Do African Violets Need Direct or Indirect Sunlight?

Trying to figure out if your African Violets need direct or indirect sunlight? Perhaps you aren't sure how much sunlight they actually need? In this article, gardening expert Liessa Bowen takes you through everything you need to know about African Violets and their sunlight needs.

African Violet Plant in Sunlight During Blooming

African Violets are well known for their gorgeous purple blooms. They are considered easy to grow, as long as you provide the correct environment for them. But what is the correct environment?

In their native habitat, they grow in rock crevices on the forest floor of moist forests of tropical eastern Africa. When grown in these locations, they enjoy long daylight hours, but receive diffuse sunlight. They do not grow in exposed locations with direct sunlight, nor do they grow in areas that are very dark.

In a home environment, African Violets can be grown in natural daylight or under grow lights. So how much sunlight do these plants actually need? Do they grow best in direct or indirect sunlight? In this article we will address what type of lighting, and how much light they need to reach their full potential. Ready to learn more? Let’s dig in!

The Short Answer

African Violets need at least 8 hours of indirect sunlight each day. Ideally, they should receive between 10 and 14 hours of light each day. They can be easily grown in a bright window, but take caution to protect them from intense direct rays. They will also grow well under a grow light. In addition to daytime light, they also need at least 8 hours of darkness each night to trigger flowering.

The Long Answer

A flowering plant with vivid purple blooms flowering in the sun. There is green foliage at the base of the plant, and each bloom has a bright yellow stamen.
There are several factors that contribute to how much light these plants need.

African Violets are very rewarding houseplants to grow. They have beautiful white, pink, or purple flowers, and are capable of blooming throughout the year. They stay fairly small, and they have fairly straightforward needs. As long as you understand their needs, and can provide for them, you can easily grow them in your home.

They do best with indirect sunlight. They need at least 8 hours, but preferably 10-14 hours of light each day. But providing too much, or too little light can have consequences. And if you use grow lights, it starts getting a little trickier.

Let’s look at all the factors and key takeaways you’ll want to understand before finding the perfect location for your plant.

Too Much & Too Little Light

A wilted purple flower that has had too much sunlight. The edges of the blooms are burned, dry, and crisp from having too much sun.
There are consequences when your plants have both too much or too little sunlight.

Too much direct sunlight can burn the leaves. If this happens, leaves may develop brown spots or turn entirely brown. Leaves and stems may become stunted as the plant tries to minimize its exposure to the sun.

This causes the plant to appear very tight and bunched in the middle. Too much direct sunlight will likely cause the plant to stop blooming, and if the problem persists, can ultimately lead to plant death.

Not enough light, on the other hand, can cause plants to grow leggy, with long weak stems. Leaves may start to look yellowish and the plant may not grow well.

Insufficient light can also limit bloom production because the plant lacks the energy it needs from sunlight. Unless you leave your plant in complete darkness, not enough light is unlikely to cause plant death.

The Impact of Plant Location

Purple Flowering Plant Sitting on Windowsill. The plant is in a white ceramic pot, and the windowsill is white, with bright light coming through. The flowers are a light violet color.
Your plant location will also impact the amount of sunlight it gets.

If you are growing your violets on a windowsill, a north or east-facing window works best. Here, your plants will receive an adequate amount of bright light. If you want to try a west or south-facing window, use caution.

The intensity of direct sunlight from these directions, unless the windows are well-shaded, may be too much for your plants. You can diffuse direct intense sunlight with a sheer curtain, but keep an eye on your plants to be sure they aren’t getting to much sun here.

After a while, growing by a sunny window, you may notice your plants are leaning towards the light. If your plants are leaning towards the window, this is perfectly normal.

As long as your plants appear healthy and aren’t growing leggy, this is not a sign of insufficient light, simply that your plants are trying to absorb light on all sides. You can slightly rotate the pots every week or so to keep the plant growth more balanced.

Using Grow Lights

A young seedling plant is in a small plastic cup with potting soil. Behind the plant is a grow light that's used to provide artificial lighting to help grow the plant.
Grow lights can have an impact on plant sunlight needs.

If you are using grow lights, be sure the lights aren’t placed too close to, or too far from, the plants. As described above, your plants may show signs of too much or too little light, and if that’s the case, adjust the lights to a more suitable distance above your plants.

Each lighting system is different, and lights come in differing intensities, so you may have to do some experimentation to what works just right for your setup.

Darkness & Flowering

A purple bloom of a plant up close. There is dark green foliage in the background. You can see yellow stamens in the center of the flower.
Providing the right amount of darkness will encourage bloom production.

In additional to daily sunlight, violets also need at least 8 hours of darkness. Flowering is stimulated by plant hormones, and these hormones are triggered by darkness. Providing the right amount of darkness will help encourage long-lasting beautiful blooms.

Natural darkness is fine, you don’t need to move them into a completely blackened room every night, just be sure to turn off grow lights or other bright lights where your plants may be growing.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are their ideal growth conditions?

For ideal growth conditions, aim to ensure you can provide the following:

  • 8-16 hours of light per day
  • Indirect sunlight or grow lights
  • Soil moist but not wet
  • Allow plants to dry slightly between waterings
  • Loose, light soil
  • 60-80% humidity
  • Remove extra suckers, or “pups,” to keep one main plant crown
  • Fertilize regularly
  • Repot periodically to freshen soil

How often do they bloom?

If growing in ideal conditions, they are capable of blooming throughout the year. They may take brief pauses between blooming to grow new flower buds, but it’s possible that your plants could have blooms at any time during the year.

If your plant stops blooming for an extended period of time, it may be missing something. If the plant seems healthy but isn’t blooming, it’s possible it needs more light, or if it hasn’t had any fertilizer in many months, this could be something else to try.

Can I place them outside in the summer?

This may not be the best idea. These plants are picky about their light and water conditions, and these will be much more difficult to control if you place your plant outside. They will also be more prone to insect pests and hungry herbivores who will be temped to eat their tender, juicy leaves.

Final Thoughts

African Violets are popular houseplants for good reason. They are beautiful and rewarding to grow in a sunny window. Provide them with anywhere from 8 to 14 hours of indirect sunlight, plus at least 8 hours of darkness, per day.

Watch for signs of too much or too little light, and make any needed adjustments to keep your plants happy. When their needs for light, water, and nutrients are met, they can bloom beautifully throughout the year!

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