Dr. Jeff Smith is a botanist at Ball State University. He is an acknowledged expert in all things African Violet, with many popular and professional publications.

African Violets are one of the smaller groups in the Old World Gesneriaceae, but also one of the best known because of their extensive use as house plants. Wild populations are found in Tanzania and Kenya and grow on moss covered boulders, on cliffs or on rock outcrops shaded by large trees. They are typically found at mid-altitudes in mountainous areas, and these species and their descendants are well-adapted to home environments. Those found at higher altitudes may require cooler temperatures than is readily available in most homes.

Hybridization programs over the last 80 years have exploited a number of mutations resulting in the production of thousands of brightly colored cultivars which can be easily grown in our homes. This article is intended to provide a background and history about these attractive popular plants.


Streptocarpus ionanthus ssp. pendulus, left, is one of the most attractive of the African Violet species; Saintpaulia ‘Picasso’, right, is a modern hybrid showing attractive leaf variegation and fully double flowers.