13 Mistakes You Might Be Making With Your African Violets
There are many common mistakes that indoor houseplant owners make when growing African Violets. To support their beautiful blooms, it's important to avoid common mistakes that plague many houseplant owners. In this artticle, gardening expert and houseplant enthusiast Madison Moulton examines the most common African Violet mistakes, as well as how to ensure you don't make them!
African Violets have a reputation for being difficult plants. Keeping them alive without any growth problems is an achievement in itself, let alone getting them to flower continuously. But, with a bit of knowledge and awareness, they don’t have to be as difficult as they seem.
These plants are not regular houseplants. They have particular needs and quirks that set them apart. This also means there are several areas where new African Violet owners can make mistakes without knowing what they did wrong.
Keep an eye out for these common African Violet mistakes and the keys to avoiding them to ensure your plants thrive for years to come.
Using Cold Water
Many mistakes start with the one care task we need to do most often – watering.
There are a number of ways to get watering wrong and many people generally focus on overwatering or underwatering. While these definitely are some of the most drastic mistakes, most know how to avoid these already. Instead, let’s focus on a few you may not have considered.
The first is using cold water during watering. As their roots are quite sensitive, using cold water can actually result in unintended shock, taking a while for the plant to recover.
Instead, use room temperature water or even lukewarm water. This is most like the conditions they receive outdoors, helping to spur growth and flowering.
Using Tap Water
Along similar lines, using tap water can also do some damage, depending on the quality of water where you live.
African Violets are especially sensitive to the chemicals in tap water, particularly chlorine. While this may not result in instant damage, over time it can begin to build up in the soil. This build-up will not only prevent flowering, but can also stunt growth.
If you can, use filtered or distilled water during watering. As that’s not always possible, you can also opt for the long route and simply leave the water out on the counter for a day or two to allow the chlorine to dissipate.
Scientists disagree on how long this takes, and the effectiveness will depend on the makeup of your tap water, but it is certainly worth a try. This also means it will be closer to room temperature when added to the soil, not ice-cold, covering point one at the same time.
Watering The Leaves
When it comes to African Violets, how you water is just as important as what you water with. The fluffy leaves hold onto drops of water incredibly well and don’t tend to let them go without a fight. Sitting on the leaves for long periods, even one small drop of cold water can lead to unsightly marks.
Many gardeners notice these spots and immediately think of a pest or disease problem. But something as simple as how you water your plants may actually be the fix. Always water the soil, avoiding touching the leaves as much as you can.
The best way to avoid this altogether is to water from the bottom. Place your plant in a sink or bucket filled with water around halfway up the pot. Leave them to sit for around 15-30 minutes to soak up as much water as they need, moving them back to their original homes later on. Once per month, water above the soil to completely flush it and repeat the process.
African Violets thrive in as high a humidity as possible, as close to 80% as you can get it. That is tricky to achieve in most areas, so many owners resort to other methods of raising humidity around their plants. One of those is misting.
Unfortunately, misting as often as you would need to to raise humidity levels only leads to the same problems as the previous mistake. Rather than remaining in the air, the water droplets sit on the leaves and cause those unsightly spots we like to avoid.
Rather than misting to raise humidity, place your plant on a pebble tray filled with water. The water line should be below the base of the pot to prevent rotting. The water will slowly evaporate around the plant, raising humidity slightly.
Humidifiers are also a good option. You can also place them in a more humid room. Humidifiers can greatly improve conditions to give your African Violets the air they are accustomed to in their native habitats. Point the humidifier away from the direct path of the plant to stop any water from accumulating.
Placing Them In Direct Sunlight
African Violets are shade lovers, preferring the protection from trees overhead to the sun’s intense direct rays. This is one of the reasons why they make such great houseplants. But, as they are flowering plants, some may assume they need a full day of direct sun to produce blooms.
Unfortunately, this ends up having the opposite effect. African Violets in direct sun for long periods will experience sunburn or leaf scorch, leaving unsightly brown patches on the foliage. Once these leaves have changed color, they won’t return to their previous lush green, so this mistake is certainly one to avoid from the start.
Their ideal position is in bright indirect sunlight for the entire day. They make perfect bedroom houseplants, away from the harsh rays of the sun. This will ensure they get enough sunlight to grow and flower without damaging any of the leaves.
Not Rotating Pots
Sticking with sunlight mistakes, you may have noticed your African Violet growing slightly lopsided and losing its adorable round shape.
This occurs when one side of the plant gets more light exposure than the other side, leading to better growth in that area. If the light is too harsh, the side exposed to the light source may become damaged or start to curl as a result, leaving the other side looking completely different.
