Repotting

 

Question: My wife has several Africa violet plants that are 20 years or older and she is worried she will lose them by repotting and separating, how old do African violets get?

Answer: I had a plant that reached 56 years old. It was repotted nearly every year of its life. I am fairly convinced that it would not have survived so long except for having been repotted so regularly. The key to successful repotting is good nursing care afterward, which for African violets means being enclosed in a clear sealed container such as a plastic bag.

The process of repotting is intimidating and often growers try to do it the "safe way" which is actually why they die. You have to be fairly aggressive in transplanting but then provide the safety net that gets them growing again.

Step 1- Remove all older leaves that are smaller than the leaves above or are faded in color or nicked and damaged. I rarely leave more than about 10 leaves total. Remove all flowers.

Step 2- Use the dull side of a knife to scrape about two inches of the stem (gently!) that is just below the bottom row of leaves. You should be scraping to smooth off the stumps of leaves just removed and to remove just the surface of any old dried tissue.

Step 3- Next amputate the top half of the plant by making a straight cut about one and a half to two inches below the bottom row of leaves. Discard the bottom section of the plant, although the pot may be saved and washed for reuse.

Step 4- While you can see the inside of the stem, look to see if there is any sign of rot. A brown pithy center or dried powdery center is a definite sign. If this is present, clean your knife and cut higher on the stem until you are above the rot. As long as the center leaves are intact, the plant has a chance.

Step 5- Prepare a fresh pot, the same size as before, with a light porous potting mix. Commercial potting mixes are too heavy (even the ones labeled for African violets). We recommend a homemade mix made of one part sphagnum peat moss (brown is much better than black), one part vermiculite, and one part perlite. Or, if you can find a commercial mix that has a brown color, try mixing it half and half with either vermiculite or perlite. Water the pot to moisten the soil thoroughly and drain off the excess water that runs through.

Step 6- Set the stem of the African violet onto the top of the pot so that stem is in good contact with the potting medium. If that part of the stem is bent, set the stem straight down into the soil. The leaves will soon straighten out and go level. A bent stem under the soil seems to cause the plant to grow oddly for an extended time.

Step 7- Place the plant into a clear plastic bag or container and seal it tightly closed. Set it in a bright location but out of direct sunlight. In about a month, new roots will have formed and the plant will be showing new growth. You will not need to water during this time period.

Step 8- Open the bag or container gradually over a period of two days to equalize the humidity slowly and prevent shock. Then enjoy your rejuvenated plant! Happy Growing! Joyce Stork

 

Repotting


Question: I read that African violets should be repotted about every 6 month(s). Is this recommended? When repotting an African violet, should I use an increasing larger pot with each repotting or can I use fresh soil and repot in the same pot?

Answer: The need to transplant depends a lot on the quality of your light and general culture. If a violet is getting plenty of light and is growing compactly, it may not need to be transplanted for a year. The purpose of transplanting is two-fold: 1) to bury the neck exposed by losing older leaves, and 2) to freshen the soil. I prefer a rule that says you should transplant whenever you can see a neck developing between the lowest row of leaves and the potting mix, at least once a year. When you repot, you simply bury the neck more deeply, often into the same pot as before. One of the simpler ways to do this is to slice off an amount from the bottom of the root-ball equal to the length of the exposed neck. Set the violet back into the pot (after it has been cleaned) and add fresh potting mix to the top. Happy Growing! Joyce Stork

Question: What time of year do you plant the African violet over into new ground?

Answer: African violets can be repotted into fresh potting mix at any time. Since roots develop best at slightly warmer temps, it is better to repot when the normal room temperature isn't colder than 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Please find the article on Repotting on the AVSA web site for more tips.  Happy Growing! Joyce Stork

Question: I found the top of my one African violet laying next to it's pot. I know the root will generate a new plant, but can I save the top? All the leaves and flowers grew off the single stem that broke.

Answer: The root is unlikely to generate a new plant. Instead you need to repot the top section that broke off following the directions in the article on Repotting on the AVSA web site. In step three, you should make the cut as directed even though your African violet "amputated" itself. Pay particular attention to step four, since it is often a rot disease that causes the top to break off. Happy Growing! Joyce Stork

Question: I read that African violets should be repotted about every 6 month(s). Is this recommended? When repotting an African violet, should I use an increasing larger pot with each repotting or can I use fresh soil and repot in the same pot?

Answer: The need to transplant depends a lot on the quality of your light and general culture. If an African violet is getting plenty of light and is growing compactly, it may not need to be transplanted for a year. The purpose of transplanting is two-fold: 1) to bury the neck exposed by losing older leaves, and 2) to freshen the soil. I prefer a rule that says you should transplant whenever you can see a neck developing between the lowest row of leaves and the potting mix, at least once a year. When you repot, you simply bury the neck more deeply, often into the same pot as before. One of the simpler ways to do this is to slice off an amount from the bottom of the root-ball equal to the length of the exposed neck. Set the violet back into the pot (after it has been cleaned) and add fresh potting mix to the top. If you suspect root rot or need to change the potting mix completely, then I recommend that you follow the directions in the article on repotting. Happy Growing! Joyce Stork

Question: When do I repot?

Answer: Ideally you should be repotting once or twice a year. You should pot into a larger pot only when beginning with an immature African violet or when growing for show when you are pushing the plant to grow to the largest size possible. For most growers, mature (blooming) violets are usually repotted into the same size pot each time. The purpose of the regular repotting is to bury the stem that is exposed as lower leaves are lost and to freshen the potting mix which tends to become acid over time. I would repot anytime I could see the main stem (sometimes called a neck) under the bottom row of leaves. Lift the plant out of the pot and remove an inch or so from the bottom of the root ball and set the violet back down into the pot, filling in at the top with fresh potting mix. It is usually best to put the plant into a bag or high humidity area for a week or so after doing this. Happy Growing! Joyce Stork

Question: My mom loves African violets and has always had them around her house. I have my own apartment now and would like to start my own African violets. I have already purchased two and I read that they must be repotted immediately, but does that include the standard procedure of cutting and repotting only the crown as I have read about in other FAQs?

Answer: If you bought your violets from a retail outlet such as Wal-Mart or Home Depot, and you hope to keep growing these violets for years, then yes, you should repot by cutting off the root system. The reason is that the greenhouses (that produce violets for these outlets) use a potting mix that is too dense for long term growing. Violets love to have lots of air around their roots and to be evenly moist at all times. In dense soil, the constant moisture will often result in the development of root and crown rot disease. Why do the greenhouses use this soil? Because violets grown in the loose mixtures we recommend would spill soil everywhere if the shipping boxes were to be tipped. You will definitely have more success if you do a transplant following the directions in the article on repotting on this web site and get your new violets growing in the right kind of potting mix now! Happy Growing! Joyce Stork

 

Repotting - Old Plant


Question: I have a beautiful old African Violet that blooms like crazy, but it is now all on the end of a long thick trunk, that is twisted and unattractive. Can I cut off the top and root the whole thing?

Answer: Yes, you can definitely cut off the bottom section of the plant and re-root the top. Just follow the directions on the article on Repotting to Bury a Neck on the AVSA web site. In just one month, the plant will look like a very young plant again. Happy Growing! Joyce Stork

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