African Violet, or Saintpaulia, a flowering perennial plant native to tropical Africa. It is not a true violet, but is related to gloxinia. It is named Saintpaulia for its discoverer, Baron Walter von Saint Paul. The African violet is popular as a potted house plant in the United States. Hundreds of varieties have been developed.
The hairy, often stemless plant reaches about five inches (12.5 cm) in height. Its oval or heart-shaped leaves grow on long stalks and have scalloped, toothed, or nearly smooth margins. The unscented flowers are about one inch (2.5 cm) wide. They grow on single or branching stalks, which may reach four inches (10 cm) in height and bear up to six flowers each. The petals are violet in the wild form, but in potted varieties range in color from purple to pink and white.
African violets grow best in fertile, welldrained soil. They may be injured by direct light, over-watering, or excessive cold. New plants are started from seeds, leaf cuttings, side shoots, or divisions of old plants.
The 11 species of Saintpaulia belong to the family Gesneriaceae. The common African violet is Saintpaulia ionantha.