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.
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.
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 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.
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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