Is your African violet looking more like a small tree, than a normal violet?  Does it look like the violet in the picture? I’m embarrassed to even admit that this is my violet. I have let this get too dry, then watered it too much too quickly, and should have re-potted it long ago. It’s a miracle it’s alive after the abuse it has received. I’m going to demonstrate, with pictures, how I rejuvenated this plant. When I’m done, it will be hard to believe it is the same plant. (Excuse the poor quality of the pictures.)

African violet that needs help

This African violet needs help

Clean up the violet

First,  I have removed any brown, dry and/or mushy leaves.  The resulting stem or “trunk” is revealed.

Africn violet neck

The long stem or “neck” of the violet after the leaves removed

Scrape the “neck”

The plant is looking better, but still sad. The next step is to take a sharp knife and carefully scrape the trunk all around and down the entire length. This step gets rid of the brown scabs remaining after the leaves have been removed.
You can see in the next picture, the brown scabby tissue is gone, leaving fresh green plant tissue.

Scraped African violet neck

I scraped the “neck’ to remove the scabby brown stuff

Root surgery

Now, I remove the plant from its pot. I then take a knife and cut away approximately 1/2 of the root ball. I want to take away as much root ball as there is “trunk” length. If  I have 1″ of “trunk” showing, then I will cut away 1″ of the soil ball, for example.

Extreme surgery

Sometimes the stem can be so long, that the entire root ball may have to be removed. This is only necessary for a plant that has been allowed to grow a “trunk” for a very long time. The result of this drastic measure is only a rosette of leaves and a short stem remains. The stem with the rosette of leaves is then planted in a pot of soil, with the soil coming up to the bottom of the first set of leaves. The entire plant would then have to be placed in a plastic bag. This will allow the plant to recover and grow a whole new set of roots, as if in a miniature greenhouse. The plastic bag will keep the moisture in, keep the plant from wilting, and can be removed when the plant starts growing again.  One should never let their plant get this bad, but sometimes it happens.

Root ball of African violet

I cut the roots off the same length as the scraped stem

Wash the pot

After washing the pot to remove any unwanted residue, I will re-pot the violet into the same pot. Most standard violets will never need a pot larger than 4″, so I don’t need to use a larger pot.
By cutting away a portion of the root ball, I then can plant the violet back in the same pot. Covering the stem with fresh soil will allow it to grow new roots from the scraped stem and the violet will be like a whole new plant. I water it well, let it drain, and allow the foliage to dry. It is a fallacy that you can’t get water on violet leaves. They need a shower once in a while, like any other plant. Leaving the violet out of the direct light until it is dry is the secret. Also, use warm water, not cold, as cold water will leave marks on the leaves.

Revived plant

Look at these two pictures below. It doesn’t in any way resemble the sad plant in the first picture and looks like it just spent a day at a spa for plants. It came out refreshed, rejuvenated, and looking great. The last thing I did and it could have been done earlier, is the removal of any flowers or buds. The plant does not need to expend any energy on flowering at this time as it needs to use all its energy to make new roots. It’s hard to see, but there is a flower bud to the left in the first re-potted picture. It is hard to cut potential flowers off since that’s really why we grow these plants, but it is better for the overall health of the plant.

I have a plant that looks new, fresh, and will be blooming again in no time. Do you grow African violets? Did you know you need to re-pot them often to keep them from having a long “neck”? 

Have a great week, plant friends!

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