An African violet will develop a neck, which is an elongated ‘trunk’ at the center of the plant when its lower rows of leaves have been removed or fallen off. The remedy for necks is to repot the African violet, because the lowest row of leaves is now too high above soil level.
In this article, we will discuss the importance of repotting an African violet with a neck, and how to properly perform this repotting. If you have encountered this issue with your African violet, keep reading to find out more.
How do you know your African violet has a neck?
You will know that your African violet has a neck when it no longer has its signature rosette shape with the lowest leaves lying almost flat on the soil.
The elongated neck will look like the trunk of a palm tree or a thin tree trunk. It will start from the soil and end where the first row of leaves is attached to the plant, but this row of leaves will be further from soil level than normal.
When necks are just starting to develop, they are only one to two inches long, so you may have a difficult time spotting anything wrong with your plant.
If you neglect your plant for long enough, however, the neck can grow up to six inches long. By this time, it will have tilted to the side from the weight of the crown; this tilt is also known as a ‘goose neck’.
How long does a neck develop on an African violet?
Newer leaves on an African violet form from the top and center of the plant, or the crown. The lowest and outermost leaves are the oldest leaves on the plant.
This process of new growth is also what gives the plant its signature rosette formation. Because the plant uses its energy to make new leaves at the top, the leaves at the bottom will die back naturally over time. They will turn yellow, shrivel and dry out.
You might be tempted to remove these leaves because they detract from the general aesthetic of the plant, as well as to encourage more new growth at the top.
The more leaves are lost from the bottom of the plant, the more the stem becomes bare, forming a neck. The longer the neck is allowed to become, the more it pulls the plant away from the soil and the pot.
When this happens, you need to repot the plant so that the neck is hidden or buried in the soil again.
Why is it important to hide the necks on African violets?
The most common reason for dealing with necks on African violets is for aesthetic purposes. When the plant no longer has its normal rosette shape, it can detract significantly from the beauty of the plant.
Another reason to address a plant with a neck is the precariousness of the gooseneck when it grows at an angle.
The long neck also makes the plant more susceptible to disease and root rot, because the neck is exposed to the environment.
How to repot an African violet with a neck
Before doing anything, make sure your African violet actually does have a long neck. As described above, the neck is a thin, tree-like trunk that appears as more and more leaves are removed or drop off.
If an African violet is growing properly, the lowest leaves should grow at the soil level.
A plant with a neck will have its lowest row of leaves above the soil, and possibly even above the rim of the pot.
Repotting the plant hides the neck, and this should be done at least once a year.
Remove the plant gently from the soil so that the roots do not break off. Remove the bottom of the root ball by cutting it away. The length removed from the root ball should be equal to the length of the neck. Thus, if the neck is an inch long, cut off an inch from the bottom of the root ball.
If you repot regularly, you will only have to deal with small necks, meaning only a small portion of the roots needs to be removed. Remember that removing a larger portion of roots causes considerably more stress on the plant and should be avoided if possible.
After you have removed part of the root ball, place the plant back into the same pot if the plant is young. If the plant is more mature, choose a slightly larger pot. Because a significant portion of roots has been removed, the smaller root ball can now be pushed lower into the pot. Ideally, push the roots down low enough that the lowest row of leaves rests on the rim of the pot and no lower.
Place fresh, well-draining soil in the pot to cover the roots. Again, the lowest row of leaves should be at the same level as the rim of the pot so that the plant can regain its rosette shape.
The fresh soil should be able to cover the neck. Over time, new roots will emerge from the neck and grow into the soil.
When the African violet is done being repotted, the neck should be completely hidden and the soil and lowest ring of leaves should meet at the level of the pot’s rim.
Water the soil lightly until the plant has established its roots. Remember to water less than normal, as it is still recovering from being repotted.
African violets lose the lower, older rows of leaves on their stems due to the natural growing process, or when the lower leaves are pruned off for aesthetic reasons.
The more the lower leaves are shed or removed, the more the stem is exposed, creating a neck. Initially the neck will be less than an inch long, but if left unresolved, it can grow to be several inches and will tilt sideways.
Repotting your African violet at least once a year will keep necks from forming or from growing too long.
When repotting, remove the plant from the pot and cut off a section of the root ball from the bottom. The length you cut off should be equal to the length of the neck.
Place the plant back in the pot and cover the roots and the neck with soil until the soil reaches the rim of the pot. The lowest row of leaves should now be resting on the rim of the pot.
Water the soil, but give considerably less than normal while the plant recovers from the trauma of repotting.
Image: istockphoto.com / OksanaRadchenko