African Violet Roots

quimoiAugust 3, 2014

Here are some photos of african violet roots since we never see them in the photos. The first plants are all in 3 oz. drink cups and are about 5-1/2". Witch Doctor is a bit smaller. They have all been getting too much light but we're looking at the roots :) It has been suggested that Optimaras, variegated ones, etc. are different.

Optimara Texas in Solo Cup. I potted this one up. It had some fertilizer salts in the center which I cleaned off with a q-tip.

Photo of root system of Optimara Texas:

Small plant of Witch Doctor, mosaic variegated, in solo cup. This one is smaller and the roots are not as developed. I'm leaving it in the cup for awhile.

Witch Doctor's root system:

Private Dancer, a variegated plant in a solo cup. This was grown from a leaf started on 1/21.

Private Dancer's root system. It's hard to see, but the roots have begun to circle the bottom (there are arrows). This could have been repotted earlier.

Although African violets are comparatively shallow rooted plants, they still have a healthy root system and the roots go to the bottom of the solo cups.

Finally here are the roots on some plantlets. The first is a variegated plantlet and the mother leaf has died (I think it's Ramblin' Amethyst). The second is also variegated but the mother leaves are still attached. I took these off for the demonstration. The third are two Russians. The mother leaf was snapped off and the plantlets have stopped growing.

Here are the plantlets. Ramblin' Amethyst, although small, has a good root system. The variegated Fredette has a very good root system. The two Russian babies have hardly any roots, but they should make it. They will need to be treated more like suckers than rooted plants.

I saved the Fredette leaves just in case.


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Nice photos! And I see you splurged on paper towel ;-p
I have to say, some small plants surprise me with really great root systems, whilst others are all leaf and not much underground...


    Bookmark   August 3, 2014 at 12:09AM
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Beautiful Photos, Diana

It is interesting to see what good healthy roots look like. African Violets are not shallow rooted, now that I see the pictures, but are proportional to the top growth, much like any other plant.

Usually, with other houseplants, I repot big and let the plants grow into the pots. With AV's it seemed settled wisdom to pot small and let the plant outgrow the pot.

Very nice job illustrating a facet of AV culture!

    Bookmark   August 3, 2014 at 1:15AM
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Thanks, Karin. I wasted 2 Bounties :).

I'm glad the photos helped. Of course, African violets are still relatively shallow compared to many other houseplants. Still when the roots of a standard African violet are circling the solo cup and the top looks okay (no damage or problems going on), I say it's time to pot up (more like past time).

Funnily enough AVs are just plants. They just don't have roots like snake plant which will break the pot when it needs a new one.

Now that is the standard size pot for a semimini so you would just return it to the same size pot. A mini shouldn't be in a pot that big in the first place.

You might fool with a small trailer in your saucer. Some are small enough to keep domed.

I didn't "cherry pick" plants for the photos. I was aiming for a variety of hybridizers, including variegated ones. I pulled Witch Doctor to show one that wasn't as far along. I knew I wasn't potting it up yet. That's what they look like all the time.

A solo cup is still only about 2" deep (a little more but it's not going to be filled the entire way). O. Texas looks dry, BTW. When I repot and that happens (which it shouldn't, but it does), I keep a little spray bottle of water handy to wet the rootball.

It's those plantlets on leaves that tend to fool me at times. No roots or 5 instead of the one large one I thought was there.

I hope KeO sees it (and doesn't have nightmares about roots, lol).


    Bookmark   August 3, 2014 at 9:48AM
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Lucky, the 1/3 is given as a rule of thumb, it refers to the width, however, I think it refers to the depth as well as the height. The smallest and most shallow I have used is a small condiment cup. They work very well for very small plant lets that have come from leaves or suckers. Now, there are plastic saucers you can get in a plant store at times that are quite tall. They are very thin plastic.

You can also use those Keurig style coffee cups if you know of anyone who uses those machines, ask them to save the cups for you.

I am sticking to my belief that a clay saucer is going to be too shallow and not the right material. Unless you are going to watch very closely and as soon as the plant begins to grow, move it to a solo cup. But then that means a lot of unnecessary moving of the plant. Of course, others suggest you try it out and find out for yourself if it works or not.

I have used cardboard seed trays I got at the hardware/plant store. They did not work. The leaves and small plants dried out too quickly. The plastic seed trays,on the other hand, work great.

I have looked at egg cartons and thought the styrofoam ones might work well.

The roots are like hairs on your head. There are just a few of them per the proportion of leaves, and they are quite delicate. It is because of this root system that AVs are thought to be hard to raise.

Optimara have different roots,stronger and thicker and longer, but even those plants can't take too much repotting.
More of my plants die from repotting than from anything else.

At first, I tired using all sorts of materials that were not meant for raising violets, such as tea cups, or plastic containers that were too wide. Reading this forum and getting advice from others, once I started doing what was best for the plants, using the right size and height of pot, the plants
did well.

Because it takes nearly a year to go from a plucked leaf
to a blooming plant, with all the hovering and concern, why not just start out with what the plant will thrive in from the get-go!

The plants need monitoring. The red one that I am so proud of has another that I moved out of the dome and into a window a few months ago. It is very unhappy. The leaves
got dull and the crown got miniscule. Now, I have to research throughout this forum to find out what caused that. Perhaps the low light. I hope, nothing more sinister. When a plant is thriving, it is hard to realize how sensitive it really can be if its environment is changed, even a little.

Diana, Very nice photo essay! Thank you for taking the time to do that. This is a post to clip for future reference.
I just moved two plants from 2 1/2" to 3". Their leaf span was wide but their roots were small. I don't have anything between 3 and 4 at this time. I moved them because it has been a year and they are not blooming. Sticking to the proportion of 1/3, a 4 inch would be too large.

By the way, the Jean Pierre Croteau you advised I move
to a 4" pot, I did. It is doing fine. It is now blooming.

This brings up a question, I might have to do research. I understand that plants bloom from the crown, under the crown leaves only. So if I were to pinch off the blooms,
would the plant never again bloom from that leaf, but only from the new crown leaves that are growing out? I decided to leave the blooms on. I might not show it, after all. And just bring plants to sell for the club instead. It is hard to juggle both, and the show has a theme that many are struggling to come up with ideas. I am thinking just to have a great display and sales area instead with colorful signs of AV.
I will post my signs when they are finished for Karin's artistic input, if you are also reading this,Karin.

Best to all, Happy and PeacefulSunday, Joanne

    Bookmark   August 3, 2014 at 3:32PM
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I don't think that can be right about the blossoms, Joanne. If so, disbudding for show wouldn't work. I've never paid much attention, but I can't keep Fantasy Girl disbudded long enough to try to get it to grow a little. It just wants to bloom.

Yes, Karin has the artistic eye :).


    Bookmark   August 3, 2014 at 7:12PM
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Quit flattering me or my head will blow up ;-p

I read somewhere that potential bloom count relies on several factors, including how many peduncles can grow out of a leaf axil. (Hope i have my plant parts straight) So depending on the variety of violet, even with disbudding, there are a number of buds left from which more bloom stems will grow....


    Bookmark   August 3, 2014 at 7:36PM
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Thanks Diana for the photo journal. It is really helpful. Nice pics! My O. Texas is a very vigorous plant with a great root system. One of my favorites. I love the color!

    Bookmark   August 3, 2014 at 11:37PM
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witch doctor is soo going on my wish list! beautiful variegation - and you were right, my little impostor plant isn't it!


    Bookmark   August 4, 2014 at 12:20AM
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Diana and Karen, Thanks for the advice. I looked up Fantasy Girl, it is very pretty. Does yours have that much fantasy as on the Bluebird Greenhouse website photo?
Karin, From reading older posts, Witch Doc does not have a good reputation for being easy to grow or remain consistent.
With the genie in your house that causes so much sporting, you might be in for a wild ride with Witch Doctor. Joanne

This post was edited by fortyseven on Mon, Aug 4, 14 at 2:11

    Bookmark   August 4, 2014 at 12:51AM
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Lol, I'd probably just get it because of the name. It's adventurous :-p
But I love my variegateds...

    Bookmark   August 4, 2014 at 9:20AM
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It's supposed to be about the roots :D

However, I would most certainly recommend O. Texas and Private Dancer. I don't know what's been up with that O. Texas baby and the fertilizer salts. I don't remember that issue before.

Witch Doctor is probably the only plant I might grow even if it didn't bloom but I like the blossoms too. I've read the negatives but the blossoms stand up fine for me and it appears that plant was taken off the leaf around mid-May. The leaves are dark green and silver when grown properly. I like the name too. I once commented on O. Robinson having names like Toxic Hazardous Waste Dump and now I seem to have Ma's Butterfly Garden and Ma's Winter Moon. What is Witch Doctor supposed to do? I had a little pot full of Witch Doctors but I guess I only kept one.


Fantasy Girl (218) 05/10/1952 (R. Behnke/H. Cox) Single lavender/blue or purple fantasy. Serrated girl foliage. Standard

I can't get it out of a 3" pot but if you like the blossoms, I'd say mine looks better than the one on Bluebird. The foliage is different - large(ish) flat light green scalloped leaves that lay flat and almost look like they have a white edge. I haven't been able to get a decent photo and it's a heavy bloomer. I got mine from Cedar Creek(?) Rollins anyway some years ago. Hardly anyone carries it or wants it.


    Bookmark   August 4, 2014 at 10:53AM
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