When you look at all of the different colors and shapes of African Violets on a shelf in your local garden center, you may think that there are hundreds of varieties. But in reality, there are only six types of African Violet in the Gesneriaceae family. The plants, which are also known as Saintpaulia, are native to Kenya and Tanzania.
African Violets are popular houseplants because they thrive and flower year round under conditions found in any home. The plants prefer bright light, but direct sunlight will burn the leaves. For best results, place an African violet in a south-facing window that is shaded by a lace curtain, or the branches of an exterior tree. If the plant does not receive enough sunlight, it will fail to produce flowers.
Flowering is also affected by the duration of light that the plants receive. In order to flower, the plants need a minimum of 8 hours of sunlight (up to 16 hours maximum) and 8 hours of darkness. If the plants receive less than 8 hours of light and darkness, they will fail to flower.
Fluorescent light may be substituted. The plants will grow well if they receive 600 foot candles of light (indirect sunlight is 1,000 foot candles) for 16 hours daily. You can achieve this by placing two 40 watt fluorescent tubes 12 to 15 inches above the plants. A timer will ensure that the plants get a consistent amount of light.