I decided to revitalize my African violets because they have been looking really rough lately. I’ve been killing them, to be honest. Between writing a book, the holidays, and just being busy, they were craving some much-needed attention. So 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. Hopefully, my light stand will look like this soon. Or at least one shelf would be nice…..
I have a light stand that I have my violets on, along with other plants. They are the same shelves as my friend Lynn’s shown above. 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 costly to run. Almost everyone in my African violet club has switched to LEDs or more efficient T-5 or T-8 fluorescent lights. So last week I took the plunge and invested in 4 LED shop lights. I am so excited! I think they will make a big difference for my plants and my electric bill. (My husband will be happy about that.)
New potting medium
Next, I decided to try 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 included 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 very airy and porous, so no too much water sits in the potting medium which will eventually lead to root rot. When you have a large number of plants, it is easier to wick water so that you don’t have to water so often. 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. This mix is also too heavy to use with wick watering. So 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, as well. A couple had long necks. What is that? I bet you didn’t know violets can develop “necks.” (Read more about that here.)The lower leaves of the violet will eventually fall off and the stem of the plant will become bare and covered with a brown crusty substance. This is where the older leaves have fallen off and the leaf scars have scabbed over. To amend this problem, carefully scrape off the crusty substance using a small knife, revealing new green tissue below. I then cut off the bottom of the root ball, cutting as much off the root ball as the neck is long. Then repot your violet covering the scraped neck with potting medium up 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.
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.
If you find you have pollen spilling down the petals of your flowers, you may (most likely) have thrips. I always remove the flowers as soon as I bring my plants home, as well as any flower buds. This isn’t easy to do. Thrips like to eat the pollen which is only present in the flowers, so I take them off in the hopes I am also removing any and all thrips. Thrips can transmit disease, so they need to be eliminated.
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 and will keep you updated. 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!