African Violet Not Getting Bigger? Help!

KeOsikaDecember 13, 2012

A while back I posted a question on here regarding an older African Violet that had gotten sick. Basically I had left it too close to a window in the winter and the cold draft had frozen it. It had no roots to speak of when I dug it up.

Prior to it's death, however, I had clipped off a few leaves to grow in water. Four of the six leaves I had taken survived, and I potted them each in an appropriately sized pot.

Over the next few weeks, the new baby plants grew lots of little tiny leaves and grew as normal. One of them (a smaller leaf) didn't get much bigger than my index finger nail and eventually shriveled up. The second to be lost simply stopped growing, and then browned and died. The third and fourth got relatively large (about 2.5-3in across), but suddenly the third shriveled as well. It just started looking sickly one day, and then a week or so later I tossed it.

My fourth plant is... alive. I've included a picture. As you can see, it's relatively small and the leaves are curling up. It has a wick at the bottom and I've been giving it a fertilizer stick as per the directions on the package (I break a single stick into pieces and disperse it around the pot, since I don't think the violet is big enough for two whole sticks yet?). I have also potted it in soil marked for african violets. It has been this size for two months now, and it has done nothing but get curly leaves. The leaves are firm where they meet the steam but they are soft otherwise. When I dug it up to make sure it wasn't rotting, the roots seemed to be in tact. They were small and about.. I'd say an 1.5-2in long? they were a bit dry and white. I don't see any sort of mite or bug on it. The plant sits about 3ft from the windowsill on the back of our couch's corner table, where it's close enough to the window to get sunlight a few hours in the morning, but not close enough to be damaged by the draft. I live on the 5th floor of my apartment building, if that means anything.

Can anyone tell me what's wrong with it? I have no idea what else to do... I can't tell if it's sick or not. :(

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Curling leaves are often the result of tiny pests; aphids and mites. You must separate it from any other plants to avoid any infection transfer. You can use Lukewarm water with a horticultural soap or oil and just mist the plant. They also sell special pesticides for violets that are safe to use on them. You will probably have to change to fresher soil as mites like to live in it. I always heat my soil up in the oven before potting my plants, to kill any bugs or eggs it may have. But until your plant has recovered make sure to wash your hands and tools after every use.

    Bookmark   December 13, 2012 at 5:38PM
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I'm not 100% sure I believe it's pests. If it's mites, however, you should just toss it. If it's something like thrips or mealie bugs, you can treat it with marathon (Imidacloprid) easily enough.

What I can tell is that there is more than one plant in that pot in the image. It is in a pot that is too large for plants of that size.

I suspect the problem is here: "I had clipped off a few leaves to grow in water."

When African Violets produce roots and leaves in water, they generally end up dying off and the plant rots when you transplant it to soil. You may wish to look up and switch to a semi-hydroponic setup. Ref the link below.

Here is a link that might be useful: Semi-hydroponics

    Bookmark   December 13, 2012 at 5:57PM
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@conuremama: I checked for pests, but I didn't see any. Are they not visible to the naked eye?

@Taxonomist3: There are two plants in the pot? Is it possible for an African Violet to split? Because this is definitely from a single leaf. I will look into that link you sent me, thank you!

    Bookmark   December 13, 2012 at 6:15PM
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The cool thing about African Violets is that if you grow a new plant from a leaf, that leaf can actually put up multiple plantlets!

Also, if it were mites, they'd be too small for you to see with your eyes. you'd need a good magnifying lens/microscope to see them (however, these do not look like a typical mite attack in my opinion - usually the crown gets very crowded and the leaves get extra hairy).

    Bookmark   December 13, 2012 at 7:33PM
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Circling the places on that was extremely helpful, thank you. I will split them on Sunday once I've gone home for holiday break. I checked the spots you circled, and there don't appear to be any roots. Just a hardened spot at the base of the leaves' stems. What should I do to repot the crowns? (I'm very new at this part of AV care).

Also, the plant is very loose in it's pot. When I checked the circled spots, I was afraid simply lifting a leaf would uproot it. Is that because of the multiple plants being in one pot? or is that something wrong with it?

    Bookmark   December 13, 2012 at 9:14PM
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If they are loose in the pot it's likely because the pot is too large and they haven't gotten situated enough by sending out new roots.

