Botanical Name: Exacum affine
Typically called Persian Violet, this beautiful flowering house plant isn't a true violet at all. It's in the Gentianaceae family, along with geraniums.
Violet-blue, 5-petaled flowers are studded with yellow centers -- called eyes -- and rise above a mound of small, glossy, green leaves. The flowers are wonderfully fragrant. Rarer varieties have white or purple flowers, and a few have double blooms.
Exacum affine is a biennial, although it is usually treated as an annual and tossed out after flowering. If you want to overwinter the plant, prune it back harshly and keep it above 60°F/16°C. You can collect its seeds the second year.
Commercial growers raise this flowering plant from seed and it is usually sold as an indoor plant in spring and summer. With good care, you can expect your "bouquet" of violets to last for several weeks.
Pinch off flowers after they fade to promote more blooms.
Keep the soil moist at all times, but don't overwater. Dry soil will cause flowers to fade quickly. If you're watering regularly and the plant wilts, root rot is likely. This is the most common problem with this plant.
Got a reluctant bloomer? Move your plant to a brighter location, out of direct sun. Raise the humidity around it by placing the pot on a tray of wet pebbles. Sometimes plants are in shock when you bring them home. Follow the tips here and you should see new buds and blooms in a couple weeks.
Origin: Socotra Island near East Africa
Height: 8-12 in (20-30 cm)
Light: Bright light. Some direct morning sun is fine, but keep out of hot, afternoon sunlight which can scorch the plant.
Water: Keep soil evenly moist, but not soggy.
Humidity: High humidity. Place pot on a tray of wet pebbles or mist foliage with room-temperature water.
Temperature: Average room temperatures 65-75°F/18-24°C. Keep the plant away from drafts.
Soil: African violet potting mix or peat-moss based potting mix.
Fertilizer: Feed every 2 weeks while the plant is blooming with a balanced liquid fertilizer diluted by half.
Propagation: Seeds will germinate in 2-3 weeks. The seeds are tiny. Sow seeds in winter or early spring on top of moist potting mix in a shallow pot.