Flower: African Violet

A classic African violet.

A classic African violet.

On a recent grocery-shopping trip, I found that my grocery store was giving away African violets.  It’s been a long time since I had one as my room at the co-op didn’t have a window conducive to growing house plants.  My room at here in Olympia, though, has 3 windows.  Since I’m pretty sure light won’t be an issue, I took the store up on their offer, brought home a handsome specimen, and promptly named him Maury.

It wasn’t terribly long after I installed Maury in a window under my Witch Ball that I got to wondering if there were any magical uses for African violets.  After all, it’s not like you come across “powdered violets of Africa” in too many spell formulae, so I did a little digging.  As it turns out, there is a brief entry for African violets in Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs:

African Violet (Saintpaulia ionantha)
Gender:  Feminine
Planet:  Venus
Element:  Water
Powers:  Spirituality, Protection
Magical Uses:  The purple-colored flowers and plants are grown in the home to promote spirituality within it.  The plants are also slightly protective when grown.

Gerina Dunwich notes much the same in her book, The Wicca Garden, noting that “the African violet is used by Wiccans of all traditions as a protection amulet and to promote spirituality within the home.  It is also burned as a traditional herbal incense of the Spring Equinox Sabbat” (22).  However, I have to say that in my Gardnerian training I have yet to encounter the use of African violets at all, much less as a protection amulet or as an incense.  I don’t recommend collecting the leaves or flowers of the African violet and using them to make some sort of potion.  From what I’ve found online, it is not recommended to ingest any part of this flower.  I don’t see that a few dried flowers crushed and mixed with other herbs in an incense would be terribly detrimental to your health, though.  In my opinion, I think it’s probably best to grow the violets as a totemic reminder of one’s spirituality.  When you admire or tend them, it would be reinforcing to reflect upon your own spiritual path at that time.  They’re probably also great plants to use leading up to a Spring ritual or a dedication of one’s spirituality.  It would be easy enough to plant or re-pot one during ritual and charge it with conducive energy.

It’s easy to see where Cunningham came up with his correspondences for this plant.  It loves constant humidity and warm temperatures, so the elemental association with water is really obvious.  Its heart-shaped leaves definitely put one in mind of love, and Venus, and their velvety texture is very feminine.  Of course, their most common flower color is an arresting purple–mine is definitely on the blue end of purple–and we all know that this is the color of deep spirituality and universal energy.

My own violet, Maury.  I just set his plastic container in a larger pot filled a bit with pebbles and water for some humidity.  This is not a recommended pot for him, but it was a dollar and we'll see how he likes it.

My own violet, Maury. I just set his plastic container in a larger pot filled a bit with pebbles and water for some humidity. The orange pot is not a recommended pot for him, but it was a dollar and we’ll see how he likes it.  Godzilla is keeping him company.

Growing African Violets:

Though ‘self-watering’ pots are promoted for African violets, these plants actually prefer pots with ample drain holes that are shorter and wider than your typical flower pot.  They also like being a little root-bound, so don’t plant them in a large container for their size.  Place the plant in a north or east facing window.  African violets enjoy temperatures around 70˚F.  If temperatures in the window are colder than 65˚F at night, move the plant to a warmer location at night.  If temperatures exceed 80˚F, growth will be slowed.  African violets appreciate humidity, but do not like being wet.  When the top inch of the soil feels dry (roughly weekly), water the plant using room-temperature water.  If watering from the top, take care to not let water touch the leaves as they will spot.  If watering from the bottom, set the flower pot in a larger vessel of water until the top of the soil is damp, about 15-25 minutes.  Allow the plant to drain thoroughly before replacing it.  If the plant is typically watered from the bottom, water it from the top once every 4-6 weeks to help reduce salt accumulation on the soil surface.  Between waterings, keep the violet pot on a saucer at least 2 inches bigger in diameter than the top.  Fill the saucer with pebbles to elevate the violet, then fill the saucer with water, taking care that the water does not touch the pot.  Evaporating water from the saucer will help keep the violet humid.

For more detailed information, please consult the Purdue Department of Horticulture’s pamphlet on African violet care.

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