I think I might just pull up one of the crowns, cut off all the roots so it's just the crown and a few leaves, and then put it in fresh soil in a home-made pot that's no more than 2 cm wide and 2 cm deep, moisten the soil (by sitting it in water for about 10 minutes, then removed from the water to let drain), followed up by putting it in a ziplock bag (or humidity dome) for 2 weeks in a bright place (that doesn't get direct sunlight). After 2 weeks you should start seeing new roots originating out from the crown. If you do, it's safe to open the ziplock bag/crack dome (but leave the plant in it for another week). After the week is up, and the plant still looks healthy, you'll be safe to remove it from the bag.

    Bookmark   December 14, 2012 at 8:03AM
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irina_co(z5 CO)

KeOsika - my guess is - low humidity in your apartment - i is a heating season - isn't it - stressing your young plants with underdeveloped root system. The ceramic pot is porous - so the soil loses water even faster.

Otherwise - Taxonomist got it just right - plantlets should be divided to one plant per small pot, use small plastic pots made of solo cups, yogurt cups etc. - just punch the hole in the bottom. Cover the fresh transplants with a baggie or dome. By the way - your soil needs at least 1/3 of perlite added. It looks like it is very peaty. After your plants will spruce up - you need to start fertiizing them with a weak solution.

Good luck - and I do not believe you have bugs.


    Bookmark   December 14, 2012 at 12:19PM
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Thank you so much everyone for the help~ I will cut them and replant them in plastic cups on sunday when I am home for break and then will let you guys know how they're doing or if I need anything else.

Thanks again! :)

    Bookmark   December 14, 2012 at 12:56PM
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KeOsika ...

I'll just kind of reinforce what has already been said ...

Your pot is too big and you need to separate the multiple crowns you have into multiple plants in separate pots.

Your pots should be fairly small ... African Violets do better with smaller pots.

I doubt that you have bugs either.

And you will, likely, have to get some artificial light for your plant(s). A few hours from the window isn't going to cut it (and there's the risk of that draft).

Consider putting one of the new CFL fluorescent bulbs in a desk or floor lamp where you can focus the light on your violets.

Hold off on the fertilizer for awhile after you've transplanted them. BTW, if you have no roots on your crowns, just stick them down into the dirt in their new pots. That (and adequate) dampness) should help them to re-root.

While ypur plants are getting readjusted to their new settings, find some water-soluble African Violet fertilizer, ... and begin to feed your plants with a very light solution (1/4 tsp. to a gallon of water). You can keep your leftover solution for future watering.

Once your plants are 9 inches across, you can put them in a 3" diameter pot (with drainage). Once they get a foot across, you can pot them up to a 4" diameter pot. Unless you grow your plants wery large (18-24 inches across), you'll never need to put them in anything bigger than a 4" diameter pot.

    Bookmark   December 14, 2012 at 2:34PM
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I just wanted to give an update on the baby violets. I've cut the crowns and put them into their respective home-made pots, and then put them in bags like you all instructed.

I've attached a picture of the violets in their humidity domes. Is it supposed to be that wet inside? The leaves do not touch the sides of the bags.

I think part of their problem before was that the dirt I had purchased was absolutley the least absorbant soil I have ever bought. I had to take the soil and mix it with water into almost a mud (which took about 10 minutes of mixing as it was) and then let it drain on a paper towel before putting the violets in it. It was horrible and I will definitely not buy that brand again..

Any extra advice is welcome. I've taken care of violets just fine before but this is my first time having this happen, so thank you all again for the help and the advice :)

    Bookmark   December 21, 2012 at 12:05AM
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One final update: I opened up their bags and I was very pleased to find that two no longer tip over (or wiggle in the slightest) when touched. So for once, my plants are secure in their pots!

One didn't make it through the process though. I'm not sure what happened but when I opened the bag, one leaf was all brown and shriveled and the rest were a darkened greenish brown color and covered in a white fuzz. I figured it was a gonner so I got rid of it.

I just wanted to reiterate my thanks to you all for the advice and the help saving my babies. The parent plant was originally my grandfather's, and he gifted it to me a few months before he passed away. You can imagine how devastated I was when I'd let his plant die..

Anyway, I'm really grateful for all the help! Thanks again!

    Bookmark   January 4, 2013 at 9:46PM
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Fantastic news! thanks for keeping us updated!

    Bookmark   January 5, 2013 at 7:43PM
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