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Beginner Houseplants: African Violets Won't Die, Won't Bloom

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DallasDad
Murphy, TX
(Zone 8a)

January 29, 2008
5:25 PM

Post #4469571

I'm new to indoor gardening, and I severely overwatered a set of eight African Violets when I first got them. I don't see any obvious sign of wilt or root rot, but while the leaves are wonderfully healthy, the plants have stopped growing new leaves, and all the flowers shrivelled up and dropped off.

I'd hoped that once I cut back on the watering, the plants would recover and start blooming again. No such luck so far, and it's been a couple of months.

The plants are on a north windowsill. They get no direct light at all, but plenty of indirect light. I water them weekly, more or less, only when my moisture meter says they're dry down by the roots. I keep them in pebble trays for extra humidity, and am careful to keep the water in the tray from touching the bottom of the pots.

Will these plants recover and start blooming again?

N.B. the plant on the left shows healthy leaves, and stalks with remnants of old buds. It has not changed appearance in over two months. The plant on the right was the one worst-damaged by the overwatering. It lost most of its succulent stems around the bottom, but the remaining stems have become firm, strong, and "springy" when bounced.

Thumbnail by DallasDad
Click the image for an enlarged view.

plantladylin
South Daytona, FL
(Zone 9b)

January 29, 2008
6:32 PM

Post #4469851

Your African Violets look great to me and it sounds like you have a good location for them and are now on the right track with watering and humidity. Have you fertilized them at all? I am not an expert but have grown a few of these wonderful plants as well as others in the same (Gesneriad) family. I would recommend using a plant food for african violets or blooming plants and using half strength (of whatever it states on the container) and use this every other time you water. Since they are receiving the proper light and humidity I think all they need is a little food!

Since you have to be a paid subscriber to access the African Violet forum I will go over there and post a link and see if any of the pro's will come back here and give you some advice.
DallasDad
Murphy, TX
(Zone 8a)

January 29, 2008
7:04 PM

Post #4469958

I've been giving them African Violet food once every two weeks, using the recommended strength on the bottle. I don't have the bottle to hand, but it's a liquid, purple, with an eyedropper. I think it's one full squirt of the dropper per gallon, so I've been using less than a half squirt each time.

One other thing: Except for a few times, I've been watering from the bottom, by filling the pebble trays up over the pot bottoms, then letting the plants sit in the water for 30 minutes or so, until the top changes color or starts to feel moist/cool to the touch. Then I dump the excess water.

From everything I've read, I'm doing this correctly. If not, please advise.
RainGazer
Southeast, TN
(Zone 7a)

January 29, 2008
7:36 PM

Post #4470071

Sounds like you've figured out what you were doing wrong and are on the right track now. Being cooler in the winter, it's normal for growth to slow down so that's probably why you're not seeing a lot of new leaf growth. They go through bloom cycles as well, blooming for quite some time, then taking a break. You need to be vigilant in removing any old, dying, or rotten leaves and bloom stalks.

I do think they need more light than a north window provides. From everything I've read (I don't have good north windows for plants so have never tried them there), they may survive and even grow some in a north window, but they won't get enough light to bloom there. They also won't grow as much as they could. I've read several times the saying, "East is best, west is good." I personally have found that the few AVs I have had do well in a window were grown in a west window (my east windows are blocked and don't get but a very small amount of good light).

The pebble trays are exactly what they need and your watering method is correct. I think if you up the amount of light they're getting, they'll perform much better for you. Move them slowly, though. A sharp increase in light all at once could shock them. Just a small amount of time in brighter light to begin with and over a few weeks to a month let them adjust to a bit more and more light.

Good luck and please let us know how they do!
DallasDad
Murphy, TX
(Zone 8a)

January 29, 2008
7:47 PM

Post #4470101

Alas, this crazy house only has north windows. There really are none on east and west sides, and the south ones are closets, laundry room, and other spots without sills or places to put plants (or find them again if put there).

So it's north windowsills, grow lights, or outdoors. My understanding is that the AV might survive springs and falls here in 8A, but wouldn't be happy about it. Summer and winter would kill them PDQ.

I'll move a few of them to the kitchen counter, which gets north window light and also has a grow lamp. My jasmines in that location are blooming like crazy.

I'll let you know what happens.

