I have the worst time with these plants...

KeOsikaDecember 18, 2013

I have no idea what I'm doing wrong, but I can't get my plants to survive past one blooming.

I posted a long time ago about some baby AV's that were sickly and the nice community here helped me save them. Kind of. A few months after, both were gone.

I went to a local nursery and bought a new AV, one that was already starting to bloom a little and was in great condition. It finished blooming, and then that was it. The leaves started to curl and it wasn't giving me any new growth. It finally started to give me -tiny- little leaves out of two places, telling me the crown had split (something you all taught me). I separated the crowns, both of which had nice root systems, and I replanted them in home-made plastic-cup pots.

Since replanting them, they've gone completely down hill. The leaves keep turning brown around the edge of the pot and they aren't growing any bigger at all. The leaves are all tightly curled under. I've been keeping the apartment I live in around 68 degrees, since its winter now, and I've wrapped their pots in fabric to keep the roots warm. I take them into my room during the night, when I turn off the living room heater and turn my bedroom heater on, and place a towel over them to keep the cold off them. I've been putting them by the window when there is the least amount of draft and I only let them up there for a little bit to avoid them getting cold. Otherwise, they've been 10-12in from a fluorescent bulb, which I have been told is a less than ideal but still passible solution to the sun-and-a-draft problem.

I'm so confused as to what I'm doing wrong. I'm keeping the plants as warm as I can, they're in water proof pots and I have them in the correct kind of soil now. I always water from the bottom and only leave them in their saucer of water for 30 minutes, and they're still curling their leaves and not growing at all :/

Help? :(

This post was edited by KeOsika on Wed, Dec 18, 13 at 11:48

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irina_co(z5 CO)

Could it be just too much TLC?

seems that you need a home visit. Where do you live? May be there is a club around? May be somebody in our group lives in a driving distance?

All this running around, putting socks and mittens on your plants... 68F is OK. You find the place for them in your bedroom - put the the fluorescent light on the timer - so you and plants can get dark time at the same time - and let them be.

Waterproof pots - what are they?

I am sure we can find a solution - but we just need to figure some more detail. It can be something in a water...like chloramines.

    Bookmark   December 18, 2013 at 2:53PM
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Maybe? The last AV I had froze to death from a window draft, and since then I've been really concerned about the room temperature (which is why I researched ways to keep your plants warm and used scrap fabric to insulate the pots).

The pots are the bottoms of plastic cups. I poked a bunch of small holes in the bottom for drainage, and cut one large hole for a wick. They got a good amount of natural sunlight today, since it wasn't cloudy at all and they didn't have to be near the drafty window.

It could be something in the water; I live in a city and I already have to put stuff in my salamander's water for the chlorine. I never really thought about that ::

I'm not really someone who's interested in a home visit, especially since I'll be leaving my apartment to go home for the holidays this coming weekend. thanks for the suggestion for that though, I'll keep it in mind if I think I really need it!

    Bookmark   December 18, 2013 at 5:16PM
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You've got to get some experience under your belt.

First of all, when plants start to decline, it's unlikely that a grower with your level of experience will be able to rescue them.

I remember when I first started growing. I killed plant after plant after plant.

The first thing that I would do is discard the plants you have now, clean up your growing area, and get just a couple or so ... really tough AV's. Those would be plants that you would get from a grocery or hardware store. The plants from the nursery may be a little too delicate for you right now.

Set them up in a good location (with a fluorescent light setup perhaps) ... and don't move them around. Plants need a level of stability. They aren't made to move around.

Also, obtain your water from a grocery (I get mine for a quarter a gallon) because many cities and metropolitan areas use Chloramines (as Irina mentioned) ... which are harmful and sometimes fatal to African Violets.

If your municipal water supply has Chloramines in it, you can't use tap water to water your plants. You must get your water from another source.

With these few adjustments, see how your new violets do. If they do better, you'll be well on your way to more successful African Violet growing.

    Bookmark   December 18, 2013 at 8:35PM
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Check your county's web-site for your water additives. It is required to be available to the public. If you can''t find it, e-mail them. I got my answer the following day.

I agree with Irina-I think there might be a little too much TLC going on but start with your water first.


    Bookmark   December 18, 2013 at 9:07PM
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one thing i have noticed - if the holes in the bottom of the pot are too small, even if there are lots of them, they don't provide adequate drainage.
as an example, i thought i was being smart and used a nail, heated over a candle, to burn holes into the bottom of some small plastic cups (just moved and still can't find my soldering iron). watered the soil and, oops, no drainage, i had to literally squeeze the soil to get rid of extra moisture....
just a thought anyways.
other than that, go with what the above posters said, don't move the plants so much, and if you can't stop yourself from fiddling with them every day (every 5 minutes?) get some more so you can divide your attentions :-p that's what i did, and i still have the urge to pick them all up and inspect each one whenever i enter the room...

