When your African violet has too many leaves, especially in the center of the plant, this is known as leaf crowding, or tight crown. You may think this is a good thing at first, since it appears your African violet is just very healthy. However, this occurrence should be a cause for concern because the plant can become distressed if its leaves become too tight.
In this article, we will discuss what exactly causes leaf crowding or tight crown in African violets, and what you can do to fix this and prevent it from happening again.
What is African violet tight crown?
African violets grow outward starting from the crown. If any environmental factor changes for the plant, it can cause new growth to appear in the middle of the plant, making the crown compacted.
Look at your plant from above: if there is dense new growth in the center of the plant, you may need to remedy the situation. The small crown of tightly-bunched leaves at the very center is the actual tight crown.
What are the signs of tight crown in African violets?
It can take some time before an African violet develops a tight crown. The first sign of a problem is the slowing down of the plant’s growth over a significant period of time. You will notice the leaves on the plant becoming smaller, and they will start to become brittle and somewhat shinier than normal.
You will also notice the leaves start to curl inwards or outwards. The most telling sign, however, is when the leaves in the center become bunched up and the plant’s growth seems to have stalled completely.
What causes tight crown or leaf crowding in African violets?
One of the most common causes of leaf crowding or tight crown is overfertilization, or overfeeding of the plant.
In this case, there is no leaf curling, but tight crowns will develop. The leaves become brittle and will snap and tear easily when touched. The leaves will also become rust-colored, or have rust-colored spots on them. The leaves on the outer layers will have burnt edges or will have yellow spots on them.
All the leaves on the plant will become smaller than normal and the entire plant will look smaller than before.
Because you applied too much fertilizer, there will be mineral salt deposits on the surface of the soil or on the edges and sides of the plant’s pot. Some salt crystals will form on the leaves as well.
If your plant’s tight crown is caused by too much fertilizer, fix it by first withholding fertilizer for a month.
Flush out any excess fertilizer and mineral salts by flushing the soil with water several times. Repeat this until all of the soil in the pot is drenched with water; you should see the water flowing out from the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot. Discard the water that drains from the pot. Allow the soil to dry for a few days, then repeat the procedure two to three more times to make sure most of the excess fertilizer has been removed from the soil.
In order to loosen up the tight crown, place the plant inside a closed Ziploc bag to increase the humidity around it. Leave the plant in the bag for a month, and this increased humidity should loosen up the crown. For the entire month that the plant is in the bag, make sure you do not overwater it, and allow the soil to dry out between waterings. Slowly, the crown will loosen up and the leaves will start to spread out.
You can resume fertilizing the plant, but start at half your normal dose.
Too much light
Another reason your African violet has a tight crown or leaf crowding may be too much light.
Aside from a tight crown, an African violet exposed to too much light will also have leaves that are curling inwards or outwards. The leaves will look crowded together with no space between them.
To fix this, first make sure that this is the actual cause of the plant’s problem. Do this by placing a thin tissue over the plant, blocking out most of the light. Alternatively, you can just move the plant to another spot where it will only get filtered light. Do either of these for at least a month, and if too much light really is what was causing the symptoms, the measures you took should have been sufficient to loosen the crowns up.
You can also place the plant in a Ziploc bag as discussed above.
Another reason your plant has a tight crown may be overexposure to heat.
Yes, African violets can tolerate more heat than most plants, but remember that prolonged and continued exposure can still damage them.
An African violet that gets too much heat will have a tight crown surrounded by plenty of small leaves at the center of the plant.
The leaves will also curl up and in, and will start to grow closer together.
The plant’s flowers will lose color and will develop spots and streaks.
The leaves on the outer layers will become dry and crispy, and the plant’s growth will become stunted.
Save your plant by moving it to a spot where the temperature is lower than 80 degrees Fahrenheit. It may take the plant a couple of months, but the crown will loosen up as long as you refrain from exposing it to too much heat.
During the summer or when the weather has been hot and dry, water the plant a little more frequently than normal so that it does not dry out.
If your plant’s soil is compacted and dense, this can also lead to a tight crown or leaf crowding.
The plant’s leaves will grow closer and crowd together, and its blooms will slow down and eventually cease completely.
You can save your plant by changing its soil. Remove any dead and damaged leaves and transfer it to a pot that has drainage holes at the bottom, using soil that is well-draining, airy and porous.
You can also use the Ziploc trick to keep the plant in a humid environment for a month so that it can recover quickly.
Cyclamen mite infestation
If your African violet has a cyclamen mite infestation, this can also lead to tight crown or leaf crowding.
The leaves at the center will be small, crowded, brittle and stiff, and will have a lighter color than the rest of the plant’s leaves. They will also become twisted, distorted and hairier than normal, and will look duller than before the infestation.
If the leaves curl upwards, it is probably a cyclamen mite infestation, but if they are turned inwards, it is most likely a broad mite infestation.
The center of the plant will look discolored and the flower buds will be close together and much smaller in size.
Save your African violet by first confirming that these changes in your plant are due to a mite infestation. The mites are very small, so you might have a hard time spotting them in the early stages of the infestation. They like to hide in the nooks and crannies of the misshapen leaves or in the middle of the crown. Use a magnifying glass to look for small, spider-like insects on the leaves.
If the infestation is severe and has spread to many of your African violets, you are better off disposing of the plants and the soil, washing the pots and starting over with new plants. Make sure you disinfect the entire area where the African violets were growing.
If you are lucky enough to catch the infestation in its early stages, you can use neem oil to help control it. Before you start treating the plant, isolate it from your other plants so that the mites cannot spread to them. Apply neem oil to the plant’s leaves and stems once a week for a month to make sure all of the mites have been killed before you bring the plant anywhere near your healthy plants.
If an African violet has too many leaves or when the leaves have started to crowd in the center of the plant, the plant has a condition called tight crown or leaf crowding.
Tight crown or leaf crowding is caused by changes in the plant’s living conditions, such as overfertilization, too much light, compacted soil, excessive heat or a mite infestation.
As long as you return the plant’s living conditions back to the ideal, the tight crown should loosen up and the plant will go back to growing normally.
Image: istockphoto.com / Mikhail Melanin