Removing Outer Leaves on Violet

Question:  Should I ever remove leaves from my violet?  I would guess so but, other than removing obviously dead ones, I have no idea how to decide.  Which ones need to be removed?

Answer:  Yes.  Most (non trailing) varieties only need to have 3 or 4 rows of leaves since blooms are produced only from those leaves.  This means a total of no more than a dozen or so leaves.  Some larger plants grown for exhibition may have more but, even then, not as many as you might think.  Their large size is due more to the size of the leaves rather than the number of them.  For some varieties, especially those with very wavy, girl, or ruffled leaves, removing excess foliage is even more important.  If out leaves are never removed on these varieties, new growth becomes very crowded in the center as there becomes no place for it to grow, and the leaves that are produced can be distorted or misshapen.  Further, bloom stalks that are produced have a hard time finding their way up through the foliage.

How to decide which leaves to remove?  Plant “symmetry” or “form” is important, but this is a concept that can be difficult for some to grasp (not everyone has an “eye” for this).  Instead, here are a couple of never-fail, easy to understand rules that can be followed.  Rule #1: always groom from the bottom up.  The first leaf to be removed is always that leaf that is growing from the lowest point on the plant.  Look at the plant from the side (not from the top), and determine which leaf is (or leaves are) growing from the lowest point.  This is the oldest leaf on the plant and is the first to be removed.  Now you can look at the plant from overhead.  If it doesn’t have the shape that you want, remove another.  Which one?  Repeat rule #1.  Rule #2: looking from above, leaves hidden beneath other leaves are unnecessary and can be removed (assuming twisted and out of place leaves have been properly arranged).  These leaves are invariably older leaves, growing beneath younger ones, that add nothing to the symmetry of the plant.  Removing them will not even be noticed, since leaves above them already occuply the same space!

Finally, be certain to remove leaves being produced from the axils between existing leaves–these are suckers!  The only place where new growth should appear is from the crown, or top, of the plant (except on trailers).  Removing suckers as soon as they appear not only improves symmetry and overall appearance, but it will encourage your plant to produce more flowers, sooner.


  • I have several plants that are producing too many small leaves at the crown and they do not get any bigger. They do not appear to be suckers. Is this due to a lack of light?

  • I removed a dry leave from the crown of my African Violet and I have noticed there is no other leaf being formed. Did I kill my AF crown? thanks.

    • You didn’t kill your violet but, if you removed or damaged the growing point in the center, it will set it back. It will eventually form another center or, more likely, produce suckers from elsewhere along the trunk of the plant. When these are large enough, you can remove/separate these and pot.

  • Should I remove fading leaves from my African Violet? Doing so will leave a tall naked stalk. Can I add potting soil to raise the dirt level?

    • Yes, if they are no longer attractive. Always remove leaves from the “bottom, up” (older, outer, leaves first). Over time, this will create a stalk. If you have room in the pot, you can add soil to the top to cover the stalk. If not, you will need to lower the plant and repot–see our lesson on this. In either case, you should repot your plant at least every 9-12 months.

  • I picked up about 10 violets that were being discarded in a store for a $1 each. I have watered them and am wick feeding them. They are all doing well within a week. Now I have to take care of them and I’ve reading your posts. Extremely helpful. I hope all my violets thrive. Thanks.

  • Thanks! You answered so many questions for me with the violets I got from my grandkids. I asked each child to give me one small plant for my birthday. I am now the proud owner of 5 violet plants :),
    I got sepsis and was in rehab for 3 months. I have a long recovery ahead and I still have minimal strength, but caring for my violets is something I can do and it makes me so happy.
    Thanks again for helping me.

  • Do African Violets require humidity if so, what is the most effective way?

    • Violets will be comfortable in same environment as people, and typically won’t need additional humidity.

  • Do violets need deadheading of blooms. Mine is so full of blooms that never seem to fade.

  • I started a violet with one leaf from a plant that has been in the family for at least three generations last June. It is now full, beautiful and blooming prolifically. There are actually six plants in the pot. Do I need to divide the plants and can I d this while it is blooming.