    Bookmark   December 18, 2013 at 9:20PM
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Suggest also making sure plants are not too wet. Perhaps let soil dry a little before moistening again ⦠soil should not be soaking wet when you water, just a little damp.

    Bookmark   December 18, 2013 at 11:58PM
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Make sure your water is warm enough. Cold water out of the tap is hard on plants. I always have my water sitting at room temperature. Dumping cold water on the roots can be very hard on them.

    Bookmark   December 19, 2013 at 9:35AM
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irina_co(z5 CO)

I agree with the group - make yourself a small fluorescent setup, make sure that water and soil is appropriate - plus try to think about wicking - it will reduce the drought to drown damage - and let you go see friends and relatives for a week or more without any concern. The stable conditions will do miracles for them.

Good Luck


    Bookmark   December 19, 2013 at 1:06PM
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I used to kill countless AVs until I set some of them up in wicking. Wicking was, for me, the key to finally getting violets that thrived and rebloomed.

However, I think wicking can be tricky - if the soil isn't right for it, the wicking material isn't wicking well, etc. so it's still not foolproof. So, that's my first theory on what might be going wrong here - are you sure the wicking is working correctly (even moisture, not too much, not too little)?

I am currently experimenting with moving some violets to a semi hydro setup using hydrocorn as the medium instead of soil. I am hoping that since that allows for a consistent amount of moisture the violets will do better.

You might want to try taking some leaf cuttings and putting them in a semi hydro setup to see if that makes any difference.

I think AVs are easy and hardy plants ONLY IF you can get the right delicate balance on watering (and wicking/semi hydro seem to make that a lot easier).

This post was edited by summersunshine on Sat, Dec 21, 13 at 13:39

    Bookmark   December 21, 2013 at 1:37PM
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zzackey(8b GA)

I know most people water them from the bottom. My mom had about 50 violets and she always watered them from the top and had beautiful violets. I water mine the same way and I haven't killed one in 40 years. From my thinking they grow in Africa in the shade and get rain from the top. Is that too simple? I think you need to buy real pots with regular drainage instead of using plastic cups. They want to drain quickly. I can sometimes get free pots from Lowe's or Ace hardware. Or even buy them cheaply at a yard sale or thrift shop.

    Bookmark   December 21, 2013 at 3:55PM
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Hi Zackey,
Great suggestion! I thought the same thing! Some "experts" only top water.

Personally, I bottom water most of the time because with my routine, it works better for me. About once a month, I top water.

It took me a long time to convert from clay to plastic â¦
I have used both clay pots and plastic. I presently live in a dry, warmer climate and found that the plastic works much better than the clay. It took me a while to be convinced, because when I lived in a more humid climate, I used clay, which was better there.

With a large collection, plastic is so much easier, less bulky, less weight. The outsides don't become discolored with mineral salts from the water.

I think people suggest bottom watering because there is less danger of over-watering. However, once you have a method that works for you, that is all that matters.

I used to love the look of clay pots. If a plastic pot seems too lightweight, I slip it into a cache pot of some kind.

Most of the time, I use thin dark green plastic pots that are approximately 3 7/8" then slip them inside clay colored slightly thicker plastic pots that are approximately 4". This gives them just enough extra weight to support the plants.
The garden shop where I get my pots has both sizes.

When I water the plants, I remove them from the outer pots. Normally, I let them sit in water, but when in a hurry, I top water.


    Bookmark   December 21, 2013 at 8:23PM
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It does NOT matter if your plants are top watered or bottom watered. You are correct; in nature, violets are top watered, from the rain but they are also bottom watered when they absorb the water in the soil. What matters is drainage; in nature violets grow on mountainous terrain with thin soil that dries quickly. This must be emulated as closely as possible for growing success. This is one reason heavy soil is death to violets. Growers top or bottom water because of convenience, one or the other is not necessary for the health of the plant.


The reason your plastic works better than clay now that you're in SF is for the reason you stated. It is drier and warmer than where you were before (NJ?) In a dry climate, clay will release water much more quickly than in a warm, humid climate. In a humid climate, clay will keep the soil moister longer as you have found. Plastic is preferred in a drier climate because it will sustain the moisture in the soil much longer. In Orchid growing, clay is usually used for plants that like to dry out quickly which is one reason they are not so good for violets.

Personally, I have found moving violets not to be a problem. I move mine around all the time. I totally rearranged them two nights ago. I have my blooming shelf which is eye level, I have my non-blooming shelf which is a high shelf, (I'm very vertically-challenged!) and I have my variegates shelf. Moving them around helps me find which locations they prefer. I also have my leaf shelves, my plantlet shelves and my almost-blooming size shelves. Everything is rotated on a regular schedule.


