African Violets

Learn about African Violets and other Gesneriads - Home Study - Develop a career, follow a passion.

Course CodeVHT105
Fee CodeS2
Duration (approx)100 hours
QualificationStatement of Attainment

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Develop a broad knowledge of African Violets and Related Plants.

African violets occur naturally is eastern tropical Africa (Tanzania and Kenya).

When African violets are grown outside of their "natural" environment, they need to be treated differently, but with adjustments made to compensate the changed conditions (eg. lower humidity, less natural light, colder temperatures), they are grown successfully in almost every part of the world.

Designed for the African Violet enthusiast this in depth unique course will teach you about:
  • propagation of African violets
  • cultivation health of African violets and pests
  • commercial aspects of growing African violets
  • You learn how African Violets are classified, and cover the exciting range of varieties available.

Here's your chance to achieve outstanding results with African Violets.


Lesson Structure

There are 8 lessons in this course:

  1. Introduction
    • What is an African Violet
    • Plant name pronunciation
    • Review of the system of plant identification
    • Introduction to Gesneriads
    • Classification of Gesneriaceae
    • Introduction to most commonly grown African Violet Species
    • Information contacts (ie: nurseries, seed, clubs etc.)
    • Plant Reviews
  2. Culture
    • Understanding how plants grow
    • Soils ad nutrition
    • African Violet potting mixes
    • Other cultural practices -Planting, watering, feeding, etc.
    • Review of Gesneriad Genera -Columnea, Streptocarpus, Episcia, Aeschynanthus etc
    • Plant Reviews
  3. Propagation
    • Sexual and asexual explained
    • Propagation aids -greenhouses, hotbeds, cold frames, misting etc.
    • Cuttings
    • Seed
    • Division
    • Plant Reviews
  4. Pests & Disease
    • Plant maintenance and health
    • Identifying problems
    • Controlling problems
    • Reviewing pest, disease and environmental issues that can confront African Violets
    • Plant Reviews
  5. Light and its Affects
    • Understanding light affects on african violet flowering
    • Artificial lighting
    • Plant Reviews
  6. Greenhouse Culture
    • The greenhouse system
    • Components of a greenhouse (floor, structure, ventilation, heating, etc)
    • Types off Greenhouses
    • Shadehouses
    • Coldframes
    • Heated propagators
    • Environmental controls
    • Heaters, Ventilators, etc
    • Plant Reviews
  7. Ways to Use African Violets
    • Containers, in the ground, in greenhouses, growing for profit (to sell etc.)
    • Review of popular cultivars
    • Plant Reviews
  8. Special Assignment
    • PBL Project: Planning the establishment of a collection of Gesneriads, for a specific (real or hypothetical) location.

Each lesson culminates in an assignment which is submitted to the school, marked by the school's tutors and returned to you with any relevant suggestions, comments, and if necessary, extra reading.


  • Describe how African Violets and related plants are classified and the plant naming system
  • Describe the cultural requirements of African violets
  • Select appropriate propagating materials and using them, propagate African violets.
  • Identify and control pest and diseases of African violets
  • Discuss the role that light plays in the growth of African violets
  • Describe greenhouses and other environmental control equipment used for growing African violets.
  • Describe the various ways in which African violets can be grown
  • Demonstrate the knowledge acquired for a specific group or individual plant in the Gesneriaceae family through research.




This course is focused mostly on African violets; but also provides an introduction and foundation for growing related plants that have similar cultural requirements and uses in horticulture.

These plants are members of the Gesneriaceae family of plants.
This family includes over 2,000 different species, spread across more than 120 genera. Around 300 or more of the species are in cultivation.
They occur mostly in tropical and sub tropical regions; though there are exceptions. The family has representative genera from most parts of the world, including Europe, Africa, Asia, America, Australasia and Polynesia.
Some of the genera (including Saintpaulia, Streptocarpus and Sinningia have been widely bred to produce thousands of different named cultivars; some of which have become commercially important plants.
The first gesneriad that was identified was Ramondamyconi, from northern Spain and the Pyrenees. It occurs naturally on rocky cliffs.  It’s classification was confused at first. It was thought to be an Auricula at first, then Linnaeus in 1753 classified it as a Verbascum.  Eventually it was recognised to belong to a different family to those plants.

Gesneriad Characteristics
Most gesneriads have fleshy tissues -not woody. They are generally herbaceous or only slightly woody.
Occasionally they may be tuberous, commonly they can be epiphytes, on rare occasions they may be a shrub or climber.
Leaves are usually opposite and simple. The leaf margin is most often entire or toothed. The leaf surface is commonly hairy, but not always
Flowers are cymose, usually irregular, bisexual (female and male parts in the same flower), with five petals, 5 sepals and most commonly two or four stamens (but sometimes five stamens).  Flowers are often twinned.


Nurserymen, florists and indoor plantscapers who deal with African violets on a daily basis may use this course to expand their knowledge and awareness of gesneriads.

Amateur and professional plant collectors and gesneriad lovers may use this course to indulge their passion.

For some, studying this course is a starting point for a life long exploration of gesneriads; while for others, it can be a vehicle to fill in gaps in their existing experience and knowledge.

By committing to such a specialised study program on just one type of plant, you will be laying the foundation to develop a real level of expertise with these plants. Such specialised knowledge is valuable and has the potential to be a career or business advantage for anyone working in horticulture.



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Diana Cole

B.A. (Hons), Dip. Horticulture, BTEC Dip. Garden Design, Diploma Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development, PTLLS (Preparing to Teach in the Life Long Learning Sector), P.D.C. In addition to the qualifications listed above, Diana holds City & Guild
Rosemary Davies

Leading horticultural expert in Australia. Rosemary trained in Horticultural Applied Science at Melbourne University. Initially she worked with Agriculture Victoria as an extension officer, taught horticulture students, worked on radio with ABC radio (c
John Mason

Parks Manager, Nurseryman, Landscape Designer, Garden Writer and Consultant. Over 40 years experience; working in Victoria, Queensland and the UK. He is one of the most widely published garden writers in the world.
Robert James

B.App. Sc. (Horticulture), Dip.Ag., M.Sc., Grad Dip.Mgt. Over 50 years experience that includes, Nursery Manager Brisbane City Councoil, Grounds Manager (University of Qld), Lecturer Qld Agricultural College, Propagator/Nurseryman at Aspley Nursery, Hort
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