    • You can divide them even when blooming. After planting each in its own pot, remove suckers as they appear, so you don’t have to divide again in the future.

  • My African Violet is growing tall with the leaves all bunched together…it is blooming abundantly. My question is how do I prune or thin out the leaves? And how many leaves can I take off without affecting the plant. I know it will need re-potted, but I just got the plant in May and I am thinking I need to wait until it’s been a year. Thank you for any help!

    • Always remove oldest leaves first–work up from the bottom. You should only have one crown/growing point (unless a trailer or species). If you have more than one, divide it, and pot crowns separately. A plant usually grows best with no more than 15 leaves or so, since blooms will only appear from the new growth anyway. Repot your plant when it needs it, this will usually be every 9-12 months.

  • How far down the stem do you cut the leaf off

    • Best to remove/cut leaves as far down as possible–not leaving a “nub” behind. It won’t hurt if you leave a nub, but there’s no benefit to it and it can be unattractive.

  • My Violet has stems which are turning brown. The flowers that were on them have died. Do I cut them off?

  • I started new violet plants by rooting a leaf in a pot. The new plant has many new leaves. Should I remove the leave which was used to start the planT/

  • My plant is growing very nice but I’m not getting flowers. It’s in a African violet pot in front of a window. Can you help?

    • If a plant is growing and healthy, but not blooming, usually this means it needs more light.

  • Hi, do you remove the leaves by hand or a pruning sheer?

    • Depends upon what works best for you. We either do so by hand or with a sharp modeling knife or scalpel.

  • My question is: should I ever prune crown leaves? The question arises because in several of my violets some flowers are blocked by the crown leaves.

    I am a rank amateur, but I propagated 6 of my violets from leaves of the mother plant that is 7 years old. Mother and offspring are thriving and blooming beautifully. I suspect your answer might be that I should prune more leaves from the bottom and let the plants relax to relieve crowding. But I love the green leaves and a full plant look.

    • Your suspicion is correct. The the possible exception of trailing varieties, would never remove the leaves in the crown. Again, with the exception of trailers, most violets will look and grow best with no more than about 15 or so leaves (often less). Blooms will appear only from the first (youngest) three rows of leaves, so significantly more leaves than this aren’t really necessary. The excess foliage can lead to the problem you describe or, is simply, older and less attractive. Genetics play a part too–varieties with “girl” foliage, wavy, or ruffled, leaves tend to “crowd” more and do best without an excess number of leaves.

  • I have 4 African Violets – they are all doing very well with the exception of leaf marbling on two plants.
    Seems it happens only at the lower leaves .. almost looks like it could be an insect or? just not sure.
    I can forward a photo if needed

    • Would need to see this. May very likely just be the genetic nature of the plants. Would need to know the varieties in question as well as information on care and environment. You can send, with photo, to our general email:

  • Thank you! Your explanation of what and where a “sucker” is just completely cleared it up for me. I was always unclear as where they grow and afraid I was removing a good leaf.

  • During the heating season, leaves tend to get dusty. Remove dust from leaves using a small, soft brush and brush in the direction the hairs are growing. You can also give your plants a bath in the sink by using a gently spray and warm water. Pat the leaves dry using a paper towel, especially in the center crown. Keep plant out of direct sun until leaves are completely dry.

  • “Finally, be certain to remove leaves being produced from the axils between existing leaves–these are suckers!”

    Can you explain this further please. I am a new lover of violets and just learning. I don’t know what the “axils” is….. or what a “sucker” is.

    I don’t want to purchase a plant until I am quite sure I can care for it properly.

    • The ‘axil’ is the point on the stem/trunk of the plant where the leaf stem (petiole) is attached. This is where suckers, or flower buds, first appear. Each leaf has the potential to produce at least one flower bud from the axil above it. Buds and suckers tend to be mutually exclusive, so removing suckers will encourage more blooms.

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