7 Signs You Need to Repot Your African Violets
If your African Violet is struggling, you may be wondering if it's time to repot your plant. While some common issues can be solved with a proper maintenance routine, other problems are more serious and will require repotting. In this article, gardening expert Liessa Bowen looks at the most common signs your African Violet needs to be completely repotted.
African Violets make great houseplants. They are readily available, grow well in the home environment, and are beautiful to look at. They come in different sizes, from miniature 2-inch plants to large 12-inch plants. They also have different leaf patterns and a huge number of bright and cheerful flower colors.
African Violets are easy to grow as long as you can provide their preferred care and growing conditions. A well-cared-for African Violet can live for up to 50 years, but it can’t spend that entire lifespan in the same soil and in the same pot. Plants grow, soil nutrients get depleted over time, or your plant may have a health condition that requires repotting.
When repotting your African Violet, you will always want to use fresh soil. There are commercially available soils that are specifically formulated for this species, or you can create your own blend. Soil should be light, loose, and well-drained, but also rich in organic matter. You will also need a suitable pot with good drainage holes on the bottom.
There are several reasons you might want to or need to repot your African Violet. But how do you know when it’s time to repot your plant? What signs can you look for? Let’s take a closer look at 7 signs that signal you should consider repotting your plant.
Your Plant is Root-Bound
African violets like to be snug in their pots, but they may eventually become completely root-bound. They have a reputation for not blooming until they are somewhat root-bound.
Being too cramped in the pot, however, can restrict a plant’s growth and limit the availability of essential soil nutrients. If the roots have filled all available space in the pot to the point that the plant can’t grow new roots, it’s time to transplant it.
If your plant is root-bound but otherwise looks okay, you will need to move it to a slightly larger size pot. Just choose a pot that’s one step larger than the one it was in.
If you can, gently remove bits of the old soil from the root mass. Trim off any roots that look mushy, dead, or rotten. Transfer the plant to the larger pot and fill in around the roots with fresh potting soil.
It’s Been a While Since Repotting
African violets benefit from fresh soil a couple of times each year. If it has been 6 months or more since your plant was repotted, it’s time to freshen the soil.
You can carefully remove the plant from its pot and gently brush off the old soil from most of the root mass. Trim any roots that appear brown, rotten, or dead.
It may seem like a lot of work, but regular repotting is worth the effort. You can generally reuse the same pot unless your plant has completely outgrown it. Just ensure to thoroughly scrub any old dirt and mineral deposits from the pot, so it’s nice and clean for reuse.
Always use fresh potting soil and give your plant a drink to help minimize transplant shock. Your plant will appreciate having freshly renewed soil on a regular basis.
The Plant is Getting Too Large
If your plant grows too large for its current pot, it may become unbalanced and tip easily. You may notice that the plant leaves extend well past the edge of the pot. Measure the width of your plant across the widest part and divide this number by three.
Then, measure the width of your pot. If the plant is more than three times the width of the pot, it’s time to move it to a slightly larger pot. This will give your plant more space to grow and develop a healthier root system.
When choosing a larger pot, bigger isn’t necessarily better. African Violets often don’t flower until they start to fill in their available pot space with roots. An oversized pot will also be more difficult to water adequately. Choose a pot just one size larger than the one it outgrew, and your plant will soon be back to growing and blooming profusely.
Plant Develops a “Neck”
As African Violets grow, new leaves emerge from the top of the crown and the lower leaves naturally die off. Over time, the crown of the plant moves farther from the soil surface, and a “neck” of bare stem can be seen below the leaves.
This is perfectly natural, but if your plant has developed a long neck and looks too gangly for your taste, this would be a good time to repot your plant.
Plants with a neck have special transplanting needs. You have a couple of different options. You could simply transplant it into a deeper pot, but this may not be the best option.
To keep the same size pot, the best way to deal with this is to separate the top leafy rosette from the lower rooted section and repot just the top part in fresh soil. This may sound drastic, but this method works well.
Use a disinfected sharp knife, sharp scissors, or plant shears to cut the neck a couple of inches below the lowest leaves. Trim off any sickly-looking leaves as well. Dip the neck in rooting hormone, and repot it in the same size pot filled with fresh, slightly moist soil.
Keep your plant in a warm place and keep the soil very slightly moist. Within a few weeks, it will begin to develop new roots. Once the roots have some time to develop, your plant will continue growing and blooming as before.
Growth is Slowing
A healthy African Violet should grow at a steady rate. You will notice fresh leaves emerging from the crown and young leaves will grow steadily. After a while, the plant growth may slow dramatically or appear to stop growing entirely.
This could be a sign that your plant needs a dose of fertilizer. It could also be a sign that your plant needs to be repotted. If it has been 6 months or more since your plant was repotted, slow growth is likely a sign that it’s time to repot with fresh soil.
Lack of Blooms
There are several possible reasons your African Violet stops flowering. They do take natural, brief breaks from flowering, but if it has been a while since your plant has flowered, it may be trying to tell you something is not quite right. The temperature could be too hot or too cold, your plant may need a dose of fertilizer, or it could be suffering from root rot.
But if all the environmental conditions seem right and your plant hasn’t flowered in a while, try repotting it. Plants eventually deplete the nutrients in their soil, causing slow growth and a lack of flowering. Carefully remove the loose old soil from the root mass and repot your plant with fresh soil.
Pale or Limp Leaves
If your plant’s leaves are starting to look pale, but the plant looks otherwise healthy, you may just need to offer your plant some fertilizer. If the leaves are starting to wilt and the soil is completely dry, it’s possible your plant simply needs a drink of water. If your violet has recently experienced some very cold temperatures, this can also cause leaves to become limp.
If you are able to rule out the above reasons that your plant is showing signs of pale or limp leaves, do a quick investigation. Carefully remove the plant from its pot.
If the soil has been wet for a while, your plant may be suffering from root rot, causing the leaves to become pale or droopy. Trim off any dead-looking, mushy, or brown roots and leaves, and repot your plant in fresh soil.
Removing the plant from the pot and checking the root mass for mushy and dead roots is the best way to identify root rot. Rot that has advanced to the crown and causes the leaves and stems to become completely mushy is a sign of advanced root rot and it’s probably too late to save your plant. If your plant has experienced root rot, you will need to be very careful to not overwater in the future.
African violets are wonderful plants to enjoy indoors. Along with offering them sunlight and water, they will eventually require repotting. Regular repotting can help keep your plants healthy and strong.
If you notice your plant losing vigor or looking sick, it’s possible that repotting with fresh soil can help. Anytime you repot, use fresh, clean soil that’s plant specific. Use a clean pot, and make sure it has adequate drainage. Then you can relax and enjoy your plant’s renewed energy!