Does Your African Violet Need to Be Repotted?

by | Sep 30, 2011 | 10 comments

Does your African violet need repotted? How would you know? Is your African violet looking more like a small tree, than a normal violet?  Does it look like the violet in the picture?

Repotting my African violet

I’m embarrassed to admit this is my violet. I let it get too dry, then watered it too much, and should have repotted it long ago. It has a long neck, dead leaves, and looks horrible. It’s a miracle it’s alive after the abuse it received.

I’m going to show, 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.) This is how to repot your African violet.

African violet that needs help
This African violet needs help

Clean up the violet

First, I removed all the brown, dry and mushy leaves. Look at the resulting stem or “trunk”. What do you do with this “trunk” before repotting your African violet?

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

Scrape the African violet “neck”

The plant looks better but is still needing work. Use a sharp knife and scrape the trunk all around and down the entire length. This step removes the brown scabs remaining after the leaf removal.
You can see in the next picture, the brown scabby tissue is gone, leaving fresh green plant tissue. Your are getting closer to repotting your African violet.

Scraped African violet neck
I scraped the “neck’ to remove the scabby brown stuff

Root surgery for repotting

Remove the plant from its pot and using a knife, cut away part of the root ball. Take away as much root ball as there is “trunk” length. For example, if there is 1″ of “trunk” showing, then cut away 1″ of the soil ball.

Extreme surgery

Sometimes the stem can be so long, the entire root ball is removed. This is necessary for a plant that has been growing a “trunk” for a long time. Cut the stem one to two inches long after removing the roots.

The result of this drastic measure is a rosette of leaves and a short stem. Place the stem with the rosette of leaves in a pot of moist potting mix. Bury the stem so that the soil reaches the first set of leaves.

Place the plant in a plastic bag as this will allow the plant to recover and grow a whole new set of roots. The platic bag acts as a miniature greenhouse, keeping the moisture in so the plant doesn’t wilt. Remove the bag when the plant starts growing.  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 before repotting

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 part 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. 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.

Repotted and revived African violet

Look at the pictures below. It doesn’t in any way resemble the sad plant in the first picture and looks like it spent a day at a spa for plants. It came out refreshed, rejuvenated, and looking great. It definitely needed repotting.

Remove flower buds

The last thing I did was remove the flower buds. The plant does not need to expend energy on flowering now 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 repotted picture. It is hard to cut off flower buds since that’s 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 bloom 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”? I hope this helps you have the courage to repot your African violets.

Have a great week, plant friends!


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  1. Rika

    So the roots will be growing out of the trunk now and the trunk becomes the root, right?

  2. Lisa

    Yes, Rika. The trunk will now have roots growing out of it. This needs to be done at least every year to keep the plant looking good.

  3. Rika

    Ah I see, thank you for all the instructions! 🙂 I didn’t know that. I thought the only way to refresh them is growing them from a leaf again.
    Next time I’m at my parents’ (where my old humble collection currently resides) I’ll be doing some operations..

  4. Lisa

    I’m so glad I could be of help! Enjoy your violets.

  5. Kate Madsen

    Thank you for posting, I had never heard of scraping he “trunk of the brown plaques..I am one of those that has plants in every window too ( and the family does the groan about a plant in the shower 🙂

  6. S Gaile

    Very good,clear directions! Thank you

  7. cherney

    I have an African violet that has never bloomed. I don’t know what to do.

    • Lisa Steinkopf

      Hi Cherney,
      If an African violet or any blooming plant, for that matter, aren’t blooming, it usually means it needs more light. Move it closer to a window or put it under grow lights. Keeping it well watered, fertilized, and pest free also goes a long way towards it blooming well.

  8. Kyrsti

    My violet is so leggy! The leaves have stalks that are as long as 6in and they are all so thin and spindley. Is there any saving this plant?

    • Lisa Steinkopf

      Hi Kyrsti,
      I apologize for the late response. It sounds like your plant isn’t getting enough light. I think if you up the light, it will do well. Let me know how its going.


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