How to Grow African Violets from Leaf Cuttings

Chris Higgins
Chris Higgins / Chris Higgins

Thirteen years ago, I moved to Portland, Oregon. On my first day, after settling in at a motel in the hippie underbelly of the east side, I bought a mutant African Violet from space at a local whole-food grocery, plus some super-gross protein bars (the motel didn't have a fridge), and set about trying to find a job. That space-violet is still alive (pictured above), and in recent years I've made a hobby of growing African Violets. Turns out, it's extremely simple. You just need a good leaf or two from a plant you like, a couple of cheap plastic containers (used yogurt cups work fine), and a little patience. Then, baby, you've got yourself a stew new plant going.

Here's a pair of videos explaining the process, from YouTube African Violet enthusiast m3rma1d (her other videos have tons of interesting tips -- like how to set up watering wicks, separating crowns, etc.). If you need some nice African Violet leaves to start with, just go grab some from a friend, or check eBay for a thriving market. Happy planting! Oh yeah -- and make sure your new plants get plenty of light! A sunny window works fine for me, though the pros use grow lamps.

Trimming and Planting Leaves

I use this method, except I use a sharp kitchen utility knife and scissors. I also often skip the perlite, though it's a great idea if you've got it (keeps the soil loose). Note the shipping box here -- it's likely that m3rma1d got these leaves in the mail and is just potting 'em up fresh out of the box.

Another note: see how small the plastic pot is? That's really all you need. You can sometimes find these at the salsa bar in your local Mexican eatery.

Separating Babies

After the leaves have been sitting around for a few months, pip plants start at the root area. Sometimes a leaf will fail to send out babies, but if you start with two or three leaves in a pot, you'll be fine. Now, the trick is to separate these baby plants, keeping the strongest one. Behold: