Planting African Violet Seeds

Planting African violet seeds requires a basic understanding of the requirements for successful seed germination: light, warmth and moisture. Sowing seeds is a simple but rewarding process, with new African violet plantlets sprouting as early as 9 weeks.

Following are basic instructions on how to grow plants from African violet seeds. This method of seed sowing can also be used for gloxinia seed, streptocarpus seed, and most other gesneriad seeds.

How to Grow African Violets from Seed

Choosing a Growing Medium – Potting Soil or Soiless Mix

African violet seedlings

There are many options for seed starting, and you should choose a medium based on your particular growing conditions. The most important consideration is that the surface medium be fine grade and well-aerated. If you live in an area with high humidity you should aim for a lighter mix. One option is to use pasteurized peat moss or milled coconut coir mixed with fine, crushed perlite. You can use commercially available seed starting mix, but be sure to pasteurize it to reduce the opportunity for molds, fungi, and pests to take hold. Some people have success with 100% fine-grade vermiculite, and many use a combination of peat, perlite and vermiculite.

Choosing a Growing Container – Open Tray, Closed Propagation Dome or Mini Greenhouse

The best type of growing container is a shallow one with drainage holes and a clear cover. Large salad bar or take-out containers work well. Holes can be punched in the bottom with an awl or ice pick, drilled with a hand drill, or burned through with a soldering iron. (If you use a soldering iron be sure to have adequate ventilation ~ plastic fumes are toxic.) The container should be large enough to accommodate the number of seeds being planted, so if you are sowing 25 seeds the container should be 10 x 12 in. minimum.

African violet plantlets

Planting African Violet Seeds (or any Gesneriad Seed)

Thoroughly moisten the growing medium and allow it to drain. It should be moist enough to just hold together when squeezed by hand. It is important that the medium not be too wet since the container will be covered to minimize evaporation. Fill the container with medium to a height of about 2 in. deep. Spray the top of the medium lightly with water. (Now would be a good time to close windows and turn off fans since African violet seeds are like dust and can be easily blown away.)

African violet seeds are tiny, like dust particles.
click to enlarge

Take a piece of heavy, white paper and make a crease down the middle ~ this will make it much easier to direct the seeds into the container. Gently shake the seed packet to bring all the seeds down to the bottom and cut open the top. Gently tap out the seeds onto the paper ~ they should roll into the crease. Carefully pick up the paper and slowly distribute the seeds evenly across the surface of the growing medium. This can be tricky, but a skill that develops over time. If the seeds roll too quickly and appear to land mainly in one spot, most will still germinate (if viable) and the seedlings will simply have to be moved apart later to allow room for growth. The seeds should not be covered over with medium ~ they need to sit on the surface where they will receive the light needed for germination to occur. Cover the container with a clear plastic cover or plastic wrap and place about 10 in. beneath grow lights or fluorescent tubes for 12 to 14 hrs. each day.

Germination times vary by cross and by cultural conditions, but most seeds will germinate within 9 to 60 days, some may take longer. Monitor the container regularly to make sure the medium does not dry out. If the weight of the container feels very light, spray the top of the medium with water and recover. If too much condensation builds within the container, remove the cover for a couple of hours to allow it to dissipate.

Note: Sometimes seeds don’t germinate even when the grower provides the right care and cultural environment. This usually indicates that the seed itself was not viable, which can result from inadequate development within the pod (early maturation) or an infertile parent plant.

Transplating African Violet Seedlings

Transplanted African violet seedlings from seed starting trays to small plastic cups

Once the seedlings have germinated they will grow fairly quickly. When they are a size you feel comfortable handling (usually when the individual leaves are about 2-3 cm. in diameter) you should separate the ones growing very closely together and redistribute them in the container and begin bottom-watering with a weak fertilizer solution. When the seedlings reach about 5 cm. in leaf span they should be transferred to small individual pots such as condiment or pill dosage cups with a hole drilled in the bottom for drainage and treated the same as mature plants.

Where to Buy African Violet Seeds

African violet seeds can be obtained through the seed fund of the The Gesneriad Society, when available. Although membership is required for access to the seed fund, your membership helps support the hobby and includes with a subscription to their excellent quarterly magazine, “GESNERIADS‘.

The ultimate way to obtain African violet seeds is through hybridization: producing your own seed pods through cross-pollination. It takes approximately four to six months for an African violet seed pod to mature.

Variegated African violets from a cross between a non-variegated plant and a variegated one

Helpful resources…