The Q&A Archives: Persian Violet Wilting

Question: I recently bought a persian violet, and within a day or two, it began to wilt. I keep it indoors, as it has been extremely hot outdoors (in the high 80's to 90's) and the humidity has been terrible. I have over 600 plants that I care for both inside and outside of my home, but this one just doesn't seem to do well even when others do fine in its environment. It does not seem to have signs of disease (other than the wilting problem). I suspect the temperature even indoors may be too high for it (we do not have air conditioning...we use fans at night only when we are home from work). Any ideas? I had a persian violet once before, and the same thing happened, only took longer.

Answer: How disappointing! Persian violets (botanical name Exacum affine) are beautiful, but finicky plants. They are native to tropical/subtropical regions, and like warm, humid conditions. You might want to set the plant outdoors--choose a spot where it will receive sun morning through mid-day, with some shading in the afternoon if possible. (Remember that plants in small containers dry out quickly outdoors--you might transplant to a larger pot, or sink the whole pot in the soil.) Indoors, the plants are a little harder to keep looking good. They look so beautiful coming from the greenhouse! But there they've been coddled with high humidity, just the right amount of light, and probably diligent pest management. Sensitive plants like these often suffer shock when they change environments--from greenhouse to store to your home.

When grown in containers, Persian violets must be kept moist but never saturated--overwatering causes root damage, which can lead to the wilting you describe. Though they like humidity, they also seem to suffer if not given enough air circulation. In my experience (as an interior landscaper) these plants are difficult to maintain at their peak indoors--we replaced them frequently with fresh specimens in our commercial accounts. At best, you might want to consider this plant an annual (even when grown as a houseplant). Good luck--it sounds like you are a talented gardener--and your yard and home must be beautiful!


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