Grow Healthy African Violets
Should you withhold fertilizer when the African violet is in bloom? In my opinion this is poor practice. African violets need food when producing blossoms, and since the plant ideally should bloom continuously. It would severely deprive the plant if fertilizer were withheld.What soil mix should I use? I use a mixture of two parts sterilized soil, one part coarse perlite, and one part coarse vermiculite. Any purchased sterilized soil can be used. Perlite and vermiculite help keep the soil loose and porous.
The lower leaves turn soggy — should I take them off? It is a good practice to remove all leaves that have started to decay. It is a natural process for older leaves to die off. They will be replaced by new growth in the center of the plant. Any bottom leaves turning yellow or spotted should be removed.
What is wrong when the soil is wet but the plant seems limp? This may be an indication that the plant has been overwatered, and possibly crown rot has set in. There is not too much that can be done. You may be able to take off a healthy leaf or two to start a new plant, but the old plant may not live if the center crown has started to rot.
How often should I repot my African violet? It is beneficial to repot violets in fresh soil every year or two at most. Do not necessarily use a larger pot each time you repot.
What should be done with a plant that has developed a thick stem below the bottom leaves? This is usually called a neck. It can be taken care of by setting the plant deeper into the soil when you repot. Use the proper size pot, not one that is too large or too deep. If the “neck” is too high, carefully remove some of the old soil from around the violet’s roots, so it can be lowered further down into the pot. If the soil and roots are hard and compacted, and cannot be loosened, then a portion of the bottom of the root mass can be sliced off with a knife. Repot so that the lower layer of healthy green leaves rests on the soil line at the top of the pot.
Yankee Classic: January 1982
For more advice on caring for house plants, read our article on Plant Watering Tips.