The Q&A Archives: Half Dead African Violets

Question: Please help! My friend moved out of town last year, and left me 5 African Violets. Although they seemed happy when I first got them-they even bloomed shortly after--they have sinced wilted and shrivelled. I'm not a green thumb, and don't know what to do with them. I've watered them under their leaves, as instructed, they are not in direct light, but are in a sunny room, and aren't in a direct draft. I'm not sure if I should pull off all the leaves that look brown and wilted, or not. Also, the roots seem rather exposed--should I repot them? Really, I can't keep anything alive, but I'd really like to save these!

Answer: Based on your description I am not certain what the problem is, but here are some pointers. African violets grow from the center, and as the newer growth develops the older outer leaves eventually fade. Remove any wilted or or browned leaves and then inspect the crown or center of the plant for signs of insects. Also be sure that there is ample humidity -- grouping them together and setting them on a pebble tray can help. It is possible that the plants are simply in need of repotting, but it is more likely they have become old and should be propagated by leaf cuttings and then discarded. Do this in spring or early summer for the best results. You will find detailed instructions in the Q&A on starting new African violets from leaf cuttings.

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