African Violets are known for their velvet leaves and their beautiful deep purple, magenta, and white flowers. They are a beautiful addition to any window sill, but are notorious for being fickle and hard to care for.
My grandmother kept African violets in her home since I was a little girl, and she always said, “People think they are difficult because they just don’t know how to take care of them.”
On my recent trip to a nursery, I found a display of African violets that made my heart happy. They had all the different colors, and I thought that maybe I should get one so I could make my grandma proud. Of course, like most plants that you get from a nursery, there are some things you have to do once you get home to make sure that your newest purchase doesn’t die, like repotting the root bound plant so that it can grow adequately.
Repotting an African Violet
African violets do pretty well in small pots, but they do not do well when they are root bound. A good thing to do is to gently take the rootball out of the nursery plant and then gently work the roots loose from the soil and each other.
Example of a root bound plants
Once this is done, you can easily see how big the rootball of the violet is and can gage how big of a pot you will actually need. African violets like small pots as it encourages them to bloom, but it shouldn’t be so small that it can easily become root bound again. It is very important that when looking for a pot that you find one with a drainage hole at the bottom because African violets need to be watered from the bottom to protect the leaves of the plant and promote blooming. If you do not have any pots with a drainage hole, consider making a DIY pot with a leftover plastic cup or container that is big enough for your violet. All you need to do is cut a small hole no bigger than a dime in the bottom and you are ready to go!
The next important thing is to use the appropriate soil for your violet. I use violet potting soil that you can buy at any nursery or garden center. You can use regular potting soil, but the violet soil is specially formulated with the right nutrients and pH levels for your violet to grow relatively problem free.
When repotting, keep in mind that African violets enjoy loose soil. Do not pack the soil tightly. Repot your violet and wait at least 24 hours before watering in order to allow your plant to get over the initial shock of replanting.
Always use room temperature water that has been filtered (drinking water without any added minerals is usually great). Your pot with the drainage hole may need a tray to sit in so that watering is easier. Pour water into the tray and allow the water to soak into the soil from the bottom up (yes this does work, it’s called diffusion people). You can usually find special trays for this purpose in your nursery or garden center, but an old Tupperware container works just as well. Check on your violet 30 minutes later, if there is anymore standing water in the tray, you can dump it out.
Do not water from the top of the soil! If water gets onto the violets leaves they can be damaged and begin to rot which cannot be reversed.
In general, African Violets need just enough water to keep the soil moist, but never soggy. Too much water will leave your African Violets susceptible to such deadly pathogens as Pythium, Root Rot and Crown Rot. Overwatering can also cause denitrification, a condition which prevents plants from getting the nitrogen they need.
African violets love bright and indirect lighting. However they are known to do when they receive a lot of indirect light. If you place your violet in the windowsill, be sure to rotate the pot every so often to prevent the flower and leaves from reaching for the light. If you live somewhere where there are cold winters, make sure that you place your violet away from drafty windows, although some African violet plants have been known to be more resilient than others when it comes to the cold. If you see your violet reacting to the change in temperature, move the plant.
If you have an African violet that blooms and the flowers seem to begin to wilt and die, do not panic. This is natural for your violet to have blooms that wither and die. If you do nothing, the blooms will turn brown and begin to rot, which can lead to disease on your violet. To prevent this, just simply take some scissors and snip the bloom off your plant where it connects to the larger stem of the plant.
Don’t worry about losing a few flowers–a healthy plant in the proper environment is capable of blooming nearly continuously. It won’t be long before your violet is producing more!