    Bookmark   December 22, 2013 at 12:22AM
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paul_(z5 MI)

You might also consider trying growing AVs in a terrarium. I find them difficult when grown in pots on windowsills like "normal" folks do. However, in terraria they grow like weeds for me. (I have them planted in straight sphagnum moss.)

If you choose to give that route a go, terrs can be incredibly cheap to buy. A 10gal fish tank to start off with can often easily be had for $5 or so at a second-hand store like Goodwill or Salvation Army. Sometimes can even find them for free on CraigsList.

    Bookmark   December 26, 2013 at 2:59PM
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Terries & sphagnum moss sound delightful! @ Linda white Lacey, thnx for the tips. Irina, too.& Karin, Left house @ 57 for 5 days. Plants were "good soldiers." Orchid dropped all the old blooms then immediately set out new blooms & buds. Disbudded Av in 2" Left alone Av in 4" Optimara Manitoba has about 60 huge blooms. Resembles a blue-lilac hydrangea. Local Ace got in new saucers that are perfect for wicking. They got in a shipment of many new selections of Optimaras from a local, Optimara-licensed grower. Got several new varieties to grow as table-center pieces for an event in a few months. They are small starters. In a few months, they should be in full bloom. They will be in isolation. Joanne

    Bookmark   December 26, 2013 at 7:00PM
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irina_co(z5 CO)

IMHO - the violets grow better under fluorescent lights and on wicks and mats. But if you prefer to keep them on a natural light - - fish tank helps - just do not totally close the lid, live good enough crack. 50-70% humidity is good - 100% is not. Second thing - the straight sphagnum moss is not 6.6 pH. It is more on an acid side. People who have alkaline water sometimes can use it straight. Generally - you can position the AV with a pot - and hide the pot under sphagnum. There are certain miniatures/ small trailers that just love it - but you cannot put a standard there - not enough space.

    Bookmark   December 26, 2013 at 8:06PM
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Linda, Irina,
I may have responded to you on the Bloomfest thread â¦
thanks for your advice.

After our trip, I came home to Pink Feathers finally blooming, well worth the wait. It is a variegated, so this might be its one and only time it blooms.
Also, Chanticleer is blooming, a sweet, old-fashioned look.
It was a gift plant from one of the growers I ordered from
several months ago.

Thanks for the advice on the sphag moss and terrarium.
I tried it once, many years ago. It did not work well for me in the humid climate where I lived. I also was not that experienced.
However, folks on the forum have posted some lovely pix and advice on techniques.

Linda, on the Bloomfest thread, wanted to add that the color scheme of red and purple is great, the colors complement and intensify each other.

    Bookmark   December 26, 2013 at 10:15PM
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paul_(z5 MI)

â¢Posted by irina_co
There are certain miniatures/ small trailers that just love it - but you cannot put a standard there - not enough space.

That depends on the size of the terr. heh Seriously, AVs can get huge in terrs. Had a standard planted in a 55gal tank (straight sphag). Got it off "deathrow" at Lowes. Within a couple years it had grown to 12inches in diameter and was trying to "muscle out" the other plants so I had to tear it out. Currently I believe it may be still residing on a friend's lanai in Florida.

    Bookmark   December 27, 2013 at 1:39PM
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irina_co(z5 CO)

12 inches.. it is a normal size for a large standard...wait until they go close to 20" and over... i think micro-minis do great in terrariums - a friend grows "Pip Squeak" covered only.

    Bookmark   December 27, 2013 at 2:28PM
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Pink Feathers blooms pretty well ...

    Bookmark   December 27, 2013 at 6:45PM
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Thanks! Good to know! In a similar vein, I grow Antique Tapestry and Old Fashioned Love by LLG. Both are reluctant bloomers. I got Julie Kay recently, it has not bloomed yet.

I have a NOID with a similar look from a local, high-end nursery. Leaves have even edge variegation, grows symmetrically in a perfect whorl, has light pink rosette blooms. It propagates easily from a leaf.

As for large, light pink blooms with a silver edge, Southern Delight by LLG is a good performer. The leaves are dark and shiny with pale pink reverse and spoon upward. Very showy.

MyDelight by Optimara--pale pink rosette blooms with a silver edge--is a profuse bloomer.

    Bookmark   December 27, 2013 at 11:06PM
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paul_(z5 MI)

â¢Posted by irina_co
12 inches.. it is a normal size for a large standard...

'Twas the first time I had ever seen one that big in person -- let alone one in my care. (I think that particular plant was "Colorado", if I am remembering correctly. ) Considering it was only about 4" across when I got it off the "deathrow" rack at Lowes, hitting a 12 inch diameter ... particularly that fast ... was quite a shock. heh

    Bookmark   December 29, 2013 at 5:01PM
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