Thanks!
begoniadude
Irving, TX

January 29, 2008
8:00 PM

Post #4470131

I would have to agree on the light suggestions. I have a great deal of sucess with moderate watering and fertilozer but constant light of 12 hours has really been successful for me.
barbaratoo
Hilton, NY
(Zone 6a)

January 29, 2008
8:31 PM

Post #4470212

Maybe I can help..First,.it is difficult to tell from the photo how large a pot the AV is potted in. The standard rule is the pot is 1/3 the size of the plant. AV's like to be in a snug pot...that is because in a too-small pot the AV interprets this as a lack of space and goes into a reproductive mode and as a result pushes the plants energy from the leaves into blossoms. Secondly, if you plan to repot into a smaller pot, use a very loose soil. If using store bought soil, add perlite and vermeculite to the soil. As a grower of Av's I use ProMix which is a soil-less mix, with an addition of 1/3 perlite and 1/3 vermeculite. The looseness of this mix lets the very fine root hairs develop easily and you will get more flowers with more roots. Repotting sometimes produces blossoms. Third, don't overwater...this is the most frequent reason for killing AVs. Use warm water with 1/4 teaspoon fertilizer per gallon of water, every time you water-the soil should be damp, not soggy wet. Also, gently shake and/.or massage the pot near the root line, as sometime a mild stressing will bring on a flowering cycle. Another suggestion for blooming is to provide uninterrupted light 24 hrs per day for several days as flowering can be a reaction to the stress of the light. Additionally, if this were my plant, I would remove the bottom two rows of leaves, and repot in a loose soil mixture in a small pot, again keeping the soil damp, not wet. Continue with the warm water fertilizing as needed. Hope this helps.
gessiegail
Taft, TX
(Zone 9a)

January 29, 2008
9:31 PM

Post #4470440

All of us sometimes overwater (even wicking which is all that I do)..When I do overwater, I always let them sit on newspapers and keep changing the newspapers until there is no more moisture coming out. Then I put them back on the wicking permanest trays or wherever they call home.

I have never heard of leaving lights on 24 hours but that doesn't mean I know! (LOL) Mine are on timers and go 12 hours of light and 12 hours of darkness. They bloom like crazy with that schedule.

Good luck and join us on the AV forum where we have great fun and learn a lot , also.
gail
DallasDad
Murphy, TX
(Zone 8a)

January 29, 2008
10:10 PM

Post #4470597

Okay, I've chosen one of them and repotted it into a lighter mixture. I used a smaller pot, and trimmed the bottom row. I've taken another and given it to the plant light. The rest I'm leaving alone as controls.

We'll see what happens!
Crick22
Asheville, NC

February 6, 2008
3:16 AM

Post #4500776

Have you solved the African Violet problem yet? I have had three (!) classes so far in a Master Gardener program and have just learned about the importance of light. North light is considered low even if your plants are right next to the window. African violets need bright to medium light for blooming to occur. Their need for warmth and high humidity you have taken care of. You may need to supplement with grow lights if you have no other light choices. I only have north light myself and have only a few 'hardy' plants that seem to do OK but my focus is outside. Info according to my MG manual! By the way, I used to have 80 African violets under grow lights and they bloomed quite well.
DallasDad
Murphy, TX
(Zone 8a)

February 6, 2008
4:46 AM

Post #4501242

No changes yet in my test plant. It's under a grow light for 12 hours/day. Seems to be happy, but I don't see any signs of new growth or buds yet. It's only been a little over a week.
DallasDad
Murphy, TX
(Zone 8a)

February 8, 2008
11:12 PM

Post #4513237

Today I noticed that the sole remaining fleshy spike had a couple of new growths at the tip. Can't tell yet if they're flower buds or new leaves, but at least it's growth!

