Question: Several of my violets have developed abnormal growth patterns. Flowers are small, do not open fully, and/or are deformed. Flower stalks are short. Center growth is stunted, leaves are short and not fully developed. Centers are not gray, but some leaves have splotches or varied shades of green. The flowers are the main problem. I do have thrips. Could they be causing the damage?
Answer: It’s likely that they are. Thrips can deform blossoms, mark them, and lead to them fading or dropping prematurely. Though they prefer, and are most easily seen on the blossoms, they spend a good deal of their life on other parts of the plant and will migrate there when the blossoms are removed. This is one reason why thrips can be so difficult to deal with. Removing the infected blossoms is necessary to control them but, when this is done, other symptoms can arise elsewhere.
We’ve found that when we’ve disbudded violets with a know infestation, the plant can exhibit the symptoms described by this grower. Thrips will feed on the foliage, leaving small, brown, “freckles”. The center growth also may not develop normally which, in extreme cases, might lead one to falsely believe they are dealing with a cyclamen mite infestation. Infected leaves might also become more brittle and curl around the edges.