African violets, with the botanical name Saintpaulia, comprise ten species of perennial flowering plants of the family Gesneriaceae. These cute houseplants have dark green fuzzy leaves and produce blue-violet, pink, lavender, red-violet, lavender-pink or white flower clusters. They are native to Tanzania and southeastern Kenya, in East Africa. Like most plants, they are prone to problems and diseases, and could deteriorate and even die if not treated promptly.
How to save a dying African violet
1. Fertilize your dying plants.
African violets tend to suffer from flower loss or limp blooms if they are under-nourished. If you notice these signs, fix the issue by fertilizing your plants with plant food to provide them with the essential nutrients they are lacking.
2. Avoid overwatering.
Crown or stem rot can develop if your plants are constantly drenched with water. Invest in a self-watering pot to prevent the plants from sitting in damp potting mix, and keep a detailed watering schedule.
3. Increase the humidity.
African violets originated in rainforests where the humidity is high, and they can suffer from burnt or dry leaf tips if they become dehydrated due to low humidity. To prevent this, place your plants on a humidity tray to boost the air’s moisture around them.
4. Maintain a suitable temperature.
Drooping leaves could mean that your plants are suffering due to low temperatures. Make sure to maintain the temperature for indoor plants at around 70 degrees Fahrenheit, both during the day and at night.
5. Treat fungal diseases immediately to avoid further damage.
White leaves and flowers indicate mildew, which is a fungal disease that can weaken your plants. To remedy this, repot your plants using fresh potting mix, and sterilize the pots if you are reusing the same ones. Use fungicides or a homemade antifungal solution to get rid of the infection.
6. Move your plants to a shaded spot, or where there is indirect sunlight.
If your African violets have brown spots on their leaves, it could indicate sunburn from too much exposure to direct sunlight. Transfer your plants to a location where there is indirect sunlight, or use curtains to diffuse the harsh rays.
Signs that your African violet is dying
Limp blooms and flower loss
Damaged, limp and wilted flowers indicate that your plants are in distress. Flower loss is an indication of too much light, nutrient-deficient soil, or insufficient water. See to it that you water your plants enough, nourish them with fertilizers, and make sure they are not placed in areas with direct sunlight.
Presence of crown and stem rot
African violets that look sickly in the middle or along the stems could be suffering crown or stem rot. This is caused by bacterial or fungal pathogens that infect decaying plant parts, and usually affects the roots first. The decay is caused by overwatering, so to fix the problem you need to repot the plants in coarse, well-draining potting mix. This prevents the roots from sitting in stagnant water that pools in the soil.
Invest in self-watering pots that are designed to release just the right amount of water into the potting mix.
Dry or burnt leaf tips
Leaves that are turning brown, burnt, dry or crumbly are indications that your plants are dehydrated. Act on this problem at once, because the leaves could develop necrosis, a form of cell damage. The usual culprits are under-watering, dry air, or too much sunlight. African violets thrive in humid and bright conditions, but prefer not to get direct sunlight.
Place your plants in humidity trays so they can enjoy the extra moisture as the water evaporates from the trays.
African violets with drooping leaves could be thirsty or suffering due to low temperatures. If your plants are well-watered but still have drooping leaves, they may be positioned near air-conditioning vents. To fix the problem, make sure that the temperature near the plants is around 70 degrees Fahrenheit, while the nighttime temperature should not be lower than 60 degrees Fahrenheit.
White leaves and flowers
Powdery mildew is a fungal disease that could overrun your plants and turn the leaves and flowers white. To treat your plants, you need to hold off on watering and repot them using a fresh soil mix. Apply fungicide or make a homemade antifungal solution of baking soda and water and spray it on the plants.
Brown spots on leaves
Brown spots, or leaf scorch, is a form of sunburn and indicates that your plants have been exposed to too much sunlight. To encourage healing, transfer your plants to a room where there is indirect sunlight or, if planted outdoors, move them to a shadier spot.
African violets are sought-after houseplants due to their attractive flowers that come in blue-violet, pink, lavender, red-violet, lavender-pink and white. Like most plants, they are also prone to problems and diseases that could lead to their death unless the causes are acted upon. Make sure your plants are adequately fertilized and correctly watered, and take special note of the humidity where they are growing. Also, maintain suitable temperatures for your plants, and treat any fungal diseases promptly with fungicide.
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