What I learnt from growing African Violets from seeds: the right start matters

When I first placed my African Violets seeds order from Nadeau African Violets Seeds more than a year ago, I didn’t know what kind of commitment I accepted. But let me start this story from the very beginning.

Where to buy African Violets seeds?

It looks like the only commercial reliable source of African Violets seeds is Ronn Nadeau. That’s what I learnt after endless hours of searching all over the Internet. They say there is one more supplier in the UK, but I never tried their seeds. It looks like all other seeds sellers I could find were reselling Nadeau seeds as well.

There are plenty of African Violets seeds available on eBay and Aliexpress, and they are mostly fakes – you’ll get some weeds seeds if get any at all. So don’t waste your time and money on those. Go to Ronn Nadeau – he is the loveliest person ever, and his seeds are the real thing.

First seeds experiment

At first, I ordered one packet of miniatures seeds and one packet of trailer seeds.

  • I sowed them on 8th of October 2017 in a deli container with a lid.
  • Growing medium: equal parts of perlite, vermiculite and coir.
  • Growing conditions: natural light, quite low temperatures at night.

The seeds took 16-17 days to germinate and quickly stopped developing. They just sat there – tiny, unhappy plants. I asked fellow growers, and they recommended to add some artificial light and start fertilising as coir itself is not nutritious.

It’s easy to see the lack of progress – the seedlings stayed the same at the age of one and two months.


So I bought a desk LED lamp and started feeding the seedlings. I couldn’t see any significant difference for a few weeks. By that moment I started thinking that coir was the wrong ingredient – my other violets that grew in the same mix were unhappy, with deformed crowns and slow growth. I was quite sure I had mites for a while until I understood that unsuitable growing mix causes all problems.

Change of growing mix

I decided to repot the seedlings, even though they were too tiny to touch. I used a manicure cuticle pusher as a miniature shovel and transplanted groups of seedlings to a new container.

  • I started transplantation on 30th of January 2018.
  • At the age of 3 months, most of the seedlings had only one or two pair of leaves.
  • New growing medium: equal parts of perlite, vermiculite and Jiffy Pellet.
  • Growing conditions: LED light, New Zealand Summer temperatures (ideal for the violets).

That transplantation was a gamechanger for the plants. I didn’t have time to do all of them at the same time, so I could see the difference – the newly transplanted seedlings outgrew their non-transplanted siblings in less than a week. The difference was stronger day by day.

The top container was transplanted a week earlier than the bottom one. The difference was clearly visible in just a week after the last transplantation.


I think Jiffy Pellet is a great ingredient for starting seeds – it is peat based, very fine and contains nutrients for the initial seedlings development. I just added some boiling water to the pellets, let them hydrate, broke them and mixed with perlite and vermiculite.

Repotting into individual pots

My miniature seedlings were ready to grow in individual pots only by 13th of March 2018 – more than five months after sowing seeds. Trailers were stronger and grew faster, so I started transplanting them on 12th of February (4 months after sowing).

I used 30 ml plastic shot glasses and 60 ml plastic cups as tiny pots and started wick watering all seedlings so they wouldn’t dry out in such small containers.

What about flowers?

I waisted way too much time and gave my plants a difficult start, so they didn’t have a chance to bloom early. They slowly started flowering at the age of 10-11 months after sowing, and I still have enough of them just trying to show their first flower.

Lessons learned

  1. The right start is crucial for African Violets seedlings. In the beginning, they are tiny, fragile, and need the right conditions to thrive.
  2. Growing medium needs some nutrients in it.
  3. Temperature matters – I started the seeds in Spring, and it is quite cold at nights in New Zealand homes. The temperature wasn’t low enough to kill the plants, but it effectively slowed them down.
  4. I failed with coir and don’t use it anymore for my violets. I know people use coir with great success, but it just totally messed up with my violets.
  5. The seedlings took longer than expected to start blooming – because lots of time was wasted in the beginning.
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  • InternetWanderer
    30/06/2019 00:07

    Why would you invest unnecessary electrical through the artificial light while you should had been realized that sun provides the best out of light (it provides complete sprectrums for optimal plant growth). Just not the intense/direct sunlight. AVs seedlings grow faster if the medium contains a reasonable portion of soil. It’s the medium not the light.

    • mskatova
      30/08/2019 10:17

      I ‘shouldn’t have been’ anything. It was my first experience, so I was learning on the go. In my place sun doesn’t provide the best of light either – it is so awfully strong it kills almost any plant. So I possibly have a better judgement on what to do and how to do it in my particular growing conditions, thank you very much.

  • Thankyou so much for your blog. My seeds were ordered from Ron 2 weeks ago, so any day now they should arrive. I.m in nth Queensland, so temperature isn’t a issue for me, and light on the front veranda is good, so long as I remember to lower the blinds for the afternoon sun. So far I haven’t forgotten, and my new collection of violets are doing well. I’ve not heard of jiffy pallets before now. So that’s my next google question. I had been thinking of just using a 50/50 perlite and peat moss mixture but now might add a 1/4 of violet potting mix, just to give the seeds a good start.

    • mskatova
      18/09/2019 11:17

      Good luck with your seedlings! I also start fertilizing them quite early with a weak fertiliser solution.

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