The main leaves remain unchanged. Not suffering, good color. If this works for this plant, I'll do the same for the other AVs.
WeeNel
Ayrshire Scotland
United Kingdom

February 9, 2008
1:49 AM

Post #4513786

Do remember that all plants need a rest period, I would stop feeding every week and go for every second week at half strength, you may produce too much foliage by over feeding at the cost of flowers, I would say that as the spring lighter days arrive, the window will get brighter day light, all the other things you are doing is the way to go, always try water from the bottom as droplets of water on the foliage or stems causes rot or mould to get hold, especially in the cooler winter temps, if you gently lift one of the larger leaves, you will note that underside, the leaves/stems have tiny little hairs on them, this causes water to sit longer on the foliage and cause problems, but on smooth leaved plants, the water sheds off faster. Even at a window, to stop the plants growing too much foliage on the one side of the plants, rotate the pots every few days so that all sides of the plant gets equal light to help new buds or foliage strength, while your plants are into a dormant time, or not producing flowers, I would be inclined to water less and let the soil go almost dry before watering again, good luck. WeeNel.
DallasDad
Murphy, TX
(Zone 8a)

February 12, 2008
3:09 PM

Post #4528003

Pretty sure it's a flower bud. Either a new spike has grown, or I overlooked an existing one before. There are two spikes, and both have nodules of some sort on the ends, like tightly clenched little fists.

N.B., this is the one I moved to sit under a grow light and pruned back drastically. The others remain on a north windowsill (the only windowsills I have are north).
DallasDad
Murphy, TX
(Zone 8a)

February 19, 2008
1:51 PM

Post #4559139

Alas, whatever was growing at the tip of that fleshy spike has shrivelled up and fallen off. No other changes to the plant as far as I can see. It still sits in its pot, under the lights, correctly watered, laughing at me.

Several days ago, I trimmed up the other AVs to match this one, and left theim on the windowsill. They, too, just sit there giggling. I swear I can hear them whispering to each other when I'm not in the room. "Psst, Fred. He thinks we're going to flower!" "Don't be silly, Violet. He hasn't looked at you for over a day. He's given up." "I don't think so. Look at Sally. She had that little bud. He almost saw it, but she managed to hide it in time." "I did NOT have a bud!" "Quiet, Sally, no one's talking to you." "You were talking ABOUT me." "Shhh! Here he comes. Hide your bud again!"
plantladylin
South Daytona, FL
(Zone 9b)

February 19, 2008
2:35 PM

Post #4559336

That is so cute! Great sense of humor there DallasDad! It is so hard to be patient with these plants sometimes! I think they have minds of their own ... but just wait, one day when you least expect it you will have those beautiful blooms! They will catch you by surprise! As good as that plant looks in your first post, I bet you will have some Blooming Beauties in the next couple of months! Spring is just around the corner and the plants know it! Hope you will post some more photo's of your lovely plants!
DallasDad
Murphy, TX
(Zone 8a)

March 19, 2008
8:08 PM

Post #4683256

And at last, I can report success!

One of the African Violets has put out 14 (count 'em, 14) flower buds. I'm guessing they'll open within the week. I'll post a photo here when the flowers are out.

Now for the other seven plants...
DallasDad
Murphy, TX
(Zone 8a)

March 29, 2008
4:22 PM

Post #4726208

And I'm VERY pleased to report that the AV is doing splendidly. Photo attached. Nothing from the others yet, but I'm hopeful.

Thumbnail by DallasDad
Click the image for an enlarged view.

plantladylin
South Daytona, FL
(Zone 9b)

March 29, 2008
4:55 PM

Post #4726356

Wow! Absolutely Beautiful! I know you must be pleased. Great Growing!
SueHansen
Glencliff, NH

March 29, 2008
9:22 PM

Post #4727209

Very interesting thread! I have 6 AVs on a west windowsill, large overhang so they get lots of light but very little direct sun (many trees). They have been doing beautifully. I feed them almost every time I water. But lately two of them have wilting leaves, the outer, older ones. I have repotted them, but same situation. Any help?
thanks.
amalie63
Duncan, OK
(Zone 7a)

March 29, 2008
9:22 PM

Post #4727212

Wow what beautiful flowers! Congrats!!
Here is a picture of my african violet in bloom.

Amalie63

Thumbnail by amalie63
Click the image for an enlarged view.

