roots.

Fertilize monthly and provide bright indirect sunlight. African violets also do well with 14-16 hours of artificial light but do need a constant temperature of 60-65⁰F. Beware of drafts and remove yellowing leaves and old blossoms. Water the roots directly to avoid spotting the fuzzy surface of the leaves. Lukewarm water is best and feel the surface of the potting mix to be sure that it is dry to the touch.

If the plant's crown rots and dies it is probably due to mites, which are difficult to see. If so, destroy all infected plants and isolate any new plants you buy before adding them to your collection.

One can easily become addicted to growing these lovely little flowers that bloom continuously indoors.

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