Crowded Center growth

Question:  All of my violets are showing very crowded centers.  The center leaves are small and bunched together.  I’m worried that I might have mites.  Is that likely?

Answer:  Probably not.  It’s more likely that these were the symptoms of too much light and, to a lesser degree, too much fertilizer.  This grower had her violets under artificial lights–4 florescent tubes above each 2’x2′ shelf, less than a foot above the plants.  The lights were kept on for 12 hours per day.  This amount of light is far too much for most varieties of African violets, about twice as much as they need.  Two tubes, about 10-12″ above miniature violets, and 15-18″ above standard-size violets, for 12-13 hours a day, would be sufficient for healthy growth and good blooming.

This grower also used “Oyama” pots and fertilized at the full, recommended dosage for regular, periodic, watering (i.e. “if you feed every time you water, use this amount…..”).  This type of pot is part of a constant-watering system where an inner pot, with a “slotted” bottom is placed inside an outer water-holding pot.  Of course, this not only provides water to the plant at all times, but also fertilizer.  Because the plant processes a greater volume of water when using this kind of pot, it will also process a greater volume of fertilizer.  For this reason, fertilizer dilution should be cut to perhaps 1/3 or 1/4 of the regular amount, which hadn’t been done in this case.  The same would be true for any constant-watering system, such as “wick” watering or the use of self-watering “violet pots”.


  • ok. So, I provided too much light and the centers are tight and overcrowded. Now what? Should I be doing more to fix the overcrowded crowns? Thank you for this sight and for all the growing help! I appreciate it = )

    • If too much light was the cause of crowded centers, they will loosen when the light is reduced. It won’t happen immediately, but you see improvement soon.

  • When I bought plant, it had many blooms, large purple leaves and little plants growing off center. I removed these and outer leaves that were damaged. Cleaned leaves with soft brush. Very hairy and attract dust. Repotted from plastic to clay pot as I thought it was overwatered. Now plant is very reduced but alive. Tiny crowded leaves in center; outer leaves are wilted, not firm. Afraid to place with my other 10 plants due to possible infestation, although I don’t notice any insects. Just removed entire root ball from clay pot and planted with some violet soil back into plastic pot. Have in west window for afternoon sun. I have also given the plant a drop of food once a week when watering. Am I on the right track? Await your reply. Thank you.

    • Based on this little information, I would guess so. Plastic pots are better because plants stay more evenly moist. Use a soil with plenty of vermiculite and perlite–this gives more room for error in watering. Use pot just slightly larger than current root system–don’t overpot. Water when soil is dry to touch–aim for most, not soggy or dry. The original crowding in center possibly just result of being multicrowned and poorly cared for before you purchased it–assume a mass-produced violet at a market….often this way.

  • Margaret Bixler

    African plant has very small leaves and very very crowded leaves in the center of the plant.How can I correct the problem?

    • Depends upon the cause–remove or lessen this cause. Could be: too much light or fertilizer, low temperatures, or pests. Ask yourself if any of these are the case.

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