Diagnose Problem (pic included)

almax881January 28, 2011

I purchased the African violet below on clearance from Lowes for $2.50. Some of the leaves are starting to drop and their stems are mushy. What can I do to fix this?

Other tidbits: I placed the violets under a new artifical growlight that gets 20,000 lumens. That's alot of light let me tell you! The leaves in the center of the crown grew toward the light and the ones at the edges started dropping down. The outside leaves did not start breaking off until this morning after I watered them with generic fertilizer.

For fear that the growlight was too powerful, I have since moved them from the light.

I have not repotted the plant, and the soil is damp. (I believe damp soil is typical of violets right?)

Please help this newbie out.

(I have not clue as the what kind this is because it came with no identifying information.)

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Hi and welcome to the forum! You got a good deal on the plant and it will be fun to watch it come into bloom again.

You are correct that 20000 lumens was too much light. An African Violet only needs about 929 - 1115 lumens, 10,000 to 12,000 lux, or about 900 to 1100 foot candles (see Optimara's Caring for African Violets site at http://www.optimara.com/africanvioletcare1.html). Sometimes when there is too much light the leaves reach up. The theory is that they are shielding the tender crown from burning. The problem is that when there is too little light, the leaves reach FOR the light, which gives the same appearance, but that's certainly not your problem!

Commercial growers often use a heavy potting mix containing mostly peat. It holds water which works great for the time a plant is shipped and displayed in the store when it may not get watered. However, it is SO easy for a home grower to overwater that mix. Overwatering is one of the main causes of African Violet death. They like moist, but not soggy soil. If the soil is too wet, the roots can drown and the plant can rot. It looks like your plant's mix is too wet. What I would do is take the plant out of the pot, remove the broken, droopy, and brown lower leaves, and repot it. If the main stem is rotten (black and mushy) come back here and let us know. You'll have to take drastic action then to save the plant. There are many different mix recipies used for African Violets. A common one is one part each of peat, perlite, and vermiculite. Some people use an African Violet potting mix and add extra perlite. The idea is to have a light well-draining mix that has air spaces for the roots. Don't put the plastic sleeve back on: when tucked in around the plant as in your first picture it can keep water from evaporating from the mix.

I put in a link below to the African Violet Society of America's Basic Care information sheet. It has lots of great information. I'm sure others here on the forum will come in too with advice. Please let us know how the plant fares and post pictures when it blooms.

Here is a link that might be useful: Basic Care for African Violets

    Bookmark   January 28, 2011 at 1:11PM
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irina_co(z5 CO)

Hmmm - 20.000 lumens... seems like an orchid grower.

It is not lumens that's important - but foot candles - more feet from the light - less candles left. Means - if you keep the plant far enough from the light - it will be OK. But the issues Donna just listed - are the ones that probably will kill your plant. If the leaves started wilting - you already have a root rot and without a radical surgery - it will be dead in several days,

The air access to the roots is as important for AVs as it is for orchids. You drown them - you kill them. If you want to save it - you probably need to fix some soil Donna recommended, remove bunch of lower leaves - shake it out of the pot - and if as I suspect the root is already blackening - cut it above the rot, leave just a couple of rows of leaves and stick it in a small pot wit barely moist soil. Cover it with a baggoe - and in a couple weeks it will root again.

I am siding with Donna again - AVs are really easy to grow - just need to know some basic requirements.


    Bookmark   January 28, 2011 at 3:02PM
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Ha! Irinia you were so right about me being an orchid grower. (I noob at that!)

You all have provided me with some great information. I removed the overwet plant mix. (Yep, it was definitely moist). Thank goodness the stems weren't mushy!

I let the plant dry out as much as possible for 1.5 days. Then, I repotted the plant in an equal peat moss, perlite, and vermiculite medium.

I've placed the plant about three feet from the light source. I'll check to see if this is too much light.

I placed it in one of those self-watering ceramic containers. I'm not sure about it, so I'm going to check it daily to make sure it isn't making the soil wetter.

