How to Grow Persian Violets

Numerous blooms of Persian violets

phasinphoto / Getty Images

In This Article

Persian violets are a short-lived biennial flower (meaning they commonly only last two growing seasons) that are often grown as a houseplant or outdoors in tropical and subtropical regions. Growers outside of the violets' hardiness zones also treat them as annuals in the garden, planting them for just one growing season and removing them after they’re done blooming.

The plant remains fairly small, but it is quite eye-catching. It sports lots of petite, ovate, glossy dark green leaves. And fragrant, star-shaped, blue-violet flowers with yellow centers bloom profusely mostly in the spring and summer, though a rebloom is possible under optimal growing conditions. Sometimes the plant dies after its first bloom is finished, even within its growing zones. Persian violets are typically planted from nursery plants in the spring as soon as the threat of frost has passed, and they have a fast growth rate. 

Botanical Name  Exacum affine
Common Names Persian violet, Arabian violet, German violet
Plant Type Annual, biennial, herbaceous
Mature Size 6–18 in. tall, 6–12 in. wide
Sun Exposure Partial
Soil Type Moist, well-drained
Soil pH Acidic
Bloom Time Seasonal
Flower Color Blue-violet
Hardiness Zones 10–12 (USDA)
Native Area Asia
Toxicity Nontoxic

Persian Violet Care

You can plant your Persian violet in a suitable growing site in the garden, but transplanting can stress it and cause it to drop buds. So it’s often best to leave the violet in its nursery pot and grow it as a container plant instead. However, if the pot it came in doesn’t have drainage holes, you’ll have to carefully remove the plant and place it in a container just slightly larger than its root ball with ample drainage holes. 

Plan to water and feed your Persian violet regularly. And remove spent flowers to encourage further blooming. Persian violets generally don’t have any serious issues with pests or diseases. But keep an eye out for common plant pests, including aphids and spider mites. Check for leaf damage and webbing along the plant, and treat any issues as soon as they arise. 

Light

These plants prefer bright, indirect light to grow and flower at their best. But growing in full sun, especially strong afternoon sun, is too much for them and can scorch their foliage. When grown as a houseplant, a bright south- or west-facing window is ideal. 

Soil

The plants grow naturally in rocky soil. They can tolerate a variety of soil types as long as they have good drainage. They also like a slightly acidic soil pH. For potted Persian violets, an African violet potting mix is suitable. 

Water

Persian violets like soil that is consistently moist but not soggy. And they prefer watering with room-temperature water, as cold water can shock them. They are very vulnerable to root rot due to overwatering. But on the other end of the spectrum, they will readily wilt if they are thirsty. This is tricky because root rot also can cause wilting. So if your violet is wilting and the soil is moist, you’re likely watering too much. Most Persian violets won’t recover from root rot, so it’s best to start with a new plant. 

Temperature and Humidity

These flowers like mild temperatures between 60 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. They can tolerate warmer temperatures with adequate moisture and shade. But a cold snap can quickly kill them. As houseplants, protect your Persian violet from drafts and air blowing from heaters and air conditioners.

Moreover, Persian violets prefer a humidity level of at least 50 percent. To raise humidity around a potted plant, place it on a tray filled with pebbles and water. But make sure the bottom of the pot isn’t touching the water, which can cause root rot. A humidifier in the room with your violet also can benefit it, as can regularly misting the plant. Optimal humidity will help to prolong your plant’s bloom period.

Fertilizer

While your Persian violet is in bloom, feed it with a liquid fertilizer that's made for flowering plants, following label instructions. Don’t use a slow-release fertilizer, as the Persian violet likely won’t live long enough to benefit from the prolonged release of nutrients. 

Potting and Repotting Persian Violets

Most Persian violets won't live long enough to require repotting. However, many people find that the plants they buy in garden centers are already root-bound. Plants in this condition will grow more slowly and bloom less vigorously than others with sufficient space. If you see roots growing out of the top or bottom of the container, the plant is likely root-bound. In this case, gently ease it out of the container, and plant it at the same depth in a slightly bigger pot with fresh potting soil. Then, water the plant to evenly moisten the soil.

Persian Violet Varieties

There are several varieties of Persian violets available, often differing in flower color:

  • Exacum affine 'Princess White': This variety blooms with beautiful white flowers that have yellow centers and a sweet fragrance. 
  • Exacum affine 'Princess Deep Blue': As its name suggests, this variety blooms with bold blue-violet flowers.
  • Exacum affine 'Atrocaeruleum': This variety features rich lavender flowers with yellow centers.