What Is Powdery Mildew and Why is it On My African Violets?

by | Feb 12, 2019 | 2 comments

I recently bought new African violets. They all looked good until I noticed white powder on the leaves of one of my miniature ones. It may not be apparent at first, but if this isn’t treated, it will kill your plant. What is the powder on your African violet leaves? Powdery mildew.

minature African violet
Hard to see the powdery mildew on the plant

It is hard to see

It isn’t noticeable until you get up close.

Powdery mildew
White powdery substance which is aptly called powdery mildew

What is powdery mildew

It is a plant pathogen called an obligate parasite meaning it can only grow and reproduce on a living plant. It infects green tissue, including leaves, stems, and flower parts. The powdery mildew has small root-like haustoria that obtain their food from the African violet cells in the epidermal layer.

(Merriam-Webster: Haustoria: a nutrient-absorbing outgrowth of a fungus or parasitic plant that penetrates the tissues of the host organism)

powdery mildew
Powdery mildew up close

It’s all pretty gross isn’t it? The poor plant. You can see the it on the flower stem below, as well as on the leaves.

podery mildew on flowers
Powdery mildew on the leaves and the stems of the flower

How to get rid of powdery mildew

The good news? It is easily controlled if caught early and there are many ways to treat it. Some people use Lysol to spray their plants. Spray carefully as the aerosol can damage plant parts. I have not done this but would recommend a light hand with the spray if that is what you decide to do.

I HAVE used Neem oil. It worked for me and it worked overnight. I have not sprayed this plant yet as I just discovered the problem. I will show you pictures later after I spray it. Any type of fungicide that is labeled for use on houseplants will work. The key is to catch it early before it damages your plant.

powdery mildew
See the spent flower that is covered with powdery mildew

Notice below it is on the back of the leaves as well as the front. When you spray the plant, make sure you spray the back sides of the leaves, as well.

See the mildew on the back of the leaf

Why do our plants get Powdery Mildew?

It seems like it happens a lot in the winter when we warm our houses up during the day and cool them down at night. That paired with stagnant air, sets the plant up for an attack. Air circulation is a big factor.¬† I find I don’t often get it on the plants where there is a ceiling fan running all the time.

This plant was under grow lights in the kitchen where there is little air circulation and humidity is high.

At this time of year, check your plants often and you will catch the problem early before it damages the plant.

Have a great week, plant friends!


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  1. Jaime Haney

    I thought you weren’t supposed to get the leaves wet on an African violet. Is that a myth? I had mealy bug on a violet and I used alcohol with a Q-tip to treat it. The plant died anyway, sadly. I just assumed it was because I got the leaves wet. Is there a secret to treating them?

    • thehouseplantguru.com

      Hi Jaime, As I sarcastically tell everyone….African violets grow in the wild in Africa and it rains there….lol Yes it is not true that you can’t get the leaves wet. It is true though, that you should not use cold water. That will damage the leaves. Also don’t let water sit in the crown of the plant for any amount of time, as it my rot the plant. I use a kleenex or paper towel to blot the water out of the middle and do not set it back in the light with wet leaves. It is hard to get rid of mealybugs on violets. I would use a systemic in the potting medium if I had pests on a violet. You can use the q-tip with alcohol, just try hard not to touch the leaves. It may burn them. Thanks for your questions and comments!


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