I picture of the plant is below.

PS: This was also sort of fun. I'm going to go off to purchase some more AVs!

    Bookmark   January 30, 2011 at 11:45PM
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irina_co(z5 CO)

A. -

do not go for more violets yet. The first one usually is doomed to die - because it is a part of a learning curve. Even African Violet Master judges have their first violet killed 30 some years before.

Double ceramic self watering pots killed more violets than all diseases, pests and Roundup together. Some people manage to use them successfully - but it is not easy. And IMHO - it is counterproductive.

You potted your plant too deep - you buried leaf petioles - and you overpotted it.

I would take the plant out, remove outside circle of leaves - you still have some damaged ones - and pot it in a cheap plastic pot with a diameter 1/3 of a leaf span. Orchid growers have perlite handy - I would put a half inch layer of perlite on the bottom of the pot to increase aeration, water poor thing - and let it be. The soil should be humid - but no water in a saucer. The idea is to maintain high humidity of the air and barely humid soil - I bet in your orchid room there is plenty of humidity.

High light - it is either orchids or pot - and pot seems more like work to me - while orchids are definitely passionate hobby.

Good Luck - and I am sure in no time you will think that violets are just way too easy.


PS you can use a small plastic orchid pot with slits - works even better.

Here is a link that might be useful: Everything you need to know right now

    Bookmark   January 31, 2011 at 2:56PM
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I certainly did my share of trying to save avs from walmart and they tend to drown them. But not before learning the basics from some of the knowledgable people on here. Some I could save and some I couldnt save but it was fun trying. But in the saving process the plants usually ended up out of shape or out of round but once again I had fun doing it.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2011 at 9:36PM
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Thanks for the advice Irina. You've been really helpful.

As you can see from the pictures below, I have placed the plant in a smaller plastic MISCO-type pot. (An orchid pot is not available locally for some reason.)

I also believe (hopefully) that I have corrected the overpotting problem. I'm thinking that should I have gone for an even smaller pot.... (Although it looks deep, that pot is 4 inches. The remaining inches go toward the underground watering system).

HummerSteve, I'm really trying to rein this feeling I have of rescuing damaged plants until I learn how to take care of the one I have! It's really hard though. Hehehe


    Bookmark   February 2, 2011 at 1:24AM
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It looks much better! I'm not familiar with those pots but that means nothing.

Now all you need to do is clean off the leaves with a soft brush or alternative. (Oops! Guess I probably could take that advice myself :)


    Bookmark   February 2, 2011 at 12:58PM
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irina_co(z5 CO)

Good Job!


PS - Diana - that's why we are here for - to share know-how - and see another newbie becoming an expert and having her/his house filled with gorgeous everblooming Violets. It is a violet addiction bug - and we need to pass it to unsuspecting public.

PPS Orchids are gorgeous - but they are NOT everblooming.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2011 at 1:15PM
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Your plant looks SO much better now! The leaves that are standing up should start to come down soon with the right amount of light. Before you know it, you'll see buds!

Irina's right, you know. Violets are addicting and those of us with the "problem" try our best to infect others.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2011 at 4:24PM
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I just wanted to say think you all for all of the help. I have become addicted. AV are much more fun than orchids! When I have buds, I'll definitely post a picture.

Thanks again everyone.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2011 at 12:01AM
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GrowHappy(z7 MD)

Hi Al, I'm glad you've found the solution to your violet problem. I agree that AVs are much more fun to grow than orchids, and they are much less expensive. Orchids are rewarding if you can get them to bloom, but they require so much more than gessies just to get to that point! LOL

    Bookmark   February 9, 2011 at 9:54PM
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"AV are much more fun than orchids!"

And a LOT less expensive! I have been weeding out and selling a lot fo my orchids, they are a PITA at times and have discovered AVs... they do seem to be a lot more fun!

Good luck to both of us newbies!


    Bookmark   February 26, 2011 at 6:25PM
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