DallasDad
Murphy, TX
(Zone 8a)

March 29, 2008
9:45 PM

Post #4727273

That's gorgeous! Perfectly formed all around!
amalie63
Duncan, OK
(Zone 7a)

March 29, 2008
10:27 PM

Post #4727416

Thank you... :-)
cruz4him
Toronto, ON
(Zone 6a)

April 2, 2008
5:57 PM

Post #4746491

DallasDad, I had the same problem as you. I bought the plant from Home Depot and it was flowering but once I brought it to my office, it stopped blooming, despite looking very healthy. It's been in a south facing window for about 2 months now and there a lots of new leaves growing out from the bottom of the plant. Yesterday, it finally put out ONE bloom, although I see 15 more buds just wating to burst out.
Laurie19
Caledonia, OH
(Zone 5a)

April 3, 2008
4:41 AM

Post #4749366

I had read that when you transplant an african violet it will stop blooming until it fills out the new pot with roots dunno if its true. My violet has also started blooming again!!
Laurie
davioletman
Plainville, CT

April 6, 2008
12:37 AM

Post #4763262

Laurie19, that is not necessarily true. There are alot of factors as to why a african violet will stop blooming. Besides light being a huge factor, how long they have been blooming, soil, etc. have a lot to do with this as well.

Though african violets bloom all year round, they do need a break to regain their strength. They can look very healthy but may have bloomed for 6 months straight as many of mine have. If they continually bloom, the plant will eventually become exhausted using all its energy to produce flowers and not sustaining the whole plant. Thus the plant goes into decline and would eventually die. This is what most new growers have got to learn.

Another factor is the plants you buy at Home Depot, etc. are forced by the growers. Many heavily fertilize them to get them to market and they look great, but the soil they are in is heavy laden with salts or worse, depleted of all nutrients as the pot has all roots and very little soil. Whenever I buy from these stores, I will immediately repot the plants into new mix after a week or so of becoming accustomed to their new enviroment. It is wiser to lose some flowers now and have long term gain later. Though many times if you are gentle with removing the old soil around the roots and repot the plant and water it right after, leaving it in indirect light for a few days, there is little or no setback.

A rule of thumb I use is to repot my plants every six months in a pot that will support them for 1 yr. You are correct in the fact that violets will bloom best if kept root bound. But the drawback is there is more roots and not enough soil to retain the nutrients needed to sustain them over a long period of time. That is why a the least, repot every year!

Another method of potting that is very effective is the Texas potting method. This is where you put 1 - 2" of perlite at the bottom of the pot (no more than 1/3 height of pot) and then fill with you favorite mix. The perlite allows the roots more oxygen, thus less chance of overwatering.

plantladylin
South Daytona, FL
(Zone 9b)

April 6, 2008
3:49 PM

Post #4766003

A few folks over on the African Violet Forum have discussed that Texas Potting method with using @ 2" of perlite in the bottom of pots. I haven't tried it yet, but it's something I plan on doing when I re-pot a few of my plants. I would also suggest any potting soil you use for AV's to add a lot of perlite to lighten up the mix. I find just straight potting soil too heavy for AV's. On all my other plants I mix a lot of orchid bark in with the soil, which really helps with drainage.
DallasDad
Murphy, TX
(Zone 8a)

April 8, 2008
12:27 PM

Post #4775098

I still have one of eight blooming, the others just sitting, smirking at me. I'm not going to touch the one that's in flower, but I think I'll repot the other seven if they don't show some activity by the end of this month.

The plan is to use the Texas AV potting method, and go with unglazed clay pots. I've purchased some wide, deep saucers and added two full inches of pea gravel. The idea is to be able to have water in the saucer at all times, deep enough to last several days, and with enough volume to add humidity to the air, but with the pot sitting high enough that the bottom won't be in the water unless I'm purposely trying to water the plants.
calinazaret
Seaside, CA

December 30, 2008
2:53 AM

Post #5942030

I once found an african violet in a trashcan at an office, and it was in really bad shape but I nursed it back to life. It didn't start blooming until ONE YEAR later. I had just given up on it and decided I liked it for the leaves anyway, and then bam. Now it won't stop blooming. So, maybe they just need time.
wendyloo66
Stevensville, MT
(Zone 4b)

January 19, 2009
10:36 PM

Post #6025646

Are they blooming yet?? hello!
DallasDad
Murphy, TX
(Zone 8a)

January 20, 2009
3:41 AM

Post #6026826

Do you mean me?

The one that was blooming back in April bloomed almost continuously for six months. During that time another one started blooming, but it didn't last as long.

'Round about November, all the blooms faded, probably coinciding with the shortened daylight period. I can see five of them from where I'm sitting. They're all perky, happy, and green, but without flowers. I figure they'll come around again when they days start getting seriously longer.

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