AV dying a slow death...root rot?

wendync(7b)December 5, 2012

Hey guys,

My african violet has been in the process of death for weeks now. About a month ago, after it had stopped blooming, I decided to repot it out of what it had come in at the store. I actually picked a *smaller* pot, as I thought the original one was a bit big. I mixed 1 part perlite, 1 part peat moss, and 1 part vermiculite -- as I had seen suggested on some AV websites.

Well, it went downhill from there. For whatever reason, the pot wasn't draining like it should and it stayed too wet for maybe a week or two(during which time I was clueless there was a problem). I sort of suspect that the pebble tray it was on was sneakily wicked water into the pot by accident. It started with a single leaf drooping and then drying up. Ok. Then another leaf. And another leaf. I realized there was a problem, so I pulled it out of the soil--found it was too wet, brushed the old stuff away and repotted into a fresh mix--being sure to only water when it was dryish(every 6-7 days). The roots actually looked ok--nothing mushy, just wet.

It has not improved. It has continued to lose all of it's outer leaves, one by one, and started to lose it's medium size leaves now. Probably lost 8 or so leaves now.

In a last ditch attempt to save it, I took it out of it's pot again tonight. Roots still look ok. Mixed a fresh batch of soil and put it in an even smaller 2" pot(which it now fits perfectly in because it's so small...).

I do not know how to save this plant. What should I do? Can it be saved? Thanks!

As you can see in the pic, the front 3 leaves are drooping right now...

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The center of your plant looks good...
I would snip off the 4 leaves out of whack. (not the technical term :) The outer roots were perhaps destroyed during the flood and those leaves are never going to get better. They're taking away strength the plant needs for its center. (IMHO)
BUT new roots will grow! And the center leaves will put out new growth - just takes a while to recover.

And no more re-potting for a while! It'll be okay... remember not too wet and not too dry!
Channel its inner just-right Goldilocks comfort spot :)

    Bookmark   December 6, 2012 at 2:43AM
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nyxx(z7 Virginia)

The vermiculite you used was it the stuff you get at lowes and walmart and such? If so that is probably where your problem came from. I can't think of a plant that that fine stuff is for except maybe bog plants. Vermiculite comes in different grades or sizes. When you read all over the internet to use a 1:1:1 mix of peat moss, perlite and vermiculite most fail to mention that the most readily available kind of vermiculite is too fine. The purpose of mixing the perlite and vermiculite in with the peat is to make a lite airy potting mix. One that provides lots of air pockets around the roots. In order to do this the vermiculite has to be at least as big as the perlite you probably already have to work. The fine stuff not only holds lots of water it fills in all the air pockets and makes things worse. Some don't add the vermiculite at all, just the perlite. I like the coarse vermiculite myself. It holds just enough water to help keep the soil at the level of moisture my plants like. There are several companies that are producing pre-mixed 1:1:1 mixes online. Several in fact sell on Amazon. I mention this because to my knowledge the medium and coarse grades of vermiculite are only available in large 4 cubic foot bags. There aren't many of us that have the room to keep that size bag around not to mention if you only have one or two plants you couldn't use that much in a lifetime lol.

I would also mention that I made a strange discovery the other day while repotting some plants I had just gotten in. I like to add some Super Thrive to the water when I repot. It seems to help with stress recover. While I was measuring it out my daughters toy poodle decided I needed help and jump up on the back of my knees causing me to spill some and some water on the counter. While I was pulling off some droopy leaves I laid them on the counter and didn't notice that I had miss wiping up the spilled stuff and laid one of the droopy leaves stem in the spilled stuff. After I finished with the plant and went to clean up the counter the droopy leaf was now no longer droopy. So I stuck it in some potting mix and it is doing fine. I think I will have a rooted leaf shortly. The spilled stuff was stronger solution then what you actually use. Super Thrive is VERY concentrated. I use a dropper to measure it. What I spilled was the water I sucked up into the dropper after I had measured the ST to rinse out the dropper.

So to sum this up. I agree with Dognapper. However if you used the fine vermiculite your plant will continue to die from to much water. So you may want to repot it in just the peat and perlite for now anyway. And if you happen to have any Super Thrive around maybe you can put your droopy leaves in some and see if they firm up so you can root them. If you want to that is. Good Luck =o)

    Bookmark   December 6, 2012 at 11:54AM
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irina_co(z5 CO)

Wendy - I am less optimistic than Dognapper. When the AV catches rot - there is no way to stop it. It just devours the whole plant.

I would remove limp leaves - just as Dognapper suggested.
I would shake the plant out - check for the rot - and if there is - I will trim the root ball off to the good tissue and reroot the top. You can recut the limp leaves and put them for babies.

Next time after repotting - keep the soil barely moist. You can cover the plants with plastic or dome - to up the air humidity - but soil shouldn't be oversaturated.

Good Luck - and seems that you just added some knowledge in AV growing. We learn when they grow and we learn more when when we figure out why they do not grow...


    Bookmark   December 6, 2012 at 12:00PM
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Thanks for the responses. Yes, it was the fine vermiculite. My concern is that the water issue has been corrected for more than two weeks and the violet is still in decline. It's nearly out of leaves to loose!

I know there's a fair chance that it won't make it, I just wish I could turn it around. =(

I did take a droopy leaf to try and root though.

This post was edited by wendync on Thu, Dec 6, 12 at 12:47

    Bookmark   December 6, 2012 at 12:22PM
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As long as you have firm foliage, your plant stands a good chance of recovery, but you must correct any problems before it can begin to move forward.

The finer vermiculite will be a problem in your planting mix.

I would try repotting it again in a mix without the vermiculite, removing any droopy leaves, and then watch your watering very carefully with this plant.

The roots have been compromised, so the plant cannot manage as much water as before. You will need to keep the plant on a lightened watering schedule for the couple months or so it will take to grow new roots.

    Bookmark   December 6, 2012 at 12:41PM
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I suggest a good potting MIX with equal parts Perlite and let dry nearly totally between waterings.

    Bookmark   December 7, 2012 at 9:31PM
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It might also benefit you to check those roots-do a biopsy and make sure both they and the stem under the crown are still alive. Living flesh is white-on the inside for main stems, and on the outside for roots-with a fresh vegetation type odor, and not brown with a dank smell. When I was dealing with root rot it turned out the main stems were rotted very close to the crown-to one row of the leaves-and the actual crown were still alive, so I had to behead and re-root under a dome(er...a plastic bucket).

Also, I agree with tommyr. When finer perlite is used, a higher ratio of it is needed. I use the Miracle Gro stuff, and lately my mix is mostly-about 2/3-perlite. If you wind up having to re-root, it will help you significantly with drainage. A more shallow container might help as well. Check the roots and -after trimming away the dead tissue- try a pudding cup or a 3 oz white plastic Dixie cup. There winds up being less dirt to hold moisture, the double bladed sword.

In the end, if your plant perishes, don't feel too bad about it. Just try again. Root rot can be tricky to beat once it starts, and there are other plants who would like a nice home with someone who actually trys to take care of them (plus, in nature, life is tough and a lot of them die would die anyway, had they been wild). If you like these plants, don't let one failure make you feel bad enough that you don't want to try and enjoy African violets again. Just keep learning. Next time will be better.

Best wishes and good luck!

    Bookmark   December 8, 2012 at 10:56AM
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Thanks rachels.haven. I will also add that anytime you get a new AV take and try rooting 2 leaves JUST IN CASE! At any given time I have at least 6-12 leaves in the rooting process.

    Bookmark   December 8, 2012 at 7:56PM
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Just wanted to let you know that as of today, it has died. A few days after I posted this, the healthy part of the plant developed what is most likely powdery mildew and pretty quickly after that all of the leaves turned black.

I took two leaves to root, one turned black a few days later and the other appeared to be doing well, but I noticed today that it also has "blackness" creeping from the stem towards the outer part of the leaf.

I purchased a few more violets off ebay, however. So we'll see how they do.

    Bookmark   December 12, 2012 at 5:26PM
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Wendy, sorry to hear you lost it.

There's a trick to making sure the cutting you have is good. If you take a leaf cutting and soak it in water until it goes firm, you can then put it up to the light. You'll want to cut off all that is translucent, and then go slightly above that. Since I've started following this procedure, I very rarely lose any leaves now.

    Bookmark   December 12, 2012 at 11:45PM
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irina_co(z5 CO)

Wendy -

you probably can do your learning on Home Depot AVs. The reason - they are cheaper and they are much tougher varieties. Practice starting leaves, repotting and watering until you will get the feeling. To pay good money for ebay plants and lose them afterwards - it is disappointing. An they are usually stressed from shipping and generaly do not belong to the cast iron category - so it is much easier to have them expire.

When I looked at your first pic - as I said - I was not optimistic about it. It had a small chance- if you would take a crown off and try to reroot. The drooping leaves and tired look was telling me- it had a root rot. Eventually your eyes will get trained - and you would be able to catch it up and mediate in most of the cases.

Good Luck - and keep growing - next time you will not make the same mistake!


    Bookmark   December 13, 2012 at 12:19PM
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Respectfully to Irina, I disagree with learning from big-box store plants. When you buy them, you already have several strikes against you-poor soil, shipping stress, inadequate care by store employees-not something a novice can easily deal with.
I suggest you get the best varieties you can. Any good violet grower has more than they want and should be willing to share some with you. They can also tell you which varieties are good for beginners and which ones are more of a challenge. If you have no grower friends, start here. Violet growers are a generous group.
Hope this helps.


    Bookmark   January 21, 2013 at 2:37PM
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irina_co(z5 CO)

Violet buddies are the best! If there is an AV club around - that's the place to go. check AVSA.org under "affiliates".

Respectfully disagree to Linda regarding the first plant to buy.

If you order a plant - you will get a young starter - stressed from shipping. But if you are a newbie - you do not have good light, you do not have good soil, etc. - so you will have trouble growing this baby to maturity. So it is another batch of challenges to overcome.

If you get the HD violet in a decent shape - not from clearance rack - and repot it into lighter soil - it will be unkillable. Even if you do not repot it - but water sparingly - it will also last.


    Bookmark   January 22, 2013 at 2:50PM
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