There is a simple way to avoid this common mistake – rotate your pots. Around once a week, switch the position of your plant so all sides get equal light exposure throughout the year. This will keep your plant, compact and even.
Growing In Little To No Light
The final lighting mistake is another common one that causes a wide range of problems, from stunted growth to yellowing leaves and more. While these plants do love shade, they need at least moderate to bright indirect light indoors to not only grow, but also to flower.
When placed in areas with little to no sunlight, your African Violet will stop putting out blooms. The foliage may become limp and yellow and you may notice an overall lack of growth.
They may survive for a few weeks in those conditions, but certainly won’t thrive and won’t last long beyond that. This is especially true for newly propagated plants.
Keep them near a bright east, south or west-facing window but out of the path of the direct sun. Ensure they are not obstructed by any objects that could limit the amount of sun they are getting. This will keep your plants happy and healthy all season long.
Ignoring Temperature Changes
If there is one thing houseplants value, it’s consistency. Most come from tropical environments where conditions remain the same throughout the year, only fluctuating slightly between seasons. With this in mind, it’s not hard to see why sudden or even prolonged changes in temperature can cause major problems
These beautiful plants love warmth, preferring temperatures above 65F consistently throughout the year. Sudden dips in temperature, especially when they are placed close to windows in winter, can lead to blossom and leaf drop along with a host of other issues.
Place your African Violet in the warmest room in the house and make sure the temperatures remain as stable as possible throughout the year. Never move them outdoors, especially in winter, to avoid doing any permanent damage.
Placing Them In The Path Of Drafts
African Violet’s hatred of changes in conditions extends to another thing plant parents forget about, drafts. Continuous and strong airflow around your plant will not only cause the soil to dry out incredibly quickly, but it will also damage the leaves and may cause the flowers to drop off.
In winter, when drafts are cold, the constant changes in temperature around the plant can have drastic effects on their health, causing them to go into shock. The same can be said for hot air that comes from radiators.
While these plants appreciate airflow, too much can be a bad thing. Avoid placing them in front of open windows, air conditioners or radiators to prevent this mistake from doing any damage.
Feeding To Often
We all know how important fertilizing is in our houseplant routine. As they grow and use up nutrients to expand and flower, they will need a top-up eventually to continue thriving.
But fertilizer is not a cure-all for problems like stunted growth or lack of flowers as some believe. It is a vital part of care – certainly – but cannot be used to resolve any growth problem or make them grow bigger and faster.
Applying fertilizer when it is not needed can actually have the opposite effect on growth, burning the sensitive leaves and potentially causing parts of the plant to die back.
Choose a fertilizer designed for African Violet growth and flowering and only apply as directed on the packaging. Always apply less rather than more to avoid causing irreversible damage.
Using The Wrong Soil Mix
In case you couldn’t already tell, African Violets are quite picky about their conditions. This also extends to the soil they grow in. These plants appreciate an acidic and well-draining potting mix that delivers plenty of oxygen to the roots and holds onto enough moisture without leading to rot.
When repotting, standard potting mix won’t be enough to satisfy these plants. Regular garden soil would likely lead to even worse results. Instead, look out for specialized plant-specific potting mix online or at your local nursery. These mixes have the perfect balance of materials with an ideal pH for growth and flowering.
Repotting Into A Much Larger Pot
Although you don’t need to repot African Violets often, they will need a soil refresh at some point. This process may also come with the need to find a new pot to accommodate the ever-growing root system. At this point, it’s vital to avoid the mistake of buying a pot that is too large.
African Violets like to be confined to a pot. The lack of space and cramped nature of the roots is what encourages the plants to grow above the soil and produce new flowers. When planting in a pot that is too large, the roots will grow at the expense of the rest of the plant. The excess soil may also hold onto too much moisture, resulting in root rot.
These plants remain compact throughout their lives and won’t ever need a massive pot to grow well. Only choose a pot one size up, or rinse and repot into the same container if the plant is still growing happily.
Ignoring Signs Of Pests And Diseases
A spot here or a dropped leaf there are usually no causes for concern. However, if you notice several spots, small bugs or widespread discoloration and wilting, you likely have a pest or disease problem on your hands.
Many gardeners, especially those with busy schedules, may ignore these signs or wait to resolve them until later. Unfortunately, during this time, the problems will only get worse. Not only does this make them harder to solve, but it also puts the life of your plant at risk in the meantime.
If you notice any signs of pests and diseases, tackle them right away to save your African Violets and any other houseplants nearby.
African Violets can be tricky plants to understand and care for. Both novice and experienced gardeners can fall victim to mistakes that occur when growing these common indoor plants. But, with an awareness of these mistakes and how to avoid them, you can enjoy their wonderful flowers without any hassle throughout the season.