The Q&A Archives: African Violets

Question: My african violet leaves are slowly turning brown and dying. Too much or too little water? The other African violet plants are happy campers.

Answer: Yellowing or browning leaves can be caused by a variety of things including overwatering, underwatering, accumulation of salts in the soil, and lack of nitrogen. Soil should be kept evenly moist, but not soggy, and just barely starting to dry out on the surface before applying more water. Flush the plant with water, allowing it to run out of the bottom of the pot for several minutes. Do this once a month to leach out salts. If the plant hasn't been repotted in years, you may want to repot it with fresh soil. If possible, use a soil mix especially for African Violets. If it has been repotted, and you feel that soil moisture is correct, you could apply fertilizer. There are fertilizers formulated especially for African violets. Finally, all plants will lose some outer leaves as they grow. Older foliage will turn yellow and die so that new foliage can take its place. Check to see if healthy new leaves are forming in the center of the plant.

Here are some pointers are care: Give the plants average household temperatures, but avoid drafts or sudden changes in temperature. Place the plants in a bright window, but keep it from getting direct sunlight. Keep the soil moist, but wait until the soil surface begins to dry before watering. Use tepid, not cold water, and try not to get water on the leaves or crowns of the plants when you apply water. African violets like humidity in the air. To increase humidity, place the pot on a tray of pebbles in which you keep about a half-inch of water. As the water evaporates it will add humidity. Some expert gardeners are able to get African violets to bloom ten months of the year. This is because the plants are given perfect growing conditions. More often, though, African violets will bloom for a few weeks, then rest for several weeks, and then bloom again. Cut the flowers and stems off when the flowers fade. You can feed them about every two months with a complete houseplant fertilizer (read and follow the label directions), or with a special African Violet fertilizer.

Good luck with your African Violets!

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