The genus Saintpaulia (saint-PAUL-ee-a) was named by Herman Wendland, Director of the Royal Botanical Gardens at Herrenhausen, Germany in honor of Baron Walter van Saint Paul who discovered the plants while living in Usumbara, a province of Tanganyika (now Tanzania). There are 22 species of African Violets native to Tanzania and Kenya. The modern hybrids of African Violets were developed from the species s. ionantha and s. confusa. Trailing violets may have S. grotei or other trailing species in their ancestry.
Tanzania is near the equator and African Violets receive consistent light and temperature year round. This makes them ideal candidates for the light garden. Shop lights hung a foot above the plants provide the light. Use two cool white bulbs or a combination of a cool white and a warm white. Use a timer to run the lights 12 hours a day. African Violets do well in a soilless mix consisting of two parts Jiffy Mix (one part vermiculite to one part peat moss) to one part perlite. Potting soil mixes can be used if they are lightened up with equal parts of perlite and vermiculite. Water the plants twice a week with a granular fertilizer such as Rapid Gro 1/4 teaspoon to a gallon of water. Do not let the soil dry completely out or keep it too wet. African Violets like a temperature of 70°. Above 80° they do not thrive.
African Violets can also be grown in the window sill. They need bright light but direct sun will burn their leaves. They do best in an east window.