Marianne Binetti

A houseplant that thrives in winter

Gardening doesn’t need to end when the weather turns cold and the days are short. Some of the best houseplants thrive indoors all winter and some don’t even need to grow near a window to coax them into blooming.

The versatile African violet is a classic houseplant that will bloom all winter if its humble requests are met.

What do African Violets want? Here:


They need 12 hours of light a day to bloom. But unlike most indoor blooming plants, African violets will flower from the light of fluorescent bulbs. Yes, that means they’ll bloom in your office cubicle under a desk lamp. But there is a catch - the light source must be less than 12 inches away from the top of the violet. Of course if you happen to have an East or North facing window you can enjoy reblooming African Violets without fluorescent bulbs.


Don’t let your African violets dry out, but don’t let their roots sit in water either. They love humidity, so place the plastic pot inside a larger, more decorative container sitting atop pebbles, wine corks or marbles. This way the drainage water will evaporate to add humidity without rotting the plant roots.


This old husband’s tale really does work. If you have an African violet that is refusing to re-bloom, boil an egg and water the plant with the cooking water. Do not add salt to the water and allow the water to cool completely before you water your violets. It is the calcium from the egg shell that leaches into the water and puts African Violets in a blooming good mood.


Put your plants on a pedestal and show off those winter blooms by staging your violets with these ideas:

 • Use a soup tureen, crystal bowl or elegant art glass to hold a grouping of blooming violets and other houseplants. Line your fancy container with wine corks to get the potted plants at the proper height that hides their plastic pots but shows off their blooms.

 • Place a framed mirror on a tabletop. Display your potted violets on top of the mirror. They’ll love the reflected light up onto their leaves and you’ll love the double image of the flowers.

 • Line a recycled basket with a plastic bag, add the all important drainage material to the bottom and surround your potted violet with damp moss from your garden. The added moisture raises the humidity and you’ll feel like all that moss growing in your garden is good for something.

Marianne Binetti is the author of “Easy Answers for Great Gardens” and eight other gardening books. She has a degree in horticulture from WSU and will answer questions from her Web site at