Mushy Leaves and Yellow Leaves

dawngault(6)September 8, 2009

I have two seperate African Violets. One of them has leaves that are yellowing and hasnt been repotted in years. The other one was just repotted in the recommended mixture of soil, in a pot that is too large, and has now gotten dark green mushy leaves. Please help, my Granny gave me these plants and they are 30 or 40 years old.

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irina_co(z5 CO)

D. -

get them both repotted in the correct mix (1:1:1) and correct pot size. The one that was not repotted for years - possibly has a neck like a palm tree and needs to be dealt with - you can check on FAQ about long necks. The one that has mushy leaves - sometimes it is just old leaves - and sometimes it is a root rot. Check the roots when repotting - and if it is the case - you need to cut the stem to the healthy tissue, remove most of the leaves except the young ones - stick in the soil in a small size pot - like 3 oz solo cup - and cover with a baggie - so it will root.

No matter what you do - I would immediately take a couple of good leaves from each and put them down for babies. Again - check on FAQ how to start leaves - or check Rachel Reflections site.

Good luck


Here is a link that might be useful: Very Good Info

    Bookmark   September 8, 2009 at 4:26PM
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Hi Dawn,

How much do you know about African Violets? If you've had these for a long time but did what I did, you may not know much. It wasn't until I came in here one night to ask a question, as you did, that I realized how much I had to learn if I was going to grow them and not kill them.

And, second question, what other stuff do you grow? It will help us judge how to tell you information related to the AVs.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2009 at 10:21PM
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To be honest, I haven't grown very much. It hasn't been a very successful endeavor on my part. My mother makes fun of me and says my house is the place where plants go to die. I have a couple of prayer plants, some bamboo, a bonsai tree, a green and white striped vine thing that my Granny always just called Gracie, and some purple vine thing (no offense to anyone, but my mother always calls it a Wandering Jew). Outside I have a hibiscus bush, and a ton of bulbs. BUT, I am committed to making these plants live NO MATTER WHAT. I will do anything I have to.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2009 at 11:05PM
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Well, that's a great attitude.

African Violets are not really hard, but they have a few quirks. Once you learn the quirks, you're golden.

There are a couple of very important things to know about them. First, they HATE being wet (wet and cold is even worse) and they HATE being dry. What's that leave you? They want to be just barely wet to just barely dry.

Second, most potting mixes we normally use are really, really good at staying wet. So, they tend to work poorly with AVs. When too wet, you get mushy leaves - in essence you're watering it to death. So, for now, STOP watering!

Third, they need to be repotted at least once a year! Most plants can hang out in their pots for awhile, but not an AV. They only have 4 or 5 active rows of leaves at any time. Slowly, the oldest row starts to die, as the new rows grow in. You pick off the leaves and then you get this long stem-like thing that AV folk call a neck. You have to replant it and get that neck in the soil to remove it.

Fourth, because of their small root systems and because they can't tolerate too much water, they need to be in a relatively small pot based on how large they are.

So, tackling what Irina said, you probably need to repot the plants. To do that, you need to use a soil that an AV will like. Many people use different things. You should be fine if you use either 1 part each of peat, perlite and vermiculite OR 1 part each peat and perlite. Lots of people use other things, but this work just fine especially when you're just starting out. Just don't buy a mix that says it's for AVs because it probably isn't all that good for them.

Next, measure the AVs across the top. Now, use a pot that is 1/3rd the size of the plant. If your plant measures 10 inches, use a 3" pot. Crazy, huh?

There are a LOT of tutorials on line regarding repotting an AV and handling a long neck. Let me see if I can find some and post them for you. Since you're new to this, it may seem a bit daunting at first, but you can do it.

    Bookmark   September 9, 2009 at 12:19AM
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Oh, first, read the FAQs at the top of the page here. They will help some.

I'm not taking the time to format the following links, so cut and paste them to get to them.

This one is on how to grow and AV from a leaf. If you find that the mushy plant cannot be saved, you CAN potentially save the plant by making a new copy of it from its leaf.

To summarize, you need to:

Reduce the water ASAP.
Get the right soil mix.
Take out each plant from their current pot and assess the roots and neck and take appropriate action.
Learn how little/much to water AVs so you don't overwater in the future.
Potentially put down a leaf (or two or three) of the plants so that in case you lose one, you can grow an exact copy.

    Bookmark   September 9, 2009 at 12:28AM
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Thank you very much. I am going to go to the local farmers market to get the right kind of potting soil first thing in the morning. I did, of course, get the one that said AV on it. LOL. Common Rookie mistake I am guessing. But again, thank you very much.

    Bookmark   September 9, 2009 at 1:14AM
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You are welcome. I would have bought the same thing, heck, it's labeled that way! I hope the Farmer's Market can help you. I found everything I needed at Home Depot/Lowes, but bought it separately.

You actually can use what you have...all you need is to buy some perlite. Read the ingredients on the bag of what you have. It will probably have peat as the main ingredient, plus something else. If it has perlite and vermiculite, fine. Just take one part of the soil and maybe 2/3 of a part of the perlite. That will give you a pretty good ratio. And perlite can be found at most places. It's not so much rocket science, but that you're trying to get better drainage. Some people use charcoal, some perlite, some both. Vermiculite does hold water, too, so my best guess is that if you've been overwatering that it's best to leave the vermiculite out.

You'll learn to water so that you make the soil evenly damp, but not soaking, then you wait until it's dry on the top inch before you water again. You should aim for watering about every two days, three days max. If the soil mix stays wet for longer than three days, the roots never get any air - and they need air to exchange gasses and grow.

    Bookmark   September 9, 2009 at 1:25AM
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Hi Dawn,
I have a few sheet on AV culture that I handed out to groups when I did talks on AVs. If you would like them email me and I will send them off to you. I would repot your plants into a light mix. I have used an AV mix but added perlite and vermiculite in equal parts so the mix is not that heavy. At the same time you repot, you should shape the plants into a rosette shape. They eventually should look the the spokes on a bicycle with everything raidiating out from the center stem. At that time I would put down a leaf or two as insurance just in case the older plant goes belly up. I wick water all my plants which solves the problem of overwatering. The wicking takes water and fertilizer up to the plant on a constant feed basis allowing it to grow at a steady pace. Consistency is one thing that the violet likes. Deviate from that and it may act erraticaly.
Hope this helps and that I havent scared you about growing Americas favorite houseplant. If you need further info on growing you can refer to the AVSA site or ask questions here. I may not always have a ready answer for you but I have a number of sources that I can refer to. If you would like a great book to use, I have recommended many times in the past that people should buy 'Growing To Show' by Pauline Bartholomew. The name sounds daunting, however, it has the greatest info on AV's for beginners as well.
Fred in NJ

Here is a link that might be useful: AVSA

    Bookmark   September 9, 2009 at 4:52PM
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