The most common African violet problems are pests, disease, dirty leaves, a lack of flowers or inability to bloom, pale or bleached leaves, wilting, spots on the leaves, lack of new growth and tight crown, or leaf crowding.
In this article, we will discuss the different problems you may encounter with your African violets, and how to remedy them. If you are currently experiencing any of these problems, keep reading.
What are African violets’ most common problems?
Cyclamen mite infestation
These creatures are more closely related to spiders than they are to insects, and, like spiders, they have eight legs. They are one of the most commonly found pests on African violets.
It can be quite difficult to spot these bugs on the plant’s leaves because they are so small. But despite their diminutive size, they can do considerable damage to the foliage of the plant. They prefer feeding on the leaves at the center before making their way to the rest of the plant.
The symptoms of a cyclamen mite infestation are stunted growth and curling leaves. The leaves on a plant infested with these mites also seem to be hairier than normal. The buds will look stunted and misshapen which affects the plant’s bloom, so it should come as no surprise that flowering will probably cease.
These pests are most active in a humid setting and temperatures of around 60 degrees Fahrenheit. They tend to avoid the light and prefer to hide within the folds of the leaves.
They like the area where the stem meets the petioles, so these are the parts affected first.
They feed on the plant by sucking the sap from the leaves and the stem. They also leave a toxic substance on the leaves while feeding, and this substance affects the plant’s overall growth patterns.
The longer you let an infestation go on, the higher the chances of the flowers and leaves dying. Eventually, the center of the plant will be compromised and the entire plant will succumb.
If you are able to catch the infestation in its early stages, the plant can still recover aesthetically, but the worse the damage, the longer the recovery time.
You can prevent cyclamen mite infestations by keeping your plants sufficiently distanced from one another that their leaves do not touch those of other plants. If you suspect one plant to have cyclamen mites, separate it from all your other plants while you treat it.
If the infestation is really severe, it may be better to dispose of the plant. Wash the pot of the infested plant in a solution of 9:1 water and bleach. Let the pot soak in this for at least 30 minutes to make sure all of the mites are killed.
If the infestation is mild or manageable, you can try spraying the plant down with a miticide spray specifically for houseplants. Repeat the spraying every three days until you are sure there are no mites left.
Another pest that attacks African violets is the mealybug. These are around a quarter of an inch big, and they have a material around their bodies that makes them look like cotton.
You can spot them on the leaves and stems of the plant, feeding on the foliage by sucking out the sap. The result is distorted leaves and stunted growth.
In severe infestations, these pests can cause the death of the leaves and even the entire plant.
Prevent and control these pests by making sure you check each new plant that you bring into your home. Check the pot and the soil as well as the plant itself.
If the infestation is still in its early stages, you can place neem oil on a cotton ball and wipe down the leaves and stems of the plant to kill the mealybugs.
Severe infestations are trickier to handle because of the waxy substance on the bodies of the adult mealybugs that can protect the bugs from insecticide. Apply neem oil of the plant once a week for a month to make sure that all the bugs and their nymphs are killed.
Root and crown rot
Root and crown rot is caused by a fungus that attacks the roots of the African violet when they have been damaged or compromised due to overwatering.
The roots and the crown root of the plant are soft and mushy because they have decayed due to standing too long in wet soil. The leaves at the base will look droopy and the newer leaves at the center of the plant will become black and will die.
The most common fungi that cause rot are the Phytophthora and Pythium fungi species.
Prevent rot by making sure you do not overwater the plant, use soil that is well-draining, airy and porous, and a pot that has drainage holes at the bottom to allow excess water to flow out.
You can save a plant with rot by removing it from the pot and washing off as much old soil as you can. Inspect the roots and cut off those that have turned brown or black, because those are rotten and infected. Use a sterile pair of scissors to do this, to prevent the spread of disease.
Spray the healthy roots with fungicide before letting them air dry on a paper towel. After a few hours the roots should be dry and you can transfer the plant to a new pot.
This disease is caused by the Botrytis cinerea fungus. Signs of the disease will first appear as water-soaked lesions on the underside of the leaf. The foliage will appear blighted and dark brown to gray, with a fuzzy coating on the surface.
You can treat this disease by removing and properly discarding the dead debris from the pot. Make sure the plant gets good air circulation and do not get the leaves and flowers wet.
Blight often goes hand in hand with a mite infestation, so preventing mites also helps keep blight at bay.
3. Dirty leaves
Wetting the African violet’s leaves can lead to brown spots when exposed to sunlight, so it is not advisable to do so. You might therefore notice the leaves of your plant becoming dusty, dirty and covered with debris. This can block the leaves’ access to sunlight, so it is a good idea to clean it off from time to time.
Clean off any debris and dead foliage from the plant and from the soil around the base of the plant. Use a pair of sterile tweezers to pull off dead or dying leaves, and dust off the leaves using a dry paintbrush or a clean piece of cloth.
4. Lack of flowers
If your African violet is not producing any flowers, it is probably due to a lack of sunlight or low temperature.
You can remedy this by transferring the plant to a spot where it gets more bright, indirect light during the day. In the winter, when light is scarce, buy a grow lamp to help your plant.
Make sure the temperature around the house is at least 70 degrees Fahrenheit during the day and between 65 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit at night.
5. Pale leaves
This happens when the plant is getting too much sunlight. If the plant’s leaves are left under bright, direct sunlight for extended periods of time, the leaves will become bleached.
Remedy this by transferring the plant to a spot where it only gets indirect light. If the only window you have let in too much light, try diffusing the light with a sheer curtain.
The plant is wilted and limp despite moist soil
In this case, the plant is most likely overwatered. This may be due to you giving the plant more water than it needs, but it could also be due to poorly-draining soil, the pot not having sufficient drainage, or if you water the plant at night when the soil cannot dry out as quickly as it needs to.
Remedy this by transferring the plant to a pot that drains well, using soil that is airy and porous. Also, avoid letting the plant stand in water for long periods of time.
6. Tight crown, or leaf crowding
This is caused by giving the African violet too much fertilizer.
Remedy this by flushing the soil with water once a month to remove any mineral salts that may have formed in the soil or on the plant. Reduce the amount of fertilizer you use or reduce your frequency of fertilizing.
The African violet is one of the most popular houseplants in the United States. This is because it is low-maintenance and hardy and can live for a very long time if properly cared for. The plant also has beautiful flowers that bloom almost year-round and can brighten up any living space.
The most common problems faced by African violet growers are pests, disease, dirty leaves, lack of flowers, pale leaves, wilting, spots on the leaves, lack of new growth and tight crown, or leaf crowding.
Image: istockphoto.com / Stepanyda