Q&A: Should I be growing my African violets under lights? They aren’t doing so well.

Answer: African violets are day-neutral plants, which flower regardless of the season, provided they receive the right quality and intensity of light. During the spring and summer months, keep them in a west-facing window. During the fall and winter move them to an east- or south-facing window. Avoid direct sun light at all times. To compensate for the shorter days of winter you can supplement natural sunlight with fluorescent lights. Use an automatic timer to turn the lights on and off, so your African violets can receive an additional five or six hours of light near the end of the day. They should receive between 12 and 16 hours of light daily, and no more than a total of 18 hours of light per day.

Alternatively, African violets can be grown exclusively under fluorescent lights. Their flat, rosette growth habit makes them ideal subjects for growing under lights. Suspend a pair of 48-in-long, 40-watt, cool-white fluorescent tubes in a fixture equipped with reflectors, about a foot above the plants. Periodically rotate the positions of the African violets to provide them all with fairly equal amounts of light. Some growers recommend using a combination of warm-white and cool-white tubes; and still others like to use horticultural bulbs such as Gro-Lux or Veri-Lux. Experiment to see which are best for you. For more information about growing and collecting African violets, visit avsa.org.

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