How to Revitalize Your African Violets

by | Feb 26, 2020 | 6 comments

I need to revitalize my African violets because they look rough. I’ve neglected them, to be honest. Between writing a book, the holidays, and being busy, they craved some much-needed attention.

Now that I’ve slowed down a bit, I can finally give them some. I want my few violets to look like my friend Lynn’s below. So let’s talk about how to revitalize your violets. I want my light stand to look like this. Or at least one shelf that looks good would be nice.

 African violet light stand
My friend Lynn’s African violet stand

New Lights

I have a light stand with my violets, along with other plants. They are the same shelves as my friend Lynn’s above. They are simple 4′ long wire storage shelves with lights suspended above the plants. I have been using T-12 fluorescent lights for years.

I was pretty much living in the “dark ages” when it came to my lights. They are not energy efficient, are full of mercury, and are costly to run. Most members in my African violet club have switched from fluorescent tomore efficient LEDs, T-5, or T-8 fluorescent lights.

Last week I took the plunge and invested in 4 LED shop lights. I am so excited! They will make a big difference for my plants and my electric bill. (My husband will be happy about that.)

New potting medium

I tried a new potting medium recipe, so I asked a few members of my violet group what mix they used. There are so many different recipes out there but  I chose one and went with it.

What did I use? The ingredients consist of Sunshine 4 High Porosity Professional Growing Mix, Fox Farm Ocean Forest which contains aged forest products, sphagnum peat moss, earthworm castings, bat guano, fish emulsion, and crab meal, coarse perlite, powdered molasses, worm castings,  mycorrhizae, and Bonide systemic insecticide.

I was blown away that powdered molasses was in the recipe, as maybe you are. I found it at the hydroponic store. Here is some more information about using molasses from the Gesneriad Society. I decided to use it even though there are conflicting opinions out there. I saw some violets grown by someone who does use it and I thought it couldn’t hurt, right? They were amazing violets and remember, I want my violets to be beautiful.

Another member uses Pro Mix BX HP with mycorrhizae, Happy Frog potting mix, perlite, and vermiculite. Her violets are beautiful, so It works for her! The key is to find one that works for you and your growing conditions.

These mixes drain very quickly because most people growing violets under lights wick water their violets. For wick watering to work, the potting medium has to be airy and porous, so the potting medium doesn’t stay too wet, which will eventually lead to root rot.  When you have a large number of plants, it is easier to wick water. All you have to do it keep the reservoir filled. You can find out more about wick watering here.

Changing potting medium

The potting medium that violets are commercially grown in is mostly peat moss. It holds water well so violet growers can ship the plants and they will stay hydrated until they get to their final destination-your home.

The problem is when they do dry out, the peat moss pulls away from the sides of the container. At that point, the medium is hard to get rehydrated and the water runs down the sides of the pot in the space where the soil has pulled away. Read about rehydrating a dry plant here.

Potting medium for wick watering

This mix is also too heavy to use with wick watering. The solution is to change the potting medium. I washed as much medium as possible from the root balls of the plants. Because the plants have such fine, fibrous root systems, it wasn’t easy to get it off. I washed away as much as I could using the sink sprayer. I did this in the sink with the garbage disposal running. (Don’t tell my husband and don’t blame me if you have plumbing issues. I didn’t and whether you do it this way is up to you.) Then I used the new potting mix recipe and repotted my plants into clean pots. (At this point I did not add wicks, but after I get my plants used to their new homes, I may do that. I only have a few African violets so watering isn’t a problem.)

Revitalizing older violets

I had some older violets as well as newer ones and they weren’t looking too good, so I also repotted those. A couple had long necks. What is that? I bet you didn’t know violets can develop “necks.” (Read more about that here.)

The older lower leaves of the violet will fall off. This is natural. The stem of the plant will become bare and where the leaves were attached to the stem will develop brown scars. To amend this problem, carefully scrape off the crusty, brown scars using a small knife, revealing new green tissue below. Cut off the bottom of the root ball, cutting as much off the root ball as the neck is long.

Repot your violet covering the scraped neck with potting medium to the bottom set of leaves. That scraped neck will grow new roots. Try to repot your violet more often to avoid having to cut a large amount of the root ball away.

Leaf Removal

When you are repotting your African violet, check to see if any leaves need to be removed. Why would you have to remove leaves? If there are small leaves underneath the top larger leaves or very large leaves that are disproportionate to the rest of the plant or damaged leaves, remove them.

African violet cold water damage
You can get African violet leaves wet, but don’t use cold water or the leaves will bear the consequences like the one above.
African violet leaf removal
Some leaves will need to be sacrificed to have a well-grown plant, like the small middle leaf above
African violet leaves
Remove any leaves smaller than the ones above it, overly large leaves, and damaged leaves.

Thrip Damage

If you find you have pollen spilling down the petals of your flowers, you have thrips. I remove the flowers and buds as soon as I bring my plants home. This isn’t easy to do becuse we buy them for the flowers, right? Thrips like to eat the pollen which is only present in the flowers. I take them off in the hopes I am also removing any and all thrips. Thrips can transmit disease, so it is important to eliminate them.

African violet thrip damage
The spilled pollen from the pollen sacs is a good indicator that you may have thrips.

New lease on life

I am hoping that with new potting medium, scraped necks, flowers removed, and new lights on my light stand, I will have some good-looking violets soon. Hopefully, they will be healthy and flowering constantly (or as often as possible).

Do you have any African violets? What is your secret to keep them thriving? Tell me in the comments!

Have a great week, plant friends!

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6 Comments

  1. Lorraine

    Hi! I have just purchased my 1st 3 African Violets! I chose to plant the 3 of them together in a round good sized ( I hope) shallow pot. For soil I used an African Violet grow mix that has mycorrhizae in it.

    I found your article very informative. I live up north in the Canadian prairies. As yet I do not have grow lights for any of my plants. Are they needed to grow happy African Violets?

    Reply
    • Lisa Steinkopf

      Hi Lorraine,
      It depends on what kind of light you have. East light is perfect, but if your plants quit blooming and don’t come back into bloom, it would be an indication that the plant needs more light. My grandma grew them well on her east window without any added light. I’m a member of the local African violet society and they all use lights but they are only growing violets and other gesneriads and are really into growing them as large as they can and have them bloom as often as possible so they use electric lights. The only thing you can do is see how they do.
      Lisa

      Reply
  2. mary meyer

    I have several African violent plants and I can’t seem to get them to bloom the lower leaves that are too long need to be cut off apparently and I just received three is a birthday gift in little tiny 2 in pots how should I repot them and how can I get my plants to rebloom they bloomed once and now I can’t get them to rebloom I don’t know what the problem is I’ve repotted them and it still doesn’t seem to work

    Reply
    • Lisa Steinkopf

      Hi Mary,
      To get flowering plants to bloom, they need to have the right amount of light. They also need humidity and the correct watering practices and fertilizer is a good idea as well. When they get a long neck, they need to be repotted. I hope this helps. There is more information on my website specifically about African violets, as well.

      Reply
  3. mary meyer

    In addition to the comment that I just made above I have a couple of plants where the leaves are growing straight up in the air I’m in a Way East window but they just don’t seem to be getting enough Sun apparently what can I do to make that stop and make those leaves spread out

    Reply
    • Lisa Steinkopf

      Hi Mary,
      If the leaves aren’t lying flat, they definitely need more light. Is there a tree or awning blocking the sun? An east window should be enough light